Waikiki club wins Hawaii's Lipton Cup

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 05/24/03
By Ray Pendleton

In the world of yacht racing, or in any other sport for that matter, there is no trophy that has been competed for longer than the America's Cup.

Similarly, here in Hawai`i, sailors compete annually for a trophy called the Lipton Cup, which may be our state's oldest, annually contested prize.

And while at first glance there would seem to be no connection between the two trophies, there is an interesting historical link.

The America's Cup was first raced for in 1851 when England's Royal Yacht Squadron put up a "100-guinea cup" for an international contest and a yacht named America captured it and took it home to the U.S.

In 1899, in an effort to reclaim the America's Cup for Britain, famed Glasgow shipper and tea merchant Sir Thomas Lipton began what was to become a 30-year campaign sailing a series of yachts he christened Shamrock.

According to historic records, Sir Thomas only came close to his goal in his fourth attempt in 1920 when he won the first two of five races. He made one last run for the Cup in 1930 -- a year before his death -- but it too ended in failure.

Nevertheless, over those three decades of competing against the Americans, he came to respect them. To show his regard as he traveled about the country, he donated trophies to various yacht clubs along the way.

While visiting Hawai`i (which was a U.S. Territory at the time) in 1930, Sir Thomas presented a trophy to the local yachtsmen that became an annual prize for their Star Boat fleet until the onset of World War II.

By the time recreational boats were allowed back out on the water to race, the Lipton Cup had disappeared and remained in hiding for the next 40 years.

The Cup finally found its way back into the public domain - and to a very grateful yachting community -- in 1987 and was immediately reestablished as the prize for an annual, all-state yacht club challenge.

In recent years, the Lipton Cup has been won by the Waikiki Yacht Club in 11 of the last 13 regattas, but the competition and rivalry is nearly always intense.

A good case in point was the five-race series in 2001. The WYC boat was eventually declared the winner, but it wasn't official until a rules violation protest was decided by an appeals committee from U.S. Sailing -- nine months after the race.

This year's race results under Americap rules came considerably faster last weekend. WYC's entry, a J-35 named Ho'okipa, skippered by Mike Rothwell, managed to win all three Windward-Leeward races on Saturday by such a convincing margin that only a disqualification or dismasting the next day could have lost the Cup.

Unfortunately, Kaneohe Yacht Club's entry, Dave Nottage's J-44 Kaimiloa, blew out its mainsail in the first race and without a replacement, was forced to retire.

On Sunday, Rothwell and crew sailed another near-perfect race, this time over an Olympic triangle course. After their remaining competition, Hawaii Yacht Club's entry --John Spadaro's Sydney 40 Boomerang -- reasonably declined the start of a fifth race, the Lipton Cup dynasty continued at the WYC.

It's not hard to imagine Sir Thomas' spirit finding joy in the fact that his gifts are still major prizes being contested for by Corinthian sailors into the 21st Century.

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