Maritime Topics On Stamps :

The America's Cup!
The Cup, Captain Hank Haff and his crew,
setting 745 square meter mainsail, 1895 winner with the 'Defender'.

Originally, the America's Cup, designed by a London jeweller, was the racing trophy of the Royal Yacht Squadron for the winner of the '100 Guinea Cup, Round the Island Wight' in 1851. At that time a group of wealthy New Yorkers wanted to oppose the British naval supremacy. The notion 'Britannia rules the waves' formed one of the core pillars of British self-confidence and became their main target as they built the schooner 'America'.

John C. Stevens, commodore and founder of the New York Yacht Club, formed a syndicate to finance the new boat to demonstrate that American yachts and skippers are able to beat the British.

In those days the pilot schooners were the fastest boats on the waves. (The boats raced to the arriving ships, as the first one got the job to pilot the ship!) So the 'America' was constructed as a schooner, length over all 31.15m, beam 6.85m, draft 3.35m, 170 tons, 2 masts, the second 29m high, and 490 square meter cotton sail cloth. Hearing of the project, the curious British formally invited the Americans to bring their vessel to Cowes. The 'America' sailed over the Atlantic, did a clean up at the port of Le Havre and then crossed the Channel. As the English coast closed, she was met by the cutter 'Laverock', one of the fastest and newest boats in British waters.
The Americans didn't wish a spontaneous race, but they were forced. Under the watchful eyes of the British yachting elite and to their great consternation 'America' passed the 'Laverock' with ease.
As a result nobody risked a race with the 'America'. But after 'The Times' wrote a stinging article about the fearful British yachting set the 'America' was accepted to start at the '100 Guinea Cup' round the Isle of Wight (displayed on the 53-mile course stamp to the right). Fifteen yachts started and although they differed in size and type (47 to 392 tons) no handicaps were applied. In those days yacht races began with all boats anchored and with the sails down. The 'America' was the slowest boat at the start, but managed to surpass all others and was first home.
A well known legend speaks of Queen Victoria, watching the race from her Royal Yacht, was dismayed of the result and, hoping for some consolation, enquired who came in second. To which came the famous reply, 'Your Majesty, there is no second.'.
Afterwards the winning yacht 'America' was sold, but the trophy took up residence at the New York Yacht Club.

Rules and regulations for the following cup races were laid out in the 'Deed of Gift' by the winning American syndicate when they handed over the trophy to the New York Yacht Club. Later on they were changed several times, but central to this document remained the sentence, 'that it shall be preserved a perpetual Challenge Cup for friendly competition between foreign countries'. Unluckily quite often the opposite happened, and heavy disputes up to court decisions were soon to follow.
The Americans used the situation to bend the rules to their advantage. It was decided, that the next challenger had to cross the Atlantic and sail against 14 defenders, just as the 'America' did in 1851.
For a long time no challenger was found. The next, firstly named 'America's Cup' race started in 1870. The British James Ashbury sailed to New York with his schooner 'Cambria' and took tenth place. Winner was the American yacht 'Magic'.

In the next year Ashbury openly criticized the rules and managed to get them changed to 'ONE challenger against ONE defender in a series of up to seven races'. But the one defender could be chosen anew before every race out of a group of four yachts. So the Americans could take different ships, one for smooth sea and light winds, one for strong winds etc. This was no 'fairplay' at all, but neverthelesse the 'cup-fever' had caught Ashbury and he tried again and lost again. The result: one victory for his 'Livonia', four victories for the American 'Columbia' and 'Sappho'.
From 1876 to 1887 the Americans defended the cup five consecutive times. The next cup race needed three years of negotiations, discussions and changing the regulations again. A huge conflict arose about the length of the waterline and the amount of ballast. Every challenger had to announce the exact measurements of his ship including rigg and sails ten months before the race, so the Americans had time enough to prepare counter-measures. As the waterline changes with the amount of ballast it was impossible to give an exact measurement for the day of the race. Many British sailors called this deceit.

