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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
History on the high seas
Wind billows the sails as Team New Zealand race to victory in 2000
The America's Cup is yachting's premier event
The America's Cup has it all, in a long and distinguished history.

The oldest trophy in sport, an incredible scope of technological innovation, legendary figures from the world of sailing and international rivalry across the globe.

For 132 years that rivalry was dominated by the United States.

America's run of success from 1851 is the longest in sport and their hold on the "Auld Mug" was total.

Their dominance on the high seas was rarely seriously challenged until 1983 when Australia finally broke the stranglehold.

New Zealand have since followed the lead of their Antipodean neighbours in becoming only the third country to hold the Cup following their victory in 1995.

And their successful defence in 2000 came in the only America's Cup meeting never to feature the United States.

America will be looking to redress the balance of power in 2003 in a set of races that will determine whether the tide has turned in yachting's premier event for good.

The series of races, that now runs to 31, started when John Cox Stevens, first commodore and founder of the New York Yacht Club, travelled across the Atlantic to prove American shipbuilding skills.

His boat, America, beat a British fleet in the Royal Victoria Yacht Club Regatta around the Isle of Wight and with it won the 100 Guinea Cup.

It has been known as the America's Cup ever since, in honour of the first winning boat.

In that time the contest has undergone a number of changes, most significantly among the yachts that take part.

By their third defence the hosts had agreed to race one against one and the change was the catalyst for the craft development for which the contest has become renowned.

America's Cup yachts, be they schooners, 90-footers, J-boats, 12-metre boats or the present International America's Cup Class, have always been at the pinnacle of sailing technology.

Ordinary people doing things extraordinarily well as a team will beat a bunch of superstars and their accompanying egos every time
Bill Koch
1992 winning skipper
And America's Cup history reveals a rich tapestry of famous names.

Men such as Harold S Vanderbilt and Sir Thomas Lipton have ploughed funds into both winning and losing efforts.

Today the Cup has become big business and syndicates now put anything into the region of 100m to fund attempts.

But wealth alone does not win yachting's most prestigious trophy.

Although the weight of financial support is important, boat design and tactical acumen are key.

With designers such as the former professor of entomology Edward Burgess, the legendary Nathanial Herreshoff and Olin Stephens, America invariably held the upper hand.

Skippers such as Charles J Paine, Charlie Barr, Vanderbilt, Emil "Bus" Mosbacher, Ted Turner, Bill Ficker, Dennis Conner and Bill Koch were then on hand to get the best out of each boat and their crew.

Conner is the only four-time skipper in Cup history and became the first American to lose the title in 1983.

Australia's revolutionary winged-keel design was a key component of that defeat.

Sir Peter Blake holds aloft the America's Cup in 1995
Blake celebrates New Zealand's 1995 win
And when New Zealand became only the second country outside America to lay claim to the Cup in 1995 it was the tactics and experience of their crew that proved vital.

With limited funding, the late Sir Peter Blake, lucky red socks and all, put the seal on one of the most remarkable chapters in the sport.

New Zealand have since built on that victory and are forging their own place in the history of the event.

America will be out to stop them in their tracks, but must first contend with the Louis Vuitton Cup series that was set up in 1983 to determine the challenger.

American pride means they will be hell bent on winning through to contend for a piece of silverware they once considered their own.

Whether or not they can break New Zealand's grip on the America's Cup promises to add to the tradition and excitement of one of the world's premier sporting events.

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25 Sep 02 | Americas Cup
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