98th Challenge for the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup

San Diego YC Lipton Cup 1903

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 ~

Comments/ leave a comment


About Peggy Bawn Press

496pg biography of Scottish yacht designer, George Lennox Watson (1851-1904). Significant book on the history of yacht design & the development of modern yachting. Beautifully illustrated. Many photographs previously unpublished.
This entry was posted in America's Cup, G.L. Watson, G.L. Watson clients, Glasgow, Irish yachting, object of desire, yacht clubs, yacht racing, yachting history and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 98th Challenge for the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup

  1. Ewan Kennedy says:

    It’s sad that so few in Scotland know anything about our sailing and seafaring heritage. I remember John Gardner’s sardonic comments as we passed wee boys playing football on the hallowed ground where Hercules Linton’s Cutty Sark was once in the stocks, as we used to take our exercise walking between our labours at Mr Buck’s asylum and a certain watering hole at the end of Woodyard Road, way back in the 1970s. Fond days.

    And nobody in Partick would believe you if you told them the Kaiser’s yachts were built just down from the Three Judges. That story can be read here:- http://scottishboating.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/scottish-german-detective-story.html

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