The America's Cup is an antique trophy that is awarded to the winner of a sailing yacht race of the same name. The competition was established internationally in 1851, when a United States schooner named America sailed to England and raced in an annual regatta around the Isle of Wight. America ended up overtaking the finest of Britain's proud fleet of ships. It was an important symbolic milestone for the New World, back in the days when the United States of America was only 75 years old. So important was the event that the good ship America was captured on canvas by Fitz Henry Lane, and the yacht now sits in a museum. In 1851, the United States took home the trophy.
The trophy was renamed America's Cup after the yacht that had won it. Sometime later, it was donated to the New York Yacht Club under the terms of a “deed of gift,” which made sure the cup would be available internationally to the winners of future yacht races.
The New York Yacht Club held on to the America's Cup for more than 130 years. However, by 1967, people had heard about the race and there became more than one challenger. It used to be just an ego match between the United States and Great Britain. Now, other countries were becoming interested in the competition, not to mention other yacht clubs in America. The race had attracted some very wealthy people. You know, the kind who have yachts.
So the New York Yacht Club agreed that potential international challengers could run a challenger competition, to see who gets to race the defending champion. Designer Louis Vuitton sponsored the challenger series in 1983, and so the cup was temporarily renamed after him. However, today the cup is still known as America's Cup.
The New York Yacht Club still managed to hold the trophy until 1987. Eventually, Australia ran away with the cup, and proudly displayed it at the Royal Perth Yacht Club. This ended the longest winning streak in the history of any sport.
The America's Cup has a history of legal battles and disputes over rule changes, technicalities, and legal loopholes. There must be too many wealthy, sea going lawyers out there. Also, many teams have withdrawn from the competition citing the prohibitive cost of development.
Nonetheless, Oracle Team USA, which won the race in 2013, plans to defend its title in July of next year, at the 2017 America's Cup yacht sailing race in Bermuda. Larry Ellison of Oracle is already credited with having built the world's largest sail at the last America's Cup challenge.
Thanks to Oracle, the current America's Cup champion is the Golden Gate Yacht Club. You can see it there. It is an ornate, sterling silver, bottomless pitcher that is probably worth quite a bit of money to most of us, but a mere pittance to billionaires. The cup was crafted in 1848 by Garrard & Company.
Today, the America's Cup is the world's oldest international sporting trophy.