The America's Cup, the premier sailing event in the world, was
not named after the country, though it well could have been.
America kept the Cup for 132 years, the most sustained
dominance in any sport, until Australia won it in 1983.
The United States recovered the Cup in 1987, and retained it
with a controversial victory over New Zealand in a special
challenge match in 1988.
In fact, the America's Cup was named after the 101 foot
schooner "America," which back in 1851 won a 60 mile regatta
around the Isle of Wight that had been staged by England's
Royal Yacht Squadron.
"America" was the only American entry and beat out 14 British yachts.
The trophy they took home was called The 100 Guinea Cup, but was
renamed America's Cup when the owners of the winning boat
bequeathed it to the New York Yacht Club with the stipulation
that they defend it whenever challenged.
America then proceeded to meet every challenge, 25 of them,
until 1983, when Australia II took a stunning victory over
defender "Liberty" in the seventh and deciding race on the
waters off Newport, Rhode Island.
The skipper of "Liberty", Dennis Conner of the San Diego Yacht Club,
won the cup back with "Stars and Stripes" in 1987, sweeping four races
from Australian defender "Kookaburra III" off Fremantle, Australia.
The following year, Conner was challenged to a Cup defence
by New Zealand's Mercury Bay Boating Club, which didn't want to
wait the customary three or four years between challenges.
The 102-year-old Deed of Gift stated that every challenge
must be met, and so a special race was held.
The San Diego Yacht Club sent out a 60 foot catamaran to
contest New Zealand's 133 foot mono-hull, and "Stars and Stripes"
won in a rout.
The furious New Zealanders protested the race and even filed suit,
saying the SDYC violated the spirit of the deed by racing a catamaran.
A judge in New York State agreed and on March 28, 1989, ordered the
SDYC to turn the Cup over to Mercury Bay.
The SDYC refused, instead turning it over to the New York Yacht Club
as custodian until an appeal was heard. On September 19, 1989, the
decision was overturned by the New York Supreme Court, and the Cup
was returned to San Diego.
The next America's Cup was held in May, 1992, off San Diego,
and was a little more genteel. All challengers agreed to a standard
class of boat, 75 foot mono-hulls with 110 foot masts.