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banner Saturday, 18 August, 2001, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
Happy birthday America's Cup
America's Cup action first got underway 150 years ago
America's Cup action first got underway 150 years ago

It has been a busy August on the Isle of Wight.

First came Cowes Week with its traditional mix of sailing and socialising, then followed the start of the gruelling yacht race to Fastnet Rock.

And now Jubilee 2001 celebrates the 150th anniversary of the America's Cup.

Probably the most revered sailing event of all, America's Cup action started for the very first time, just off Cowes on 22 August 1851.

There is a strong American presence in Cowes
There is a strong American presence in Cowes
Since then, top sailors, state-of-the-art boats and a liberal helping of hard cash have come together every few years in a fierce battle to win the prestigious trophy.

Although the lengthy qualification process for the next America's Cup is only just beginning, race fanatics have gathered where it all began to honour the race.

200 yachts from all corners of the globe, ranging from racing machines to elegant classics, are due to participate in a special regatta off Cowes from 18-25 August.

Each will be keen to sail in the wake of America, the schooner that won the first "Round the Island Race" back in 1851, taking the 100 Guinea Cup to the USA.

From humble beginnings, the challenge soon escalated and competitors built larger yachts, including the legendary J Class.

There were only 10 J-Class yachts built - six in the USA and four in the UK and many came to a sad end during World War II.

Some 200 boats will gather in the Solent
Some 200 boats will gather in the Solent
Some were laid up in the River Hamble where they stayed sunk in the mud for more than 30 years.

But three - Endeavour, Vesheda and Shamrock V - survived and have been restored to full racing order.

Re-fitted over the years for luxury as well as racing - the three old friends will be reunited after 60 years on the waters of the Solent.

But they are not the most practical of vessels.

With main sails of around 5,000 square feet, it takes a crew of around 32 to sail each of them.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Former America's Cup skipper Bob Koch
"It [winning the America's Cup] was one of the greatest experiences of my life"
Former skipper John Bertrand
"Winning the America's Cup is one of sport's Everests"
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