The Irish Earl of Dunraven and his yacht 'Valkyrie II' fought in three races against the American 'Vigilant', but lost all three. The last race saw the 'Valkyrie II' in front but her huge spinnaker tore away. This was in 1893. Two years later Dunraven returned with the 'Valkyrie III'. He lost again in three races against the American 'Defender'. After the first race Dunraven protested against the waterline of the Defender and the mass of spectator boats hindering his yacht.
In the second race the 'Valkyrie III' was disqualified because she touched the 'Defender' which had right of way. (See stamp to the left 'Valkyrie III' ahead of 'Defender') And in the third race Dunraven showed his protest flag and refused to start the race. Again, too much spectator boats crowded the racing area. After this scandalous outcome the British and New York newspapers engaged in a 'press-war' across the Atlantic for years to come.

From 1899 to 1930 there was no hostility between the American and British yachtsmen. Five great races happened and 5 times the name of the challenger was Sir Thomas Lipton. Sir Thomas lost all five, but exercized classic British sportmanship: Always 'fair play', in a friendly manner, without protests and long discussions.
Lipton, born to an extremely poor family, had built up a worldwide tea company. He used the challenges to the cup as an extensive public relations campaign for his tea in America. He named his yachts 'Shamrock' as the leaf of trefoil and then kept counting up to 'Shamrock V'.
The 'Shamrock IV' even won two races in 1920 but in the end the American 'Resolute' carried the day 3 to 2. All other races saw the Americans in front. But Lipton was no man to give up early and the Americans loved their 'Sir Tea'.
Harold Vanderbilt, winner of the 1930 race, said: "The hour of triumph, our hour of victory is merged with sadness. Deep in our heart we feel with this great old sportsman." Lipton wanted to try it once more, but he died in 1931, 81 years old. We see Lipton on the stamp to the right in front of his 'Shamrock IV'.

From 1934 to 1980 America defended nine times until in 1983 the New York Yacht Club finally lost the Cup. It was the most closely fought match in the history of the event and it went down to the final race. Dennis Connor and his 'Liberty' had won the first two races, John Bertrand and the 'Australia II' the third. The Americans struck back in the fourth, but knew they were in trouble in light winds. Soon the American two-race lead dimished to a 3 - 3 tie by the end of the sixth race.
The last one perfected the brilliant Australian comeback. The boys of the 'Australia II' finished 41 seconds ahead of the 'Liberty', terminating the longest winning streak in the history of sport. (To the left 'Australia II', KA-6).

In 1986 13 boats arrived in Fremantle to determine the new challenger. In the so-called Vuitton Cup series (see below) Connor, eager to erase the mark of failure, with his 'Stars and Stripes' came out on top. (see right) He easily dispatched the defender 'Kookaburra III' by a 4-0 margin as well, and after only 4 years, 1987, the Cup returned to America, to the halls of the San Diego Yacht Club.
In the same year New Zealand's Michael Fay iussed a challenge, using a sailing boat of double size than the usual 12 meters, and demanding the race to be held within the next 10 months as specified in the 'Deed of Gift'. A rule thought long forgotten. The San Diego Yacht Club tried to declare the challenge invalid, but was overruled when Fay took to court. The match was scheduled for September 1988.
Fay arrived with a true 'big boat', the 133-foot 'New Zealand'. The Americans struck back and, utilizing the same loophole as the rival built a 60-foot wing-sailed catamaran, named 'Stars and Stripes'. The catamaran easily defeated the 'New Zealand' 2-0.
Now Fay returned to the New York Supreme Court and the fight went on. It took two years, but in April 1990 the San Diego Yacht Club was finally declared the winner of the race. This was considered the low point in history of the America's Cup.

