1. The Cup is named after a boat, not the country.
In 1851, a schooner from the New York Yacht Club (named The America) came over to England to challenge the best the Royal Yacht Squadron had to offer. The schooner the Americans brought over was a new, never seen before design but surely it couldn’t beat anything from a proud seafaring nation like England? The race took off around the Isle of Wight and it turned out The America was so advanced that it beat the English boat by eight minutes!
2. The country assigned to the boat depends on which yacht club enters the boat into the competition, not necessarily the nationality of the crew. This changed at the 32nd Americas Cup in 1970.
During the last America’s Cup, Sir Ben Ainslie (GB Olympic gold medallist) competed for an American team. You may think that this sounds absolutely treacherous (and it sort of is!) but he’s entirely allowed to do this. Since the 32nd America’s Cup, the nationality of the crew has not mattered. The nationality of the boat is only assigned according to the yacht club entering the boat.
3. The America’s Cup is the oldest active trophy (it predates the Ashes and modern Olympics).
Dating back to 1851, the America’s Cup is pretty close to the beginning of sporting accolade history. There are older competitions (The Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta for example), however, new trophies are generally given out to the winners of these contests. In case you were wondering, the Ashes was first contested in 1882.
4. The cup itself travels under armed guard and is kept at a secret location.
Just like movie stars and heads of state, the America’s cup itself has an entourage. Partly due to the fact that it’s a piece of history but also partly because it’s made of ornate sterling silver and is worth a small fortune.
5. Since 1851 only four nations have won it.
Sadly, since that embarrassing defeat in 1851, none of those four nations has been the UK. Though, as we’ve noted above, British sailor, Ben Ainslie has been a part of a winning team. Ainslie has now formed his own British team and is hopeful for a victory in 2017. The other countries who’ve won it are: Australia (once), New Zealand and Switzerland (twice each) and the USA (28 times).
6. “Your Majesty, there is no second”.
In 1851, as The America approached the finish line with no sign of the British ship, Queen Victoria is said to have asked one of her attendants, “Who is in second place” to which her attendant is said to have replied, “Your Majesty, there is no second place”. This phrase has since become a motto for the race.
7. Each sailor burns in the region of 6000 calories during a day’s sailing.
6000 calories is roughly three times more than we burn day to day. It’s also roughly the same as eating 23 big macs. Although, as America’s Cup sailors have to be in peak physical condition, we expect their diet is a little more sophisticated than that.
8. The America’s Cup isn’t a set number of years apart, like the Olympics. The longest gap between cups was between 1937 and 1958 when World War Two happened.
Races tend to happen three or four years apart and in recent years that’s mostly been the case. The break during World War Two also meant that all but three J-Class vessels used between 1930 and 1937 were scrapped to salvage metal for the war effort. The remaining three J-Class boats are still on the water today.
9. The sail on modern boats is often referred to as a wing and is 131 feet tall.
In some ways, the catamarans we see today are closer to aeroplanes than they are boats. These boats feature ‘wings’ and ‘foils’ which generate lift by channelling water over them in the same way that an aeroplane wing channels air to achieve lift. The wing main sail is so tall that it requires a huge crane to lift the boat on to the water. It also has to be trimmed etc. using hydraulics.
10. Though he never won the cup, Sir Thomas Lipton was the first to introduce sponsorship.
Sir Thomas Lipton got his name in the America’s Cup hall of fame not by winning it but by being jovial and gracious in defeat – a fine example of the chipper, have a go, British spirit. He was also the first person to realise the financial potential of the race and introduced corporate sponsorship.
11. It was only in 1970 that there was more than one challenger for the cup.
Up until 1970, there was only ever one challenger for the cup and it was able to go straight to the main event. However, in 1970 there was more than one challenger. It was at this point that the Louis Vuitton Cup was created to identify the strongest possible challenger. In 1970, the ‘finalist’ was Sir Frank Packer and his crew in Gretel II from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron – they lost four races to one against the defending American crew.
12. 1930s Shamrock V is still sailing.
One of Sir Thomas Lipton’s (mentioned above) 1930s vessels is still on the water today. She offers luxury sailing experiences to holiday makers in addition to competing at classic yacht races around the world.