In Hawaii, 'Lipton' is for sailing, not tea

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (05/29/99)
By Ray Pendleton

Here's a word-association quiz for you: what word comes to mind when I say Lipton?

Did I hear everyone say, tea?

Of course, maybe all of you sailing fanatics said cup, because last weekend's exciting two-day regatta was still on your minds.

For those of you who might not understand that association, let me explain by way of a brief history note.

In 1851, England's Royal Yacht Squadron made the mistake of inviting a syndicate from the New York Yacht Club to enter its race around the Isle of Wight for what it called a "100-guinea cup."

I say "mistake," because the NYYC's entry, a 101-foot schooner named America, won handily.

The syndicate then took the cup back to their club, renamed it the America's Cup, and successfully defended it 22 times, over 113 years, from 1870 to 1983.

Since 1983, when a syndicate from Australia finally found a way to overcome the NYYC defense, the America's Cup has not become such a permanent fixture in any yacht club.

Its most recent home, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, is now under attack from some dozen syndicates from around the world - including Hawaii's own Aloha Racing Team - but, I digress.

So, about a hundred years ago, England's famous tea merchant, Sir Thomas Lipton, began a 30-year-long campaign to reclaim the America's Cup for his country.

Ultimately, Lipton's goal remained tantalizingly out of reach, but he nevertheless developed a high respect for the sailing community in the U.S. - so much so that he donated numerous trophies to yacht clubs around the country.

And, more specifically, he personally donated two trophies to Hawaii's yachtsmen in 1930, when our state was still a territory.

During the years before World War II, those "Lipton Cups" were regularly raced for by O`ahu's Star-class fleet. But, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, yacht racing and its trophies were retired indefinitely.

At the war's end, recreational boating returned to the Islands, but somehow, the Lipton Cups seemed permanently retired. It wasn't until 1987, 40 years later, that one of them was returned to the yachting community and became the Lipton Cup that is now raced for each May by invited entries from yacht clubs around the state.

The second cup, designated Lipton Cup Two, made its reappearance six years ago and is now awarded at an annual state-wide event each October.

Last weekend, perhaps reflecting Hawaii's lackluster economy, the Lipton Cup was just a three boat regatta, with entries from Waikiki, Hawaii and Kaneohe yacht clubs. But the competition was as keen as it's ever been.

WYC was represented by Skip Winterbottom's Lidgard 35, Desperado, HYC by Les Vasconcellos' J35, Urban Renewal, and KYC by Wayne Millar's J120, Gingerbread Man. They raced under the Americap handicapping system.

When the final third race was over on Sunday, HYC was celebrating the fact they had finally won the cup from WYC, who had held it for the previous eight years.

Left unsaid was the fact that Urban Renewal, with different owners, was the same boat that had won the cup five out of the past nine years.

Doesn't it all make you wonder if KYC should find a way to get Urban in its fleet - and wonder why anyone would think of Lipton Tea instead of the Lipton Cup?

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