Historic Ryde Society

‘Giving Ryde’s Past to the Future’

Historic Ryde Society Quiz Night Thursday 26 October 2023 at Yelf's Hotel, at 7p.m. for 7.30pm.

To celebrate the last day of racing in the July 2015 America’s Cup, Historic Ryde Society would like to highlight the part Ryde Regatta 1851 played in the history of this auspicious race. The following is taken from The Stirling Observer, August 28, 1851.

The arrival of the United States clipper yacht America at Cowes has created quite a sensation amongst the nautical gentry of that vicinity, not because of her original and beautiful appearance, but for the daring challenge of her owners, that they are ready to match her against any yacht in Great Britain for any stake up to £10,000.

Up to this time, we believe, the challenge has not been accepted. On Friday, during the contest for the £50 prize cup by schooner yachts belonging to the Royal Victoria Club, at the Ryde Regatta, the America got under way and joined a squadron of vessels who followed the sailing yachts, and from the manner in which, one by one, she distanced them, she satisfactorily proved that the pretensions of Brother Jonathan to superiority was no idle boast.

The America was solely designed and constructed by Mr George Steers, of the firm of Messrs George & James Steers, of New-York, who are now on a visit to this country in their yacht. Mr George Steers was born in New-York, and is the son of the late Mr Henry Steers, a native of Dartmouth, England, and once connected with our naval establishment at Plymouth. The America belongs to the New York Yacht Club, and is, according to American register, 171 tons. Her dimensions are :- Length over all, 91 feet; length of keel, 82 feet; bowsprit, (hollow), 32 feet; foregaff 24 feet; maingaff, 28 feet; mainboom, 56 feet. She carries three standing sails, jib, foresail and mainsail.

The internal arrangements of the America are in chaste style, with a due regard to comfort. She is all smooth outside, and would be taken for an iron vessel by a keen eye. Her crew consists of seven hands before the mast, two mates, cook, steward, boy and master; in all, thirteen hands.

The owner is most courteous to all visitors, and conducts them over his yacht, which whatever may be her sailing powers, must be regarded also as a model of comfort inside. Her cabins, berths, &c., are fitted up in the finest taste, with every attention to economy and space, and in a style of simplicity. It would be most difficult to describe her appearance without the aid of a pencil. She has a low black hull, two noble ‘sticks’ of extreme rake, without an extra rope, and is altogether the beau ideal of what one is accustomed to read in Cooper’s novels.

She differs most materially from our vessels, and ‘if she be right (as the Marquis of Anglesey said), why, we must all be wrong.’

It has finally been determined that she shall compete with about 17 others for  Prince Albert’s cup of £100 on Friday next, which is also for yachts of all nations. A large number of persons have been on board within the last few days, who have expressed great satisfaction at her arrangements and perfectly novel construction. – Times

The following week, a report of the race appeared in papers across the country:

‘The Royal Yacht Society’s cup, open for the competition of all nations, has been carried off this year by the schooner from America, thus proving that her so much talked of superiority of speed was not an idle tale. The contest came off at Cowes, when the America competed with some of the finest of our English yachts. On the signal for starting being given, the Beatrice led, the Arrow being second, the Volante third, Gipsy Queen fourth – the remainder being pretty close together – and the America last.’

By the time the fleet reached Ventnor, the America had moved up to fourth place behind Volante, Arrow and Beatrice, and she took the lead off Brading Water. She had ‘her own crew of seven Yankee sailors, [and] three of the best channel pilots on board, the helm being taken by Underwood of Cowes.

‘The run up the back of the island had been almost throughout against the wind, and to get out of the tide all the yachts were compelled to board and tack close in shore – tactics in which the peculiar advantages of the build of the America did not appear to be fully displayed; but when she had fairly got round into the Solent, with a brisk southwester at her back, she soon outstripped all her competitors, sailed on gallantly alone, and “won in a canter”.’ America was more than six miles ahead of the competition!


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