Lipton Cup up for grabs this weekend

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 05/18/02)
By Ray Pendleton

Three racing yachts will be in heated competition off Waikiki this weekend in pursuit of one of Hawaii's most historic sailing trophies.

These boats will be crewed by teams representing the Kaneohe, Hawaii and Waikiki yacht clubs and the prize they will be vying for is called the Lipton Cup.

For those who may only think of tea when the name Lipton is mentioned, I should point out there is an historic connection between the tea company and the trophy.

At the end of the 19th century, Glasgow shipping tycoon and tea merchant Sir Thomas Lipton began what became a 30-year campaign to capture the famous America's Cup from the New York Yacht Club.

Although his efforts have been looked on by some as something of an advertising campaign for his companies, Lipton nevertheless spent considerable time and money in his fruitless endeavor.

Beginning with the race of 1899, Lipton brought a total of four different 100-plus-foot yachts named Shamrock to challenge for the Cup. In the first race he was beaten 3-0 and in the second in 1901, he again suffered a 3-0 defeat.

In a third attempt in 1903, he unfortunately found himself up against the largest vessel to ever race for the Cup -- the NYYC's 202-foot Reliance -- and was once again soundly defeated.

Lipton was forced to go back to the drawing boards for a new yacht design and then wait for the end of World War I before he could make his next challenge.

In 1920, he made his strongest America's Cup showing aboard Shamrock IV and won the first two races.

Still, when the series was over, the Cup remained in U.S. hands.

In 1930 -- just a year before his death -- Lipton gave it one more try, when the race venue was moved from New York to Newport, Rhode Island.

Once again, his best was not good enough and he returned home empty handed.

Nevertheless, during his 30 years of yacht racing in the U.S., Lipton came to respect our county's sailing community.

He found a way to demonstrate his regard by donating trophies to various yacht clubs as he traveled and most are still highly regarded today.

On a visit to Hawaii in 1930, Lipton presented two trophies to our local yachtsmen and both were regularly competed for by Oahu's Star Boat fleet until the onset of World War II.

At the war's end, when sailboats were finally allowed back out on the water to race, the two Lipton Cups had somehow disappeared and remained so for the next 40 years.

Then, in 1987, one of the trophies found its way back into the public domain and was immediately reestablished as the prize for an all-state yacht club challenge.

In recent years, the Lipton Cup has been won by the Waikiki Yacht Club in nine of the last 11 regattas, but the competition and rivalry has always been fierce.

A case in point was last year's five-race series.

The actual winner of the Cup -- WYC -- wasn't determined until a rules violation protest was decided by an appeals committee from US Sailing --nine months after the race.

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