America Cup Yachts Shamrock Russell Dock Glasgow Unsuccessful Irish challenger for the 11th America's Cup in 1901

Shamrock II was launched from the yard of Messrs. William Denny & Brother at Dumbarton, on the river Leven, April 20th, and was towed to Cowes, where she received her sails from Ratsey's lofts, and thence to Southampton for her spars. The boat was given her first trial under sail May 4th, and for a week was jogged about The Solent and neighborhood, generally in company with the first Shamrock.

On May 9th, in a puff near The Needles, her steel gaff collapsed, and her owner narrowly escaped injury from a falling block. This was the first accident in what was to prove a spectacular early career.

The two Shamrocks in the SolentOn May 13th the challenger was given her first serious trial against the older boat, in Weymouth Bay, and was defeated by about three and one-half minutes over a triangular course of twenty miles, in a good breeze. After this race she was docked at Southampton for repairs made necessary by the drawing of rivets in her bow plating near the water-line. On coming out of dock May 20th the challenger was given a new mainsail, and was started on her formal trials against the older boat, the first race being sailed on that date, over a course twelve miles to windward from the Nab light-vessel, in a good sailing breeze. The first Shamrock led by half a minute at the turn, and yielded victory at the finish by only thirty-seven seconds. Another trial took place next day in a good sailing breeze and smarter sea, the start being at Warner Fort, the course to Nab Rock buoy, and back to the light-vessel. Shamrock II was troubled with a slacking of her bobstay, and lost ground going to windward, finishing 1 m. 34 s. behind the older boat.

The Illustrated London News - Antique Print of Accident Shamrock Royal King Yacht Wreck 1901The third formal trial was set for May 22d. The event was a most important one to Sir Thomas as King Edward VII had signified his pleasure to come down and sail on the new yacht. He arrived in due time, was met at Southampton by Sir Thomas on the steam-yacht Erin, and was taken to the racer, which lay off Cowes. With the King was the Marchioness of Londonderry. Other persons on board Shamrock II, besides the officers and crew, were W. G. Jameson, amateur manager of the boat, and Mrs. Jameson, and G. L. Watson, the designer.

In addition to Shamrock I. the new vessel was to have as a competitor the racing yawl Sybarita. They were to sail practically the old Queen's cup course, around the Warner and Lepe, starting at West Brambles buoy. The yachts were to be sent away at two o'clock. There was a good sailing breeze from the east, light enough to allow the use of club- topsails. The sea was moderate. Capt. Edward A. Sycamore of Brightlingsea, sailing-master, was at the helm of Shamrock II, and W. G. Jameson was in command. The boats were maneuvering for the start, and had about a minute to go, when they were struck by a puff, in itself no stronger than many another on a summer's day in that neighborhood, but enough to cause an accident which, to quote a London journal, "made Britain gasp."

The Illustrated London News - Antique Print of Accident Shamrock Royal King Yacht Wreck 1901Shamrock II was standing away from the line on the starboard tack, and was just coming into the wind to tack toward it when, in the words of an eye-witness, "suddenly and without warning her whole rig collapsed and went overboard."

The yacht in fact was totally dismantled in the space of a minute. Her mast went over the side like an empty paint-tube, and soon hung inverted with the topmast pointing to the bottom. The main-boom settled over the port quarter, and all the running and standing rigging fell, naturally, to leeward, with the sails and spars. No one was injured, though the accident might easily have been attended with serious results.

When the accident occurred, the King, according to press reports, was seated in the companionway, at the top of the steps leading below. Correspondents were careful to state that he was smoking at the time, and that he lighted a fresh cigar after asking if any one was hurt. Two masthead men whose duties had taken them aloft at the start owed their lives, doubtless, to the fact that they had just returned to the deck when the lofty structure of steel and canvas went into the sea. Several sailors carried overboard by the sails were rescued.

