Sailing Throughout History

Facts and Information About Sailing and the America’s Cup

Sailing can be dated as far back as prehistoric times. They would be used for means of travel, fishing, or for recreational use. Sailing is when ships use the strong force of the wind through sails to drive the boat to move at fast speeds.

In ancient times, you would only find the upper or more privileged classes of Asia, Greece, Rome, and Egypt to be sailing the beautifully decorated and extravagantly massive ships at that time. It wasn’t until the early seventeenth century that the art of sailing became a sport by Holland. The Dutch would sail smaller boats that ranged up to 65 feet. They would name these boats yaghtschip, which means “hunting ship.” Today we now call them yachts.

It was not long after sailing was popularized in Holland that they had given a yacht as a gift to Charles II in England. It did not take long for sailing to become a main sport in England and finally expanded to the American colonies. This is when the beginning of world competitions began.

Just like any other sport, sailors would gather together socially to one place and discuss future and past competitions, yachts, and any other social aspect of that time. This brought forth the beginning of the oldest clubs known around the world as, “yacht clubs.” The world’s first yacht club was founded in Cork, Ireland, in 1720. One of the most famous and oldest running yacht clubs in the world would be America’s New York Yacht Club. This club was founded in 1844.

The New York Yacht Club or otherwise known as the NYYC started by a gentleman named John Cox. He and local New Yorkers decided to start a club where they would race other local sailors. In 1851, the NYYC decided to take their club to the next level and race internationally. The gentlemen built their first 100-foot racing yacht, and then sailed their schooner, America, across the Atlantic Ocean to race against their British competitors around England’s Isle of Wight.

The Americans won and received their trophy. They decided to name their trophy, as well as the race, America’s Cup. This today is the world’s oldest and, one might say, prestigious international event in sailing.

The Americans have held their victory for 132 years (1851–1983), until the victory was swept away by Australia. Since then, the only other countries that have won the cup were New Zealand in 1995 and Switzerland in 2000.

Since the beginning of the cup, among many other competitive racing, many changes have been brought forth. One of the most significant changes is the yachts that participate in the races. There are three main types of yachts used for sailing. These types of boats are handicap, one-design, and rating boats. Handicap boats are boats that allow the sailors to race at an equal level with much larger and deeper boats. One-design boats are known for their speed and smaller sizes. These boats are usually from 7 feet to about 40 feet in length. Rating boats can differ with one another from length, displacement, and the sail area. These boats are better used with a sailor that has more of skill and knowledge of the sport.

Although the sport of sailing has been going on since the beginning of the seventeenth century, today, all races are governed by the International Yacht Racing Union, which was founded in 1907. These rules are used mainly to avoid collisions. The rules help with all forms of sailboat racing, be it ocean courses, closed course, and coastwise competitions. The ocean competitions must be navigated throughout the sea to help with the safety of the ships. Ocean races are the most dangerous of the three, especially if they are races that are solo and race for long distances at a time. Some major open-ocean races that are most popular are the Newport-Bermuda Race and the Volvo Ocean Race, better known as the Whitbread Round the World Race.

The gentleman that made this race popular was Francis Chichester, where he sailed around the world in 1967 making only one stop. In 1968, a new race was introduced where one would sail around the world nonstop. This race was named the Golden Globe race. Closed courses are held in places such as lakes that can range from 3 miles to about 30 miles. Coastwide races are held in longer courses in lakes or inland or offshore ocean.

The first time that sailing was noticed as a true sport was in 1896, when sailing became a part of the Olympics and has been a part of the Olympics since. Both men and women participate.

Today, millions of people participate in sailing. What used to be known as a sport limited to the more wealthy class has become popular for any class around the world. For some, sailing is just a recreation; others love the massive beauty of the yachts and sail just to enjoy the luxury of the yacht. Others are training in hopes to participate in the next Olympics. Whatever the reason, one cannot help but look back and see how far sailing as well as the yachts involved has come such a long way and appreciate the perplexity of this sport.

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