Masts straining and sails stretched full with wind, two sleek racing yachts knife through the ocean at top speed. They are vying for the America’s Cup, the most sought-after prize in yacht racing.
America’s Cup races date back to 1851, when the schooner America sailed from New York to England. There, America beat a group of British yachts in a 60-mile race to win a trophy called the Hundred-Guinea Cup. In 1857, America’s owners gave the prize to the New York Yacht Club, and it became an international challenge trophy – the America’s Cup.America’s Cup competitions usually take place every three or four years. Each participating country holds races to select the yacht and crew that will represent it. Then the winners from around the world travel to the defending nation to compete for the cup in a series of elimination races. For 132 years, U.S. yachts defeated all challengers winning the cup 25 times. Then, in 1983, an Australian yacht, Australia II, won the trophy. The American yacht Stars and Stripes, skippered by Dennis Conner, won it in 1987. But New Zealand triumphed in 1995 when Black Magic beat Conner’s Young America in five straight races.
One of the yachts that sought to represent the U.S. in the 1995 America’s Cup contest had a crew of 15 women and only one man. Its name was the Mighty Mary.