Newport and the America's Cup: A Rich History

(Photo courtesy of Barbara Eckstein, Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of Barbara Eckstein, Flickr)

The rich histories of Newport and the America’s Cup are inextricably entwined. After all, what other sailing mecca can lay claim to having hosted the world’s premiere challenge of yachtsmen for more than 50 years? As Newport prepares to host its popular International Boat Show, now seems a fitting time to reflect on the role this tony town has played in one of the sailing world’s most prestigious and time-honored traditions, the America's Cup.

The Origins of the America’s Cup

While Great Britain had long claimed the distinction of being the world’s greatest maritime power, the monarchy’s sailing dynasty came to an end in August of 1851 when the New York Yacht Club’s schooner "America" passed the British "Royal Yacht" while circumnavigating the Isle of Wight before going on to win the coveted 100 Guinea Cup.

This  victory not only represented a shift in power, but also heralded a century-long reign by the New York Yacht Club in the world of competitive sailing. The victorious America’s Commodore and crew gifted the trophy to the New York Yacht Club upon one condition: it would become “a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between nations.” And so began the America’s Cup tradition -- now the world's oldest international sporting trophy.

(photo courtesy of enjoiskate8, FLICKR)

(photo courtesy of enjoiskate8, FLICKR)

More Than 150 Years of the Pursuit of Excellence

Since that fateful day, just four countries -- the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland -- have won the America’s Cup throughout its 164-year history and 34 races. (The event only runs when a qualified yacht club challenges the current defender.) Newport's role throughout this time has become the stuff of legends: the city hosted the event  in the 53 years between 1930 and 1983 -- the last representing the landmark defeat of the New York Yacht Club by the Australians.  

The America's Cup is constantly pushing the boundaries of technology with many pioneering developments helping the boats -- each covertly designed and built in their home countries -- achieve new speeds. While we may not know the specifics, we can expect to see greatness in 2017 when three-time defending champion Oracle Team USA faces off against the  winner of the 2017 Louis Vuitton Cup during the 35th America's Cup. (Oracle team which will have the added advantage of working with BMW -- an America’s Cup Global Partner in 2017 -- as its official Technology Partner.)

It’s no surprise that so many sailing enthusiasts are drawn to Newport, including Oracle Chairman & Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison himself, once described by Forbes as on an “Ahab-like quest” to win the America's Cup. Ellison is currently restoring a historic mansion on Newport's chic Bellevue Avenue to become the Beechwood Museum, which will house both his private residence and extensive art collection.

With so much buzz surrounding the America’s Cup, there’s no better time than now to attend the 45th Annual Newport International Boat Show, one of the country’s largest in-water boat shows and a favorite among industry insiders. The event features plenty of fun both on land and on water with over 700 boats on display, including new boat and product debuts along with plenty of training opportunities for sailors.   Lovers of America’s Cup lore, Newport’s vibrant sailing culture, and the boating lifestyle in general will find plenty to enjoy at this world-class event.