The America's Cup is the oldest international trophy in competitive sports, yet few know the inspirational story of the dedicated seamen behind the original historic race. In 1850, a brilliant young boat designer struck a terrible deal with the New York Yacht Club: he would attempt to build them the world's fastest boat, but he would receive no payment unless the vessel emerged victorious at The Great Exhibition in England. With its revolutionary design and striking beauty, the yacht AMERICA would have to beat fourteen of the best boats that Britain ??? the world's greatest maritime nation ??? could bring to the line. It seemed an impossible task. Yet AMERICA's small, unlikely team of humble, hardworking men faced the might and arrogance not only of their British competitors, but also their own backers, and achieved the unthinkable.
This full-fledged history of the first America's Cup yacht race-the oldest international trophy in competitive sports-begins in 1851, when the schooner America beat Great Britain's fastest yachts in a race around the Isle of Wight. Shaw (The Sea Shall Embrace Them) has written extensively about sailing; here he produces an exciting story beginning in the wealthy estates of the members of the New York Yacht Club, who financed the construction of a boat whose revolutionary design humbled those built in the U.K., considered then to be the greatest maritime nation. Exceedingly well-researched and documented, Shaw's history offers a first-time look at "the working-class men with strong backs and dirty hands who designed, built, and sailed the yacht, and who never really got credit for their efforts." The book is rooted in Shaw's finely etched portraits of designer George Steers, a "shy genius of naval architecture," and Capt. Richard Brown, who led the team of men who sailed the yacht to victory and provide Shaw an opportunity to discuss the Sandy Hook pilots of New York Harbor, an overlooked element of U.S. sailing history. And while Shaw produces an exciting recounting of the great race itself, he provides an equally fascinating depiction of the boat's dangerous and turbulent voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to get to the competition. He also includes a wonderful appendix on the post-race fate of the America-from its use by the Confederate Army to an ignominious post-WW II end. Publishers Weekly The America's Cup yacht race is a moneyed event, and as Shaw (The Sea Shall Embrace Them [BKL Mr 15 02]) points out, that has always been the case. The boat after which the cup is named was funded in 1851 by New York millionaire John Cox Stevens. However, the history of the cup is most closely intertwined with the decidedly working-class backgrounds of the men who designed and sailed America across the Atlantic. George Steers was a self-taught nautical genius who challenged the conventional boat designs of the age and presented a vessel possessed of unmatched speed. Captain Dick Brown ran away from home as a teenager and eventually forged a reputation as a pilot boat captain. Shaw, a meticulous researcher, relies on newspaper accounts, personal journals, and maritime records to create a novel-like account of the race in which the underdog Americans defeated a shocked British contingent. At its heart this is a historical adventure containing all the elements readers love: underdogs, danger, a Dirty Dozen- like assembling of the crew, and, of course, a happy ending. Wonderful reading. Booklist The heroic story of a team of ordinary Americans and how they won the greatest yacht race ever. This book takes you aboard the schooner AMERICA for the first incredible journey; back to a time when there was no way the British could lose, and a bunch of upstarts from the colonies shook up the world and started a hundred-year tradition. Latitudes & Attitudes