The Illustrated London News - Antique Print of Accident Shamrock Royal King Yacht Wreck 1901The collapse of the rig was described as gradual, as compared with the character of dismasting on a wood-sparred vessel. Trouble was noticed first by the mate, who was forward watching the head-sails, when he saw the bowsprit rise and swing to leeward. He shouted aft to keep the vessel off, but before a full could be caught in her mainsail, which might have saved the mast, the topmast fell, and then gradually the mast sagged off until it collapsed near the deck and went over into the sea.

The cause of the accident was said to be the breaking of the eye in the plate into which the bobstay was bolted at the stem. This probably was the seat of the trouble, though the first cause of the difficulty, as stated by Mr. Day, editor of The Rudder, who inspected the yacht after the accident, was the setting up of the weather preventer before the mast had moved forward, which caused a strain on the headstays to which the bobstay fastening was unequal under the conditions that prevailed, as the boat was spanking heavily while in the wind. This indicates that the cause may have been due to questionable judgment rather than structural weakness.

After the accident the King left the yacht in Sir Thomas Lipton's launch, proceeding to the steam-yacht Erin, and thence ashore at Southampton. Shamrock II was towed to Hythe after being cleared from the wreckage. Her mast and gear were subsequently salved by divers.

Immediately after the accident Sir Thomas cabled the New York Yacht Club as follows :

Commodore Ledyard, New York Yacht Club :

Regret had very bad accident to-day with new Shamrock, but thankful nobody injured. Fear will render it impossible keep engagement of Aug. 20th, but hope cable club to-morrow after consultation with designers and builders. Am afraid will be necessary ask for few weeks grace. Am very distressed at possibility of giving club trouble.

Thomas J. Lipton.

The club's reply was as follows :

New York, May 22d.
Sir Thomas Lipton, London :

We all sincerely regret new Shamrock's accident. Glad no one was injured, and trust result to yacht is not serious. Will await further advice from you before any action.


On May 23d Sir Thomas asked for a postponement of the races for six weeks from August 20th, the original date, and offered Shamrock I. as a substitute for the challenger, if the club found it "must adhere to date."

The next day he asked for "one month's grace," to which the New York Yacht Club replied that on request of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club it would forward an amended agreement in conformity to his request. The matter was finally arranged on the basis of one month's postponement from the original date.

The dismantled challenger was towed to the Clyde to receive a new rig. Her sailing in southern waters had not built up an abiding faith in her. Reports were cabled to this country from trustworthy correspondents that she was not fast enough to “lift the cup." One American critic who viewed her declared, on May 23d, that she "lacked the perfect combination that is essential to speed," and added that "in sailing she seemed to gain her pace with an enormous exertion of power." The Yachtsman, a representative and far-sighted British journal, on May 30th stated editorially: "Unless something is done in the way of alteration of design, we do not think the new boat stands the faintest chance for the cup." Events showed that she stood more than the faintest chance, but such reading as this in a British paper could not have been cheering to Sir Thomas while he awaited the rehabilitation of his challenger.

The two Shamrocks starting for a trial race in Rothesay BayChanges in design are not easy in a metal racing machine, and none were made, it is safe to believe, in Shamrock II; but changes were made in her spars, and for the better. When she was again put under sail, in the Clyde early in July, for a second series of trials, it was with a pole mast, a novelty in a yacht of the cup class, which contributed to an improvement in speed.

With sails of buff sea island cotton, as near perfect as racing sails have been made, the boat entered her second trials in far better form than when she sailed in The Solent. In a fortnight of hard sailing in the Clyde she showed steady improvement, and scored repeated wins over the first Shamrock, though never by very wide margins.

The American public followed reports of the trials closely, but was not satisfied from cabled accounts whether or not the first Shamrock was sailed for all she was worth. In the absence of definite evidence to the contrary, and in view of the record of Shamrock II in American waters, it is proper to assume that she was.

