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Gascoigne Cup preview - Fleet lines up

by Peter Campbell on 20 Oct 2011
The historic Gascoigne Cup - Gascoigne Cup 2011 Rob Cruse
Gascoigne Cup - Yachts from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia this Saturday will race off the coast of Sydney for the magnificent perpetual trophy first sailed for 125 years ago and which owes its origins to heroic deeds during an historic military campaign in the Sudan.

The Gascoigne Cup is one of three short ocean races conducted each summer by the 149-year-old Squadron, the others being the Morna Cup sailed in November and the Milson Cup in February. All three perpetual trophies take pride of place in the Squadron’s Kirribilli clubhouse.

The Gascoigne Cup is by the oldest and, arguably, the most prestigious short ocean race trophy on the Sydney short ocean racing calendar. Many famous yachts and yachtsmen have won this iconic ocean race since it was first presented to the club and raced for in 1886.

This Saturday’s race, over a course of about 25 nautical miles, starting and finishing in Sydney Harbour, will be the 103rd time the Gascoigne Cup has been contested as it was not awarded during the two World Wars.

The trophy was presented to the Squadron in 1885 in honour of Captain Gascoigne, then Aide-de-Camp to Lord Carrington, Governor of New South Wales to honour the Captain for his heroic service in the Sudan campaign, which included an attempt to rescue the embattled General Gordon during the infamous siege of Khartoum in 1884-1885.

The original Deed of Gift specified an annual ocean race for yachts of over five tons measurement, until won three times in succession by the same yacht by the same owner. While a number of Squadron yachts were able to win two consecutive races in the first 45 years and even more in total, none could achieve three in a row. In 1933 the Deed of Gift was amended to make the Gascoigne Cup a perpetual trophy.

Remarkably, it was not until the 1950s that A F Albert’s Norn achieved three consecutive wins (1952, 1953, 1954), achieving five wins in total. The most successful yacht, however, has been the famous Admiral’s Cup team yacht Caprice of Huon which has won the Cup seven times, but with different skippers.

Last year’s Gascoigne Cup winner (decided on PHS handicaps) was Paul Clitheroe’s Balance, which went on to win the Morna Cup and the Milson Cup as well as the Gosford to Lord Howe Island long ocean race. However, she is not entered this year.


This season the RSYS has given added interest to its three short ocean races with the introduction of the Perseverance Trophy, for the top-performing Squadron registered yacht in the Gascoigne, Morna and Milson Cup races.

The perpetual trophy is a scale model of the two gun brig Perseverance, beautifully crafted by prominent Squadron member, the late Donald Maclurcan.

The Perseverance was a colonial brig of 138 tons, 80 foot long and launched from Robert Campbell’s shipyard in Sydney, Australia’s first shipbuilding yards, on 20 January, 1807. She was wrecked on Campbell Island in 1828.

Eligible Squadron inshore division yachts that enter the Perseverance Trophy will be given average points for the inshore race they missed on the days of the Gascoigne, Morna and Milson Cups, which is expected to boost entries.

As a result, 14 Squadron yachts from the inshore division have entered for this Saturday’s Gascoigne Cup race, in which they will be joined by up to 26 yachts contesting the CYCA’S Grant Thornton Short Ocean Pointscore spring series.


The death of General Gordon at Khartoum - Gascoigne Cup 2011 © Rob Cruse
The death of General Gordon at Khartoum - Gascoigne Cup 2011 © Rob Cruse
RSYS website
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