Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lipton's Attempt to Lift the Cup Has Failed -- September 15, 2013

British yachtsman Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of the tea company, tried to win the America's Cup five times between 1899 and 1930, always with a boat named Shamrock.  He never won, but he was widely respected for his sportsmanship.  This article about the failure of his first challenge in 1899 is from the the 21-October-1899 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper.  Columbia would defend and win again in 1901. 


In "Shamrock Weather" the America's Trophy Defender Again 

Sails Away From the Irish Challenger.

NEW YORK, Oct. 20.— Put away the cup and turn the key: cast it away even, for there will be time enough to mold another before the lock need be turned again. Twine garlands around the trophy, but scatter about it ashes, for once more it is an urn for ashes for hope, not the chalice of victory which Sir Thomas Lipton had hoped to lift.

Beaten at every point of sailing and in every sort of weather, there can be no further doubt that the Shamrock is not in the Columbia's class. One lone doubt that remains is whether there is any such thing as "Shamrock weather." That which was apportioned to her to-day was popularly regarded as the kind in which the broad-beamed Irish cutter would show to greater advantage than her narrow-waisted competitor. But from the start to finish, throughout the wild dance to the outer mark, and throughout the dipping and rearing spray-beaten thresh to windward there never was a time that superiority of the Herreshoff racer was not apparent.

"We might as well wait until Herreshoff retires from yacht-building," said a discouraged British yachtsman as he closed up his binoculars and placed them in their case. "There seems to be no use in our building challengers so long as he continues to build defenders."

Clean-cut as was this victory of to-day, it was even more glorious as a spectacle.  Imagine two superb racing yachts swaying and staggering before a wind which had the weight of half a gale in it, their swollen sails threatening each moment to bid farewell to creaking boom and buckling spar. Picture, if you can, the stream of foam which came boiling about the flying yachts as, driving before the wind and sea, they. rose buoyantly to the swells to sink stern first into the sloping valleys that came racing after them. Then home again with flat; sails, as taut as drumheads and lee scuppers knee deep in foam, one straining spar and shroud and sail and stay in a terrific effort to keep the vantage gained, the other as desperately striving to overcome the lead.  It was well worth the ten misspent days the excursionists had squandered on these other lifeless efforts "at racing, and which proved to be little more than days of fog and calm and drift.

Straight out of the north a lively wind was blowing when the two yachts arrived off the lightship. The wind had a twenty mile-an-hour gait and the Shamrock, as she dipped her green hull into the sea, had a now-or-never look about her. It was wind that Sir Thomas had been looking for, and in it all realized lay the Shamrock's last, long, lingering hope of taking away the cup. In all other sorts of weather she had been weighed and found wanting. It remained to see what she could do in wind of the kind that was blowing to-day.

The start was at the lightship and the course was a fifteen-mile run to leeward and a beat back to the finish line. Both boats were standing to the northward under mainsail and jib when the preparatory gun was fired. The wind was then too brisk for tho yachts to show club topsails, but their working topsails were up in stops and ready for setting. The Shamrock's was sheeted home three minutes after the preparatory gun was heard, the Columbia setting her staysails four minutes later.

At five minutes, to 11 came the warning gun, and the racers headed for the line, both jockeying for position  and neither gaining any decided advantage. The starting gun was fired, and the Shamrock stood across the line showing mainsail, working topsail, jib and staysail. The challenger crossed at 11:00:34. followed one minute and one second later by the defender. The Shamrock lowered her spinnaker to starboard as she crossed the line, but Captain Hogarth did not get it set until full half a minute after the Columbia's went swelling to the wind. On the other hand the Columbia had not set her working topsail, while that of the Shamrock was gradually drawing that vessel away from the Columbia.

Meanwhile the Shamrock's spinnaker was giving trouble, the sail hanging in stops a dozen feet or more from the top-mast head. This advantage was evened by the queer capers which the Columbia's spinnaker cut. The pole seemed to be too light for the great weight of the wind which the sail was carrying, and it frequently tipped at an angle so sharp that it seemed as though the spar would be up-ended. Once it went so high into the air that it looked as though the pole had been broken or that the crew were making efforts to take in sail. Despite all the handicaps of tipping booms and the absence of gaff topsail, the American boat continued to overhaul the Shamrock.  Then the Columbia broke out her topsail, and soon afterward the Shamrock's men were afforded the same old familiar view of the Columbia's stern which they had so often looked upon before.

The wind held strong and true, and the run down the wind was as pretty a yachting scene as was ever witnessed. The excursion fleet toiling along on either beam had all it could do to keep pace with the winged racers. The gallant American was still in the van as the two neared the turning point. The jib which the Shamrock had been carrying had been replaced by the largest in her sail locker, and for a time it seemed as though the Irish cutter would hold her own. but not for long. In spite of the change of canvas, in spite of everything that Captain Hogarth could do, the Columbia steadily drew away from the Irish cutter. Nearing the outer mark both made preparations for turning it. the Columbia taking in her spinnaker as she brought the buoy broad off her starboard bow, the Shamrock doffing hers half a minute later.  Luffing around the point, the Columbia stood away on the starboard tack, followed seventeen seconds later by the closely pursuing Shamrock.

The road home was the road of the rough, and immediately after heading into the wind both yachts began a lively dance over the tumbling seas. The defender was under mainsail, jib and staysail. The Shamrock, under the same sail, carried a working topsail in addition. She took that in at 12:34. the strain being too great for her rigging. Over the decks of both cutters the spray flew in sheets, and the lower edges of their mainsails were kept dark with flying clouds of spray.

No need to tell here of how or when the two boats tacked or how often they went about in thru long thresh back to the finish line. Sufficient to say that whenever one altered her course the other followed.  Tacks were frequent and at irregular intervals, but each time the Shamrock spilled the wind out of her sails, spun around upon her heels and filled on the other tack her crew saw the Columbia still farther in the lead.

The Columbia gradually widened the gap. steadily outfooting and outpointing the Shamrock, and despite that vessel's brave showing it became apparent that she was not to win. This became so evident as the two neared the finish line that the conclusion of the contest was robbed of all the sensational features which mark a closely contested event.

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