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The definitive history of the America's Cup

by Barry Pickthall on 18 Jul 2013
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The America's Cup is in chaos. This year's event in San Francisco is looking to be a farcical parade - a shadow of the greatest show on earth promised by Cup holders Larry Ellison and Sir Russell Coutts. In the age of Facebook, they promised to transform the coverage both on the web and on TV and with it bring Superbowl audiences. But with one challenger still in the shed being re-built, the Italians refusing to race until the race jury had ruled in their favour over attempts by the American organisers to railroad through rule changes that might favour their own boat, Team New Zealand has been racing in the Louis Vuitton Challenge trials almost unopposed.

But the Cup has always been brim-full with controversy. Back in 2011, Ellison and Coutts were the white knights who came to rescue of the Cup with their Oracle BMW multihull to defeat Swiss dragon Ernesto Bertarelli, and thwart his plans to make the Cup his own. How quickly white knights change colour! The Cup has always been something of a poisoned chalice, driving men with otherwise unimpeachable records to go well beyond the bounds of sportsmanship in their efforts to win or defend this, the oldest of sporting trophies.

James Lloyd Ashbury, the first to challenge the New York YC in 1870 and again in 1871 finished a broken man in every sense. The Earl of Dunraven who followed, drew the headline 'Britannia Rules the Waves...America waives the rules'. The New York YC certainly came in for a good share of criticism during their 153 year tenure of the Cup...but never more so than in 1983 when Alan Bond and his Australia II team overcame every trick in the book to finally wrench the Cup away from New Yorkers.

Bob Fisher's 2-volume An Absorbing Interest charts the whole story from 1851 until Ernesto Bertarelli bought out the best New Zealand names in yachting to beat the Kiwis at their own game to take the Cup to Europe for the first time. This coveted slip-case edition has become a collector's item as important to the history of the Cup, as Lawson's original 'History of the America's Cup' published in 1901.

'An Absorbing Interest' charts the history of sailing's most enigmatic and greatest prize. This slip-case edition covers the drama, boat design, personalities and sheer fascination of the America's Cup, from 1851 in Cowes to 2003 in Auckland. Heavily illustrated with photographs, cartoons, paintings and figures, This 2-volume bible can rightly claim to be the definitive history.

Just 160 copies remain in this limited edition series, each one numbered and signed by author Bob Fisher.

Complete: This classic work contains full records of all races and is made up of 32 Chapters – one for each of the 31 challenges and one for the race around the Isle of Wight in 1851 for the One Hundred Pound Cup, presented by the Royal Yacht Squadron as a prize for the regatta. In addition there are sidebar stories of the principal competitors and incidents that are very much part of this, the world's oldest sporting event.

Lavishly illustrated: The beautiful illustrations for this book are drawn from a wide variety of sources. There will be charts of the courses for the early races, re-drawn from a variety of sources, line drawings, cartoons and caricatures, etchings, lithographs, paintings and a considerable number of photographs, both monochrome and coloured; all chosen to complement the text.

Book Review - Boat News: 'The modern America’s Cup racer bears not the slightest resemblance to any useful craft in the world, and she does not even contribute to the development of yachting as a true sport apart from the satisfaction of an illogical national vanity. But having damned them, I must confess to an absorbing interest in the problems set by those extraordinary craft. They have the fascination of sin.'

So wrote Charles Burgess back in 1935 when the mammoth J Class yachts ruled the waves, to give this remarkable 2-volume opus its name. Little has changed since.

Author Bob Fisher has been a life-long student of the America’s Cup and thanks to support from Cup winner Bill Koch, has spent four years researching what is one of the most ambitious yachting publications this Century – and last. It is one of the most successful too, with the first edition selling out within a few months of publication.

The two case-bound volumes provide an enthralling read, and keen insight into the megalomaniacs that have dominated what is the oldest sporting event in the world, their yachts and nuances within every race.

Filled with contemporary art and photographs, painstakingly collected from all quarters of the Globe, this beautifully illustrated book tells the history of top-flight yachting through the past Century and a half. There are equally colourful biographies on the likes of James Ashbury, playboy Gordon Bennett, the dastardly Lord Dunraven, T.O.M Sopwith and latter-day hero Ted Turner.

The chapter ‘Court Disorder’ describing the build-up and lasting ramifications of the infamous 1988 mismatch between New Zealand’s 90ft waterline monohull and the 60ft catamaran ‘Stars & Stripes’, is particularly relevant to the present. Ernesto Bertarelli, the current Cup holder and his Spanish quislings who have sold their fellow challengers so short, should be locked in a room and forced to read this chapter out loud without a lawyer in sight!

An Absorbing Interest is a collector’s tome, a brilliant read and worth every Penny Click here to order your copy of 'An Absorbing Interest'

Visit South Atlantic Publishing to review other collector books including 'German Frers - A Passion for Design', Blue Water Sailing, Encyclopaedia of Yacht Designers, The Fabulous 40s and Sailing Legends.

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