The America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in world sport. The first race was organised by the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, a single race around the Isle of Wight open to yachts of all nations.
The prize was a silver cup that was valued at £100. A black schooner yacht named America won the contest, outclassing the rest of the field to be first at the finish line off Cowes.
To honour that victory, the competition was renamed the America’s Cup and became a challenge trophy, open to sailing clubs of all nations. American teams representing the New York Yacht Club successfully defended the cup against all challengers for 132 years – the longest winning streak in sport – until an Australian team won in 1983.
Since then, the cup has become a global phenomenon, with challenges from all five continents, and held in locations spread around the world, from Cowes to New York, Newport RI, Fremantle, San Diego, Auckland, Valencia and San Francisco.
For 164 years, the America’s Cup has become one of sport’s most revered trophies with challenges characterised famously by some of the most thrilling dramas – and bitter rivalries – in sporting history. But the fact remains – Britain has yet to win.
The first challenge to recover the trophy was in 1869 by James Ashbury, a railway pioneer. He made two challenges in successive years – but both were unsuccessful. The next five followed the same pattern, with Genesta failing in 1885, and then Galatea repeating just 12 months later.
The following year, Scotland’s Thistle suffered the same treatment, while both of Lord Dunraven’s challenges – in 1892 and 1895 – were repulsed but with considerable acrimony.
An extraordinary sequence of five challenges from Sir Thomas Lipton between 1899 and 1930 came closest in 1920, when he led 2-0 before going down 3-2.
And 14 years after Lipton’s near miss, the 1934 challenge by Sir Tom Sopwith’s Endeavour came closest of any British boat to success.
They led 2-0 and were headed for the finish of the third in the lead before a tactical mistake handed the victory and the momentum to the Americans, who then went on to win 4-2.
The first two post-war challenges came in 1958 and 1964, and were embarrassingly overwhelmed.
And while Lionheart in 1980, and then Victory in 1983 failed to win the elimination series to become challengers, they were at least competitive.
The same fate befell the 1987 challenger, White Crusader, while the most recent challenge in Auckland in 2003 was defeated before the semi-final of the Louis Vuitton Cup.