On the stamp the left you can see Dennis Connor with the catamaran. Connor is one of the greatest legends in America's Cup's history. In 1980 he won his first Cup with the 'Freedom' against 'Australia' 4-1. In 1983 he lost with the 'Liberty' against 'Australia II' 3-4. During 1986-87 he retook the Cup with the 'Stars and Stripes' against 'Kookaburra III' 4-0. In 1988 Conner successfully defended with the catamaran against the 'New Zealand'2-0. Four years later, in 1992 he lost in the defender series (called Citizen Cup) against Bill Koch's 'America 3', only to return in 1995, winning the defender series with his 'Young America', but badly losing against the Kiwi's 'Team New Zealand' 0-5. In 1999-2000 Connor started again, but lost in the challenger series.

In 1983 seven yacht clubs from five different countries issued challenges for the America's Cup. Because of these unusual amount it was necessary to organize a selection series to decide which one of the seven would be the final challenger. The Company Louis Vuitton, world-renowned manufacturer of travel goods (originally Louis Vuitton was a trunk maker in Paris, 1854), sponsored this series and so it was called the Louis Vuitton Cup.
In 1995 the same event was created for the defender selection and the Citizen Cup was born, named after the title sponsor Citizen Watch Co. of America. On the stamp you can see the course off the Australian coast at Fremantle, 1987.

J-Klasse 12-Meter Klasse IACC, International
America's Cup Class

In the beginning of the America's Cup history, big schooners with 2 masts were build (see also the 'America' stamps on top of this page). Ashbury's 'Livonia' had a length of 39 meters and 1700 square meters of sail. Since 1881 the boats had one mast with gaff rigging and two or three headsails. (See Nevis stamp of the 'Resolute' above) For example the 'Columbia', winner in 1899 and 1901, had a length of 40 meters (27.35 waterline) and 1220 sqm of sail. From 1930 to 1937 the boats were build under the regulations of the international 'J' class (yacht classes were numbered by the alphabet). On the stamp to the left you can see the winner in 1930, the 'Enterprise'. No gaff sail for pointing high at closed-hauled courses. Length overall 37m (24.4 waterline), sail area 705 square meters. From 1958 to 1987 the boats were build according to the regulations of the 12-meter class, because the 'J'class became too expensive. As an example on the stamp in the middle, the 'Freedom', winner in 1980. Length overall 19.5m (13.5 waterline) sail area main & jib 600, with spinnaker 750 square meters. Since 1992, after the court disaster with Fay's 'big boat', America's Cup yachts are of the IACC ("International America's Cup Class"). The length overall 22.5m (17.1 waterline), sail area 900, with spinnaker 1350 square meters. On the stamp to the right you can see a sail cut demonstration of the 'America 3', winner in 1992.

The America's Cup is a match race, as specified in the 'Deed of Gift', the old rules of the New York Yacht Club. This means that just two boats compete in a match against each other, as in a tennis match. This is different from a 'classic' fleet race, in which many boats sail along side in the same race. In a match race, tactics play a more critical role than in a fleet race as you can fully concentrate on one rival. The boats seldom sail different courses, each one eyeing the other, each one trying to gain the windward position and to keep the luff to snatch most of the wind from the opponent. On the stamp you can see two boats on a close-hauled beat.

This postcard shows the revolutionary 'winged' keel of the 'Australia II', winner in 1983. The keel was secretly tested in a Dutch towing tank and sparked loud protests by other challengers. But the rules committee decided in favor of the Australians and the now famous sailing boat dominated the challenger trials to win the Louis Vuitton Cup as well as America's Cup several months later.

'Team New Zealand', winner of the America's Cup in 1995 with 5-0 against the American 'Young America'. In the months-long challenger series it set a record of 42-1 victories. In February 2000 the Kiwi's repeated their success. The Italian 'Luna Rossa', winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup, was beaten 5-0 again.
From 1851 up to 2000 thirty races have been sailed to win the famous America's Cup resulting in 27 victories for the United States , 2 for New Zealand and 1 for Australia.
This Internet page was created in 2000.
Here the following update:
In 2003 the Swiss 'Alinghi' won the Cup with 5:0 against the Team New Zealand!
So the Cup was back in Europe!

© 1998 - 2003 Bjoern Moritz, all rights reserved.

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