The news that ten invited teams from California, New York and New Orleans recently competed in San Diego Yacht Club’s 98th edition of the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup Regatta – “the most prestigious trophy contested in Southern California”, according to the club’s web site – reminds us that one of G.L. Watson’s most famous and flamboyant clients is far from forgotten more than 80 years after his death.
Of course, the tea brand that the rags to riches Glaswegian Thomas Lipton founded in the 1870s still carries his name.
But so do coveted trophies gifted during his lifetime to a variety of sports, and still competed for with passion, particularly in the sailing world, where the story of Lipton’s five unsuccessful challenges to lift the America’s Cup are at the core of the stuff of legend in its Hall of Fame.
The fact that the first three of Lipton’s Shamrock challengers were defeated by fellow Scotsman, but naturalised American, Charlie Barr – originally from Gourock on the Firth of Clyde – at the helm of racing machines designed by Watson’s most respected international foe, Nathanael Herreshoff, should be the stuff of Scottish myth.
G.L. Watson designed Shamrock II for Lipton’s 1901 challenge. In the first chapter of G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design, author Martin Black describes her launching ceremony at Dumbarton on the Clyde as the first international media event of its kind.
In effect these Lipton Tropies were an early form of sports sponsorship, but such was his self-made and publicised reputation as “absolutely the World’s most cheerful loser”, and so magnificent (OK, some of them are quite over the top…) were the trophies, that they have mostly held their aura at yacht clubs as far apart as Singapore and Seattle.
Yacht clubs with still active competitions for Lipton Trophies, include:
1902 – Chicago YC, Sir Thomas J. Lipton Cup
1903 – San Diego YC, Sir Thomas Lipton Cup
1911 – Seattle YC, Sir Thomas Lipton Cup
1914 – Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy
1919 – Southern Yacht Club (USA), Sir Thomas Lipton Interclub Challenge Cup
1923 – Republic of Singapore YC, Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy
1930 – Pearl Harbor Yacht Club (Hawaii), Sir Thomas J. Lipton Perpetual Challenge
Know any more?
~ Iain McAllister ~