Looking & Feeling 161 Years Young

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History of the America’s Cup trophy

Kids who play hockey dream of hoisting Stanley. But those born with a healthy addiction to rough waters and fast-as-lightning competition—for them it’s the America’s Cup.

The America’s Cup is sailing’s most prized trophy. It is the oldest trophy for international competition in any sport. It’s sterling silver, bulbous in all the right ways, and shiny enough for you to look at your reflection and smooth down your eyebrows, check your teeth, and admire yourself for being part of a 161-year tradition.

Where did it come from? How did it get its name? Good questions. It was made in England but named for America and promotes friendly competition among nations…

In the early 19th century, American sailors – fresh off their split with England aka their mother ship – darted around on super fast, technically advanced boats and yachts. Primarily used for trade, they soon began to use these vehicles for sport. And, like any tech-savvy youth, they liked to show off and one-up their archrivals.

In 1851, the schooner America sailed across the Atlantic to race against a fleet of British yachts. America was every bit as radical as its crew, fit with pilot boat-inspired lines and flat-cut sails and adorned with an eagle. It stealthily beat its British opponents in a race around the Isle of Wight.

To the victor goes the spoils. In this case spoils came in the form of a 27” trophy made by the London company Garrard. It was aptly christened the America’s Cup. Centuries later, it’s filled with lore and conversations passed down through the generations like a game of telephone. (Quotes are attributed to everyone from dumbfounded spectators to Queen Victoria.) It has been awarded in 33 matches. It has had its base extended twice. It has been smashed once then lovingly restored.

It’s been through a lot. More than any other trophy, that’s for damn sure. And after 161 years, it’s ready for more.

(Photo Credit: Gilles Martin-Raget, America’s Cup)