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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
The early years
BBC Sport Online details the birth of the America's Cup and the first eight races for the trophy.

The concept of the America's Cup developed from Lord Wilton inviting America to send a yacht across the Atlantic to race as part of an Industrial World Fair - otherwise known as Prince Albert's Great Exhibition.

The New York Yacht Club, in its formative years itself, sent over a challenger and duly won the event.

Britain's desire to win back the trophy saw the development of the America's Cup and ensured that the 1851 race was not a one off.

1851 - Squadron fleet 0-1 America

John Cox Stevens, first Commodore and founder of the NYYC, travelled across the Atlantic with the express intention of denting British seafaring pride.

Stevens financed the project by setting up the Cup's first syndicate, with George Steers designing the schooner.

America made a slow start to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club regatta around the Isle of Wight, but before long was setting the pace.

Skipper Dick Brown took full advantage of vague race instructions and the absence of a handicap to come home eight minutes ahead of the field.

1870 - Magic 1-0 Cambria

The trophy, originally named the 100 Guinea Cup, now held the name of the first winner and was known as the America's Cup.

And Britain's James Ashbury was determined that his 108ft schooner would become the second.

The British were intent on reclaiming their crown as champions of the sea and travelled to New York with confidence having beaten an American challenger en route.

However, once Stateside, the challenge increased and the Cambria came 10th in a race against the NYYC fleet of 17 schooners.

1871 - Columbia 4-1 Livonia

Ashbury returned 12 months later with a 127ft craft and immediately questioned the "sporting" standard of racing against a whole fleet.

The NYYC relented and agreed to race one-on-one, reserving the right to choose which "one" on the morning of the race, dependent on weather conditions.

As well as Columbia, a second schooner, Sappho, also took part and the contest was shrouded by further controversy when instructions omitted which way to pass a mark in the second race.

Ashbury was dismayed by defeat, but little did he realise that Livonia's achievement in winning one race would not be matched for nearly 50 years.

1876 - Madeline 3-0 Countess of Dufferin

Major Charles Gifford of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club petitioned the NYYC to nominate a single yacht as opposed to a fleet.

Getting the hosts to agree to the change was his only success.

The 106ft Madeline raced to an easy clean sweep.

It was to be the first of nine successive American whitewashes.

1881 - Mischief 2-0 Atlanta

Alexander Cuthbert, the owner and designer of the Countess of Dufferin, put together a second challenge five years later.

Again his challenge was overwhelmingly outclassed.

Mischief's win was the closest Britain have ever come to holding the America's Cup, as the owner was the English-born NYYC member Joseph Busk.

The professionalism of the defending crew was the over-riding difference between Mischief and Atlanta.

1885 - Puritan 2-0 Genesta

Annoyed by the dominance of New York's yachting fraternity, General Charles J Paine built a Boston-based defence syndicate.

The contest between Puritan and the British-backed Genesta was highly competitive and also included one of the Cup's most sporting incidents.

Genesta captain Sir Richard Sutton refused to accept victory in the first race after Puritan was disqualified for cutting up and damaging his boat.

Sutton said he wanted a "race, not an easy win". A race he had, narrowly losing when the contest resumed.

1886 - Mayflower 2-0 Galatea

General Charles J Paine oversaw another defence 12 months later with his customary fastidiousness.

  Biggest Cup wins
Mayflower bt Galatea
29 mins & eight secs.
Constellation bt Sovereign
20 mins 24 secs
Paine left nothing to chance and covered all angles in his preparation - in stark contrast to his challenger.

Galatea's Lieutenant William Henn, at the helm of the British bid, was laid back in the extreme.

The result reflected their nature with Mayflower's victories including the biggest margin in America's Cup history.

1887 - Volunteer 2-0 Thistle

Charles J Paine became the first man to win three consecutive Cups and Edward Burgess the first to design a hat-trick of winners.

The build-up to the race was shrouded in secrecy but both Burgess and Britain's George Watson unveiled strikingly similar boats when the time came.

The NYYC was outraged by the fact that Watson's boat was longer than the previously disclosed 108ft.

But when the race eventually went ahead, that length did little to help the Royal Clyde Yacht Club's challenger.

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