The America’s Cup: history repeats

Sir Thomas LiptonDaily Mail

Sir Thomas Lipton
Daily Mail/ Alamy

The news that the Swedish owner of potential America’s Cup challenger Artemis Racing recently visited his team’s base in Almeda, San Francisco for the first time since its summer 2012 opening, reminds us of a tongue-in-cheek spoof interview by The Yachting World magazine’s Clyde correspondent, John Fearon, on the run up to Sir Thomas Lipton’s 1901 America’s Cup challenge with the G.L. Watson designed Shamrock II.

Except for the boats, it seems that there’s nothing really new in the America’s Cup:



Outside the palatial residence in which Sir Thomas Lipton spends the few spare minutes left to him after the discharge of his multifarious duties, I walked into the first ambuscade. The miscreants had apparently lain in concealment by the park gates, and so expert were they, that before I was well aware of their presence I found it equally impossible to advance or retreat. Most of them had pencils and notebooks, and they talked together with a nasal accent, which had apparently been cultivated on ice water and chowder.

“A visitor for Sir Thomas, I reckon?” queried the ringleader as soon as he had assured himself that my retreat was effectively blocked. I admitted that his estimate was not so far out – for dead reckoning. “Yeou tek his life Ge-eawge,” he said, turning to a subordinate, “’n I’ll git the picters.”

It seemed to me that the instruction might have been given with a little more regard for my feelings, but I was relieved to find that all that George intended to take was the details of my experiences. In a few minutes I had laid bare the most sacred details of my life, while the other villain danced round with a Kodak clicking 45 times to the minute. Then they passed me on with an intimation that they were “from the Screamer,” and a final threat to send me a copy. There were others in waiting to carry on the horrible work, and before I reached Sir Thomas’s hospitable door, I had yielded upon my most treasured recollections for the entertainment of the unwashed readers of half a hundred American papers.

Under the circumstances I was not surprised to find Sir Thomas girded in a kilt, and hacking furiously at an imaginary foe. The sword exercise seemed to me an admirable precaution for a man who had to run such a gauntlet every time he passed his own doorstep. When he suspended the practice, however, I took the opportunity of hinting my opinion that the disguise did not leave sufficient to the imagination.

He was busy with an explanation that he was only rehearsing for his first appearance as an officer to a Scottish regiment to which he had recently been commissioned, when a secretary interrupted him with word that there was a tramp on the back doorstep seeking assistance. “Says he knew you in Glasgow, sir.”

“Tell him,” said Sir Thomas, as he stood to attention again, “that I am too busy to see him to-day, but if he calls back to-morrow I’ll see if I can do anything for him. Give him twenty or thirty thousand pounds to tide him over the night.”

“Telegram from Paris, Sir Thomas,” said another secretary, breaking in on the conversation. “Our agent thinks that he could get the Island of Corsica at a low figure, if you would care to have it.”

“How do I stand for islands just now?”

“You have rather fewer than usual, I think,”

“Well, cable him to buy it if it goes cheap, but not to spend much money on it. Not over fifteen or twenty millions at the outside.”

“About this challenge, Sir Thomas,” I began, thinking it time we came to this part of the business. “The yachting challenge, you know,” I added, as he seemed to be groping for a clue.”

“Certainly,” said Sir Thomas, “certainly. Just a minute, will you?”

“I think you look after my challenges, Mr. Eastfield,” he said, as another secretary answered his summons. “Can you tell me if I am challenging for the America Cup this year?”

The secretary thought so, but would not commit himself to an opinion until he had consulted his books.

“You are quite right,” said Sir Thomas, after the consultation, and apparently lost in admiration of my intimate knowledge of his private affairs. I find that I have challenged, and the races will be run in August. Mr. Watson of Glasgow is designing the boat, and will, I am sure, be only too pleased to give you all particulars.

From, ‘The “America” Cup, Some Imaginary Interviews by John Fearon’ in The Yachting World Christmas and Mediterranean Number, December 1900.

Martin Black’s biography of America’s Cup designer G.L. Watson contains countless similar gems. Buy it here.



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, journalists, yacht racing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The America’s Cup: history repeats

  1. Colin Fearon says:


    John Fearon was my grandfather although I never met him – he died in 1937 and I was born in 1943.

    This suggests that there are some more of his articles – is that so?


    Colin Fearon

    • Hi Colin, Great to hear from you. Yes, many more. Martin Black, author of G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design, has collected many references and has been in contact with one of your relatives. I’ll bring your comment to Martin’s attention. Iain

  2. Martin Black says:

    Hi Colin, Yes indeed I am in contact with another member of your family who is now based in Spain. Let me contact him and get his permission to pass on his details to you.

    As well as the satirical pieces that Iain refers to, John Fearon wrote a series of articles on the story of early yachting. The series was entitled “Reminiscences” and was published in Yachting World between October 1903 and November 1908.

    I hope that that helps. I also have published a photo in my book showing the Clyde Yachting reporters, which includes Fearon.

    Best regards


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