British Challengers

Land Rover BAR foiling on Bermuda's Great Sound
Land Rover BAR foiling on Bermuda's Great Sound
© Mark Lloyd

BRITISH CHALLENGERS FOR THE AMERICA’S CUP

1870 Cambria
James Ashbury’s schooner was defeated by nine boats in a fleet of 14 over a New York Harbour course.

1871 Livonia
A second of Ashbury’s schooners was defeated in matches against one of a group of four yachts from which the NYYC could chose each day – selected for advantage according to the weather conditions. Livonia won a race when her opponent lost her steering – the score 4-1.

1885 Genesta
The first single-masted challenger, owned by Sir Richard Sutton, refused a sail-over when fouled at the start of the first race and lost 2-0.

1886 Galatea
Lt. Henn’ s cutter was used as a cruising boat by the owner and his wife, and suffered a similar fate to Genesta.

1887 Thistle
This boat was built in secret and launched under a shroud, it was a full 95 years before Australia II started the fashion for secrecy. She failed her Scottish syndicate going down 2-0.

1893 Valkyrie II
Lord Dunraven’s first challenge was beaten 3-0 by Vigilant, although the last race was very close. Dunraven left the USA complaining about the spectator fleet.

1895 Valkyrie III
Dunraven’s second and most contentious challenge. His complaints about spectator craft went unheeded and he accused the Americans of shifting ballast to increase her waterline for a speed advantage, and he may well have been right.

1899, 1901, 1903, 1920 & 1930
Five challenges from Sir Thomas Lipton and the Royal Ulster YC with a succession of Shamrocks from 1899 to 1930. The first boat was a Fife design, and the defender, Columbia won 2-0.

In 1901 Shamrock II lost the first two races before leading for most of the third. She finished two seconds in front, but this gave Columbia a 41 second advantage on corrected time and a 3-0 victory.

Two years later, Lipton returned with Shamrock III, and came up against Nat Herreshoff’s Reliance, the biggest boat ever to compete for the Cup. It was a one-sided affair and again 3-0.

WW1 interrupted the Cup racing – Shamrock IV had crossed the Atlantic as war broke out and was kept ashore until 1920. When she finally raced she also lost, but not before taking the first two races from Resolute.

Ten years later, and Shamrock V met the defender, Enterprise, skippered by Harold Vanderbilt, who won in four straight races.

1934 Endeavour
Sir T.O.M. Sopwith took up the mantle for Britain and the aircraft manufacturer introduced new technology including basic and simple instrumentation. Hampered by an amateur crew after his professionals left over a wage dispute, he should have won but was out-foxed after going into a 2-0 lead by Harold Vanderbilt’s Rainbow.

1937 Endeavour
Sir T.O.M. Sopwith challenged again in 1937, but this time he was met by Harold Vanderbilt’s super-boat, Ranger and lost 4-0.

1958 Sceptre
In a world of post-war austerity, the size of boat was considerably reduced, and the action restarted in the 12-Metre class. Britain’s Sceptre, steered by Graham Mann, lost by big margins and a 4-0 scoreline to Columbia.

1964 Sovereign
It was no better, in fact, it was rather worse for Tony Boyden’s Sovereign – the margins were even bigger when she lost 4-0 to Constellation.

1980 Lionheart
It was 1980 before Britain returned to the competition which had radically altered in the meantime. There was now lots of interest from the rest of the world and an elimination trials (often referred to as the Louis Vuitton Cup) was now in place to pick the challenger. Owner Tony Boyden was back with Lionheart, John Oakeley and Ian Howlett’s innovative boat, but lost 4-2 to France 3 in the semi-finals of the challenger trials and was eliminated.

1983 The Victory Challenge
Peter de Savary’s Victory followed on the heels of Lionheart, and progressed all the way to the finals of the elimination trials, going down 4-1 to the eventual winner of the America’s Cup, Australia II.

1987 White Crusader
The British managed their third Cup in succession when Graham Walker’s White Crusader competed in Fremantle, Western Australia. Unfortunately, it could do no better than sixth of 13 in the Louis Vuitton Rounds Robin and progressed no further. It would be the last challenge for a long 16 years.

2003 White Lightning
Armed with the boats and designers of the Japanese previous challenge, Peter Harrison entered the world of the America’s Cup Class and set up a team with Britain’s best racing boat designers. With skipper Ian Walker, Wight Lightning was eliminated in the semi-final round of the Louis Vuitton Cup. It was the start of another long sojourn from the Cup ranks.

2017 Land Rover BAR
Sir Ben Ainslie's challenge to bring the Cup home ended at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Playoff Semi-finals. Despite the team’s consistency on the start-line, and the rapid pace of development of their race boat, the team finished the semi-final 5-2 down to Emirates Team New Zealand who later went on to win the 35th America's Cup.