The arrival of Sir Thomas Lipton at New YorkAfter the middle of July preparations were made for bringing the challenger across the ocean. Her crew was offered a bonus of $40 each above their wages for the voyage. "Going foreign" in a bronze bowl did not appeal to fifteen of them, who demanded $75 bonus, whereupon they were promptly discharged.

For the voyage across the Atlantic Shamrock was strengthened internally by what was described as "a most ingeniously designed system of struts and props, tie-beams and stringers," as much to withstand the strain of towing as the buffeting of the sea. She was put under reduced cutter rig, with the short wood mast carried by Shamrock I when towed across, a stump topmast, a lug mainsail, and staysail on a stay to the stemhead, without a bowsprit. In tow of Erin she left Gourock July 27th. Sir Thomas and a few friends went along on Erin as far as the Holy Isle, and before leaving, according to report, "spoke a few words of cheer to the men on Shamrock II".

Erin and her tow logged two hundred and fifty miles a day. A call was made at Ponta Delgada, Azores Islands, for coal, and on August 11th, at 11.30 p. m., they passed Sandy Hook, a little less than sixteen days out from the Clyde.

Shamrock was promptly taken to Erie Basin, where all challengers since Genesta had refitted, and there received her racing spars and gear, which arrived by steamer August 4th. On August 14th she was docked, and American yachtsmen had an opportunity to form at first-hand an intelligent opinion of the appearance of a much-heralded, much-praised and much-condemned yacht.

The races of America's Cup

Brian Mays - 'Columbia and Shamrock II, America's Cup - from 26 september to 20 october 1901, at New York.
- the contest was to be decided by the winning three races out of five.
- the first, third and fifth races to be to windward and leeward, the second and fourth over a triangle, all courses to be thirty miles, and laid to windward when possible.
- starting signals to be given at 11 o'clock, and delayed only in event of changing the starting-point, fog, or agreed postponement; preparatory gun to be fired ten minutes before starting signal, and handicap gun two minutes after
- time limit for races five and a half hours.
- vessels to be allowed time for repairs in case of an accident.
- yachts to be measured with all weights on board to be carried in a race, restrictions as to bulkheads, floors, doors, water-tanks and anchor being waived.
- the water-line should be marked at the bow and as far aft as possible, on each vessel.

Shamrock II, the challenger of Royal Ulster Yacht Club, is confronted to Columbia.
Five races disputed.
Two races canceled : time limit.
Columbia beat Shamrock II, three wins to nil.

- September 28, 1st race, 30 miles, windward-leeward : Columbia beat Shamrock II by 1 mn 20 s corrected time.
- October 3, 2nd race, 30 miles, triangle : Columbia beat Shamrock II by 3 mn 35 s corrected time.
- October 4, 3rd race, 30 miles, windward-leeward : Shamrock II beat Columbia by 2s elapsed time but lose by 41s corrected time after a beautiful race.


Columbia & Shamrock II by Tim ThompsonShamrock II was stripped directly after the races and laid up for the winter at Erie Basin. Sir Thomas was anxious to try again with her, and made a proposal to challenge for another series of races, to be sailed in 1902. On October 9th the New York Yacht Club cup committee informed the Royal Ulster Yacht Club committee that the New York Yacht Club had no authority to accept a second challenge naming a defeated boat unless a full season intervened, or a match had been sailed by some other vessel.

Sir Thomas accepted the New York Yacht Club's ruling with his accustomed cheerfulness, and declared he would, when sure, by waiting a reasonable time, that he was depriving no other sportsman of the opportunity of challenging, again consider ways and means of "lifting the cup."

It was said that Shamrock II would be raced in American waters the following summer, but as she was not, it is possible that Sir Thomas had his third challenge in mind even then, and felt that he would like a good trial horse in this country at that time.

Anyhow, here she stayed and was broken up in November, 1903, as another fruitless sacrifice to a coveted bit of silver.