Category: 1885 : CHALLENGE N°5

NYYC's Annual Regatta 1868 by Currier & IvesThe problems of the New York Yacht Club

The contest with Canada in 1881 was so unsatisfactory from every point of view that it aroused a strong feeling among the members of the New York Yacht Club that some steps ought to be taken to guard against such fiascos in the future.

True yachtsmen felt that the real spirit of Americas Cup competition had been violated in sailing against a yacht hardly finished, poorly manned, hampered by lack of funds, and that had come to this country by "mule power", canted on one bilge in order to get through a canal six feet deep.

They believed that the donors of the Cup had intended it to stand as an incentive for foreign yachts to cross the sea to race in this country and thus, in a measure, to be a test of a yacht's seaworthiness as well as speed.

Excessive spending

Sloop Yacht Pocahontas of New YorkBesides this, cup defense was getting to be an expensive matter to the club, and the members felt that the race ought to be worthy of the outlay. With the building of the unsuccessful defender, Pocahontas, the New York Yacht Club had spent fully $20,000 on this match with the Atalanta, and that seemed a goodly sum of money in those days. In the light of recent expenditure for cup defense, however, this was a mere bagatelle; and some of those old members would have a good many heart burnings could they know that it costs something like $350,000 dollars to build a boat like the Reliance and run her through an Americas Cup campaign, and much more than that sum when four defenders are built, as was the case in 1893.

The Reliance alone probably cost $250,000 to build and equip, to say nothing of running her with a crew of fifty men. Compared with the cost of the original winner of the Cup, America, which was $20,000, it will be remembered, and her small crew of ten men, this seems, and is, a fortune to spend merely on cup defense.

The second deed of gift

This feeling came to a head in December, 1881, when at a meeting of the New York Yacht Club it was voted to return the Cup to the only surviving member of the America's syndicate, Mr. George L. Schuyler, and practically to ask him to draw up a new deed of gift in place of the one made in 1857, which was considered inadequate and too onerous upon the holding club. It was necessary to have one better qualified to meet the changed conditions of yacht racing and to cover the many points which had caused controversy and ill feeling in the past.

The time was ripe for such a change and, realizing it, Mr. Schuyler, then an old man, accepted the return of the Cup and drew up a new deed of gift with which he again gave the Cup to the New York Yacht Club. It was accepted on February 2nd, 1882. This new instrument, called the second deed of gift, was as follows :

Any organized Yacht Club of a foreign country, incorporated, patented or licensed by the legislature, admiralty, or other executive department, having for its annual regatta an ocean water course on the sea or on an arm of the sea (or one which combines both), practicable for vessels of 300 tons, shall always be entitled, through one or more of its members, to the right of sailing a match for this Cup, with a yacht or other vessel propelled by sails only, and constructed in the country to which the Challenging Club belongs, against any one yacht or vessel as aforesaid, constructed in the country of the club holding the Cup.

George L. Schuyler“The yacht or vessel to be of not less than 30 nor more than 300 tons, measured by the Custom House rule in use by the country of the challenging party.

“The challenging party shall give six months' notice in writing, naming the day for the proposed race, which day shall not be less than seven months from the date of the notice.

“The parties intending to sail for the Cup may, by mutual consent, make any arrangement satisfactory to both as to the date, course, time allowance, number of trials, rules, and sailing regulations, and any and all other conditions of the match, in which case also the six months’ notice may be waived.

“In case the parties cannot mutually agree upon the terms of a match, then the challenging party shall have the right to contest for the Cup in one trial, sailed over the usual course of the Annual Regatta of the club holding the Cup, subject to its rules and sailing regulations, the challenged party not being required to name its representative until the time agreed upon for the start.

“Accompanying the six months' notice, there must be a Custom-house certificate of the measurement, and a statement of the dimensions, rig, and name of the vessel.

“No vessel which has been defeated in a match for this Cup can be again selected by any club for its representative until after a contest for it by some other vessel has intervened, or until after the expiration of two years from the time such contest has taken place.

“Vessels intending to compete for this Cup must proceed under sail on their own bottoms to the port where the contest is to take place.

“Should the club holding the Cup be for any cause dissolved, the Cup shall be handed over to any club of the same nationality it may select which comes under the foregoing rules.

“It is to be distinctly understood that the Cup is to be the property of the club and not of the owners of the vessel winning it in a match, and that the condition of keeping it open to be sailed for by organized Yacht Clubs of all foreign countries, upon the terms above laid down, shall forever attach to it, thus making it perpetually a Challenge Cup for friendly competition between foreign countries.

George L. Schuyler

The principal points of difference that are important to note between this new instrument and the old one, are, that it fixed definitely the obligation of the holding club to meet the challenger with one yacht, and one only, throughout the series of races constituting the match; that it required the challenger to proceed under sail on its own bottom to the port where the contest is to take place, thus eliminating any chance of towing through a canal or of shipping a boat across the ocean on the deck of a steamer, which at that time was getting to be within the bounds of possibility; the barring of a once defeated yacht from challenging again for two years ; and the elimination of Canada as a factor in future races, excepting those clubs in the Dominion that were situated on the coast.

The “mutual consent” clause as to the details of the matches was left in, while the six months' notice clause was given a more prominent place in view of the necessity which might arise of having to build a boat to meet a challenger that was of different size and rig than any existing boat of the holding club.

These new conditions were something of a direct slap at the Canadian clubs on the Great Lakes and caused much bitter feeling there, which resulted in many harsh things being said of the New York Yacht Club in the Canadian papers.

Upon accepting the Cup under the new “deed” the New York Yacht Club sent a copy of the instrument to all the foreign yacht clubs, with a cordial letter expressing the hope that the Cup would still be a source of friendly strife upon the water, and tendering to any man who might challenge “a liberal, hearty welcome, and the strictest fair play”.