A failed endeavour

  • Five times unlucky: Sir Thomas Lipton aboard his yacht, Erin, which conveyed the Shamrock V to Newport, RI

    Five times unlucky: Sir Thomas Lipton aboard his yacht, Erin, which conveyed the Shamrock V to Newport, RI

As we countdown to the 35th America’s Cup The Royal Gazette will bring you a series of fun facts about the boats, the sailors, the crew, and the history of this illustrious competition. There are now five days until the month-long sporting spectacle gets under way.

Sir Thomas Lipton challenged for the America’s Cup five times between 1899 and 1930 all in yachts named Shamrock, to honour his Irish lineage and friends at the Royal Ulster Yacht Club.

Unfortunately for Sir Thomas he failed all five times.

He never managed to “lift that auld mug — surely the most elusive piece of metal in all the world so far as I am concerned”.

However, 30 years of chasing the America’s Cup brought him “joy... health and splendid friends” and it also kept him “’young, eager, buoyant and hopeful”.

He also captured the imagination of the American people. He was presented with a solid gold loving cup and a donors’ book in which the flamboyant mayor of New York had written “possibly the world’s worst yacht builder but absolutely the world’s most cheerful loser”.

Even after the transfer of his headquarters to London, Sir Thomas remained a familiar figure in his native Scotland. He was a frequent visitor to Glasgow for business and pleasure. He frequently was seen cruising in the Clyde — especially during Clyde Yacht Week when one of the Shamrocks usually claimed a trophy. Sir Thomas and yacht racing were so popular, that he even makes an appearance in Neil Munro’s Para Handy Tales where, much to the relief of MacPhail and the annoyance of the Captain, Shamrock snatched victory from White Heather. In recognition of his popularity and his contribution to yachting on the Clyde, Sir Thomas was presented with the freedom of Rothesay in June 1931.

In 1930 Sir Thomas’ charitable work was to catapult him into a whole new world. He was, until this time, a man devoted entirely to work. His friendship with the Prince of Wales, soon to be Edward VII, developed rapidly, strengthened by a passion for the shared interest of yacht racing. He was to be as ambitious a sportsman as he was a business man.

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