Sailing into history

Yacht America, by James Bard, 1951

Yacht America, by James Bard, 1851

On this day, in 1851, the oldest international sporting trophy, the Americas Cup, was awarded to the yacht America, of the New York Yacht Club, after a race round the Isle of Wight.
The New York Yacht Club successfully defended the Cup until 1983, when Australia II took the cup for the Royal Perth Yacht Club. I believe that this represents the longest winning streak in the history of sport!
America was a triumph of commercial design. In those days pilots would compete with each other for the contract to guide a ship into harbour. Pilot cutters had to be fast to win the race for the job. The yacht America was a showpiece for a new type of cutter design, and was essentially a marketing tool to promote American ship building in Britain and Europe.

The Ocean Yacht Race ; by Isaac McLellan

A noble sight is this, I ween,
Fair panorama of the sea,
The ocean white with crested foam
To windward and to lee;
Bright shines the day on Staten Isle,
On woods of emerald green,
On stately dome and villa roof,
With field and lawn between.
Long Island stretches east away,
Engirdled with the brine;
On sandy bar and weedy rock
The glorious sunbeams shine.

Full many a score of stately yachts
Wide o’er the sea are spread,
Careening like white-plumag’d birds,
On rushing pinions sped.
Vast steamers bound for foreign land,
Their smoky banners raise;
The flag of every nation
Its blazon’s field displays.
The sound of martial music
From many a deck arise,
Loud shouts of acclamation
Swell grandly to the skies;
From fortress wall and green parade
Ring out the cannonade.

Off Sandy Hook two stately yachts
The broad arena sweep,
While meteor flag and flag of stars
To each tall masthead leap;
Each emulous to win the prize
For speed in ocean race;
To claim the palm of victory
O’er ocean’s rolling space.

See how they matchless ride the seas,
Like rush of desert steed,
Graceful as swan on limpid lake,
Swift as the eagle’s speed.
A cloud of canvas each displays
From deck to topmast head,
Jib, mainsail, spinnaker,
In ample folds outspread.

Onward, right onward see them fly,
Cleaving the tumbling surge;
A score of miles away the goal
To which the champions urge.
The mark is reach’d, and homeward now
On free wind turns each dashing prow.
So ends the race, the first great race,
Where Puritan holds foremost place;
But nobly in the watery way
Genesta bore her flag that day!

Once more these yachts the challenge fling,
Again on rushing wings they swing;
From Scotland Lightship swift they bear,
Each yacht a pyramid of snow,
The white sails blossoming high in air,
Balloon jibs all aglow!
Yielding to pressure of the breeze,
Thro’ the salt ocean sleet they dash,
Plunging thro’ maelstrom of green waves,
Through whirling foam they flash,
‘Tis battle of the flight and chase,
Pursuer and pursued;
The centreboard, the cutter race,
Fought out o’er ocean flood.
Ah, Puritan hath won the prize!
And cheers exultant rend the skies

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