(Photo Beken of Cowes/Louis Vuitton)
crossed the Atlantic on her own bottom and challenged all English yachts
to a match race. No yacht was willing to race her, however.
joined a free-for-all on Friday, August 22, around the Isle of Wight.
Watching the race, which included 15 English yachts and America,
was Queen Victoria, who supposedly inquired, "Which is first?" Told it
was America, she asked, "Which is second?"
"Ah, Your Majesty, there is
no second," was the reply. Or so the story goes. America
won the Royal Yacht Squadron's "Hundred Guinea Cup."
John Cox Stevens,
the NYYC's first
The NYYC was started seven
years before, on July 30, 1844, when John Cox Stevens invited eight
friends to his yacht Gimcrack, anchored in New York Harbor. The
nine who met 160 years ago resolved to form the NYYC and named Stevens
commodore. The theme of the club was, in those days, to race sailing
yachts. Three days hence, the new commodore announced, members would be
departing on a yacht-club cruise to Newport. The 2004 Annual Cruise will
be the club's 148th.
The NYYC's first clubhouse
was built in 1845 on land donated by Commodore Stevens, at the family
estate at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, NJ, overlooking the Hudson River.
(The estate is now the site of the Stevens Institute of Technology,
endowed by Edwin Stevens, John's brother, and the fourth commodore of
this club.) The clubhouse, a Gothic revival building, officially opened
on July 15, 1846. This was followed the next day by the first club
regatta, billed as a "trial of speed." This became the "Annual Regatta."
Only the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II and the
assassination of New York Senator Robert Kennedy have caused it to be
cancelled. This summer (2004), the NYYC will host its 150th Annual
Station 10, the NYYC's first clubhouse
built in 1845, now at
Harbour Court in Newport -- Dan Nerney photo
The first clubhouse did duty
as "Station 10" on Long Island and then was on loan and on display at
Mystic Seaport for 50 years. It is now on the grounds of Harbour Court,
the NYYC's on-the-water home in Newport.
On July 12, 1857, surviving
members of the America syndicate donated the silver trophy they won in
England, the "Hundred Guinea Cup," to the NYYC. They called it the
America's Cup, in honor of the yacht that won it. Finishing first in the
America's Cup, NYYC boats did with amazing regularity. Boats flying the
club flag held onto that trophy for 132 years, or until 1983. During
that stewardship, NYYC boats won 81 of 93 races. The win in 1851 in
England and then 24 defenses, from 1870 to 1980, has been described by
journalists as the "longest winning streak in sports."
The first transatlantic race
was held in the winter of 1866. James Gordon Bennett Jr., publisher of
the New York Herald and soon to be commodore of the NYYC, was the
only owner to go on the race that started on December 11. On Christmas
day, his Henrietta finished first in a three-boat race.
Newspapers dubbed it, "the Great Ocean Race."
The NYYC started another
famous transatlantic race in 1905, from New York to the Lizard in
England. The race was won by Atlantic, a NYYC vessel.
Her time of 12 days, four hours, one minute continues as the
Transatlantic Race Record for monohull yachts. See the World Sailing
Speed Record Council's list of
Ocean Race Records.
Commodore J. Pierpont Morgan
donated the land on 44th
Street for a new clubhouse.
In 1898, the NYYC was
billeted on the second floor of a house on Madison Avenue. It was
chockablock with "models, members and memorabilia," wrote the New
York Daily Tribune. It was then that Commodore J. Pierpont Morgan
stunned fellow members by announcing he would donate three lots on West
44th Street to build a new clubhouse. The building, designed in the
beaux-arts style by Whitney Warren and Charles D. Wetmore, opened in
1901. It is known for its Model Room and Library. The clubhouse is 103
years old. "Except for the absence of motion, one might fancy oneself at
sea," is how the New York Times described it in 1906.
The 44th Street Clubhouse
In 1983, the NYYC finished
"second" in the America's Cup. A significant piece of the club was gone.
Then in 1987, it acquired Harbour Court in Newport, the former summer
home of NYYC Commodore John Nicholas Brown. When it opened in 1988,
1,500 members and guests attended.
Harbour Court (Dan Nerney
Harbour Court created a new
energy and focus at the NYYC. In 1994, it hosted its Sesquicentennial
Celebration, for members and friends. In 1998, the NYYC hosted Race Week
at Newport, presented by Rolex, the Disabled World Sailing Championship
and the ILC Maxi World Championship. In 2000, as part of Race Week, the
NYYC hosted the Rolex IMS Offshore World Championship. In 2003, the club
hosted the Laser Masters North Americans and the Swan North Americans.
The fourth edition of Race Week at Newport will be in 2004.
Youth, too, is being served
at one of the oldest yacht clubs in America. Harbour Court has twice
hosted the Optimist Dinghy Association US Championship and the IYRU
O'Neill World Youth Sailing Championship. In 2000, Harbour Court hosted
the U.S. Junior Championships for Sears, Bemis and Smythe Trophies. In
2002, the NYYC hosted the ICSA Sloop National Championship with Brown
The NYYC's fleet of Sonars
The club is extremely active
in Team Racing and, most recently, match racing. It purchased 13 Sonars
that are dedicated to these activities. In 2002, the NYYC hosted the UBS
Challenge -- an international match-racing championship.
The Atlantic Challenge Cup
will be reprised in 2005 as
the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge.
In 1997, the NYYC hosted at
its Manhattan clubhouse the Atlantic Challenge Cup, a transatlantic race
for the world's largest yachts. The course was from the site of the
Sandy Hook Light off New York Harbor to the Lizard in England -- the
same course Atlantic sailed in 1905. The transatlantic race
will be reprised in May, 2005, as the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge,
when Atlantic' s then-100-year-old record will again be in
Last year, the NYYC
supported a new Transatlantic Race, the DaimlerChrysler North Atlantic
Challenge 2003 -- organized by Norddeutscher Regatta Verein. More than
60 yachts raced across the North Atlantic from Newport, RI, to Cuxhaven,
by Dr. Huntington "Skip" Sheldon, a NYYC
member, won the DaimlerChrysler North Atlantic Challenge.
The NYYC has remained active in the America's Cup as well. In 1995, the
club was asked by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the holder and
trustee of the Cup, to be Challenger of Record for America's Cup XXX. It
also fielded Young America in the competition. In 2002-2003, the
club was represented by Stars & Stripes.
and Endeavour -- J-Class yachts at the
America's Cup Jubilee. (Dan Nerney photo)
In August 2001, the New York
Yacht Club joined with the Royal Yacht Squadron for the America's Cup
Jubilee, in Cowes, England. This was a weeklong regatta and party to
celebrate the 150th anniversary of the regatta that came to be called
the America's Cup. A highlight was a race around the Isle of Wight --
the course America sailed in 1851.
"For sailors, the America's
Cup Jubilee had it all," wrote the New York Times. "Fleet
racing, J Boats, vintage gaff riggers, an incomparable collection of
12-Meters, and some of the greatest yachtsmen of any era. It could be
another 150 years before there is another event like it."