2013 America's Cup: The history of sailing's Blue Riband event

Last Updated: 03/09/13 10:03am

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Oracle Team USA will be out to defend their crown against Team New Zealand in San Francisco

Oracle Team USA will be out to defend their crown against Team New Zealand in San Francisco

Sky Bet

With a history dating back to 1851, the America's Cup is often called the oldest trophy in sport - indeed, it predates the modern Olympic Games by some 45 years.

The event is a challenge-based sailing competition where the winning yacht club makes the rules and hosts the following edition.

Throughout 162 years of racing, America's Cup boats have undergone various construction changes and legal battles have often raged over what should or should not be permitted.

Over the years almost all races have involved monohull sailboats but September 2010 saw multi-hull boats challenge for the Cup. The 2013 match will be contested in a new class of catamaran called the AC72 which is powered by a solid wing-sail.

The very first race of the historic series took place on August 22, 1851 when the New York Yacht Club accepted a challenge and crossed the Atlantic to take on the best that a British fleet had to offer.


The Americans' 90-ft schooner "America" - which was built at a cost of $45,000 - easily emerged triumphant as it saw off no fewer than 14 English challengers in a race around the Isle of Wight.

A trophy was subsequently commissioned and spent the next six years travelling around the United States before, in 1857, it was given to the New York Yacht Club and named the America's Cup after the inaugural winning boat.

The first official challenge for the newly-named trophy came in 1870 in New York where Britain attempted to restore pride for their defeat nearly 20 years earlier.

In 1983 Australia finally ended America's 132 years of domination with the 'Australia II' boat

England's Royal Thames Yacht Club raced the ill-fated 'Cambria' against 18 American competitors, but ended well-beaten with Magic ensuring the Cup remained in the possession of America.

From the third defence of the trophy in 1876 through to the twentieth in 1967, there was always one challenger and one defender - although the New York Yacht Club ran a selection series to pick the yacht they would ultimately use in the match.

England mounted no fewer than 24 unsuccessful challenges for the America's Cup over the next 113 years but to no avail as the hosts remained unbeatable in races, first off New York and then off Newport.

Dominance ended

In 1983, Australia finally ended America's 132 years of domination in the event as the 'Australia II' boat fought back from 3-1 down against the Americans in Newport to force a deciding seventh race.

In that, the Australians prevailed by 25 seconds in an exciting encounter to finally snap the longest winning streak in modern sports history.

America's 'Stars and Stripes' reclaimed the trophy at the first time of asking four years later as they defeated 'Kookaburra III' in Fremantle and it would remain in American hands until 1995 when 'Black Magic' emerged triumphant for New Zealand in San Diego.

New Zealand became the first country other than America to retain the crown as they swept Italian challenger Luna Rossa in 2000.

However, they lost their grip on the trophy in 2003 when Switzerland's Alinghi challenger brought the Cup to Europe for the very first time and they defended their crown in Valencia four years later.

In 2010 the BMW Oracle Racing team brought the cup back to the States after a best-of-three race series in Valencia. The rigid wing sail of the challenging trimaran USA-17 provided a decisive advantage, winning the series 2-0 and ensuring a 2013 match in America for the first time since 1995.

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