In a speech delivered by Mr. J. C. Stevens, chief owner of the yacht America, at a banquet tendered him on his return to New York after the brilliant victory of his yacht at Cowes in 1851, some interesting facts regarding the race are given, and we reproduce the speech in part as an item of special interest, now that the international yachting contest has been resumed. The speech is taken from a little book by Hamilton Morton, a former secretary of the New York Yacht Club, and published in 1874, entitled “The America Cup.”
“And you may, perhaps, have observed that my hair is somewhat greyer than it was when I last met you. I’ll tell you how it happened. But I am trespassing on your good nature. (‘Go on, go on,’ from all sides.) In coming from Havre we were obliged, by the darkness of the night and a thick fog, to anchor some five or six miles from Cowes. In the morning early the tide was against us and it was dead calm. At nine o’clock a gentle breeze sprang up, and with it came gliding down the Laverock, one of the newest and fastest cutters of her class. The news spread like lightning that the Yankee clipper had arrived, and that the Laverock had gone down to show her the way up. The yachts and vessels in the harbor, the wharves, and windows of all the houses bordering on them, were filled with spectators, watching with eager eyes the eventful trial. They saw we could not escape, for the Laverock stuck to us, sometimes laying to and sometimes tacking around us, evidently showing she had no intention of quitting us. We were loaded with extra sails, with beef and pork and bread enough for an East India voyage, and were some four or five inches too deep in the water. We got up our sails with heavy hearts, the wind had increased to a five or six-knot breeze, and after waiting until we were ashamed to wait longer, we let her get about two hundred yards ahead and then started in her wake. I have seen and been engaged in many exciting trials at sea and on shore. I made the match with Eclipse against Sir Henry, and had heavy sums both for myself and for my friends depending on the result. I saw Eclipse lose the first heat and four-fifths of the second, without feeling one-hundredth part of the responsibility, and without feeling one-hundredth part of the trepidation I felt at the thought of being beaten by the Laverock in this eventful trial. During the first five minutes not a sound was heard save, perhaps, the beating of our anxious hearts or the slight ripple of the water upon her sword-like stem. The captain was crouched down upon the floor of the cockpit, his seemingly unconscious hand upon the tiller, with his stern, unaltering gaze upon the vessel ahead. The men were motionless as statues, with their eager eyes fastened upon the Laverock with a fixedness and intensity that seemed almost supernatural. The pencil of an artist might, perhaps, convey the expression, but no words can describe it. It could not nor did not last long. We worked quickly and surely to windward of her wake. The crisis was past, and some dozen of deep-drawn sighs proved that the agony was over. We came to anchor a quarter or perhaps a third of a mile ahead, and twenty minutes after our anchor was down the Earl of Wilton and his family were on board to welcome and introduce us to his friends. To him-self and family, to the Marquis of Anglesea and his son, Lord Alfred Paget, to Sir Bellingham Graham and a host of other noblemen and gentlemen were we indebted for a reception as hospitable and frank as ever was given to prince or peasant. From the Queen herself we received a mark of attention rarely ac-corded even to the highest among her own subjects; and I was given to understand that it was not only a courtesy extended to myself and friends, but also as a proof of the estimation in which she held our country, thereby giving a significance to the compliment infinitely more acceptable and valuable. Long may be bonds of kindred affection and interest that bind us together at present remain unbroken. * * * In the race for the Queen’s Cup there were, I think, seventeen entries, most of which, I believe, started. In addition to them there were seventy or eighty or perhaps one hundred under weigh in and about the harbor ; and such another sight no other country save England can furnish. Our directions from the sailing committee were simple and direct; we were to start from the flagship at Cowes, keep the Norman’s buoy on the starboard hand, and from thence make the best of our way round the island to the flagship from which we started. We got off before the wind, and in the midst of a crowd that we could not get rid of for the first eight or nine miles; a fresh breeze then sprang up that cleared us from our hangers-on and sent us rapidly ahead of every yacht in the squadron. At the Needles there was not a yacht that started with us in sight ; so that the answer said to have been given to a question from a high personage of `Who was first?’ `The America: `Who is second?’ `There is no second,’ was literally true. After passing the Needles, we were overtaken by the royal steam yacht Victoria and Albert, with Her Majesty and her family on board, who had come down to witness the trial of speed between the models adopted by the Old World and those of the New. As the steamer slowly passed us we had the gratification of tendering our homage to the Queen, after the fashion of her own people, by taking off our hats and dipping our flags. At this time the wind had fallen to a light breeze, and we did not arrive at the flagship until dark. I could not learn correctly at what time or in what order the others arrived. The cup before you is the trophy of that day’s victory. I promised, half jest and half earnest, when I parted with you, to bring it home to you. The performance of this promise is another exemplification of the truth of an old saw that `What is oftentimes said in jest is sometimes done in earnest.’ I am requested by the gentlemen owning this cup to beg your acceptance of it as a testimony of their gratitude for the interest you have so kindly felt and so often and kindly expressed in our welfare and success. I have but to regret that the late hour at which I made up my mind to attempt a reply has put it out of my power to make it what it ought to be (and, perhaps, but for that, what it might be), more worthy of your acceptance. With your permission I will propose as a toast `The Health of the Earl of Wilton.’
THE LETTER OF DONATION or Deed of Trust Constituting the Cup Won by the Yacht America in 1851 An International Challenge Cup New York, July 8th, 1867.
To the Secretary of the New York Yacht Club.
Sir: The undersigned, members of the New York Yacht Club, and late owners of the Schooner Yacht America, beg leave through you to present to the Club the Cup won by the America at the Regatta of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes, England, August 22d, 1851.
This Cup was offered as a prize to be sailed for by yachts of all nations, without regard to difference of tonnage, going round the Isle of Wight (the usual course for the Annual Regatta of the Royal Yacht Squadron), and was won by the America, beating eight cutters and seven schooner yachts started in the race.
The Cup is offered to the New York Yacht Club, subject to the following conditions :
Any organized yacht club of any foreign country shall always be entitled, through any one or more of its members, to claim the right of sailing a match for this cup with any yacht or other vessel of not less than thirty nor more than three hundred tons, measured by the Custom House rule of the country to which the vessel belongs.
The parties desiring to sail for the Cup may make any match with the yacht club in possession of the same that may be determined upon by mutual consent; but, in case of disagreement as to terms, the match shall be sailed over the usual course for the annual regatta of the yacht club in possession of the Cup, and subject to its rules and sailing regulationsthe challenging party being bound to give six months’ notice in writing, fixing the day they wish to start. This notice to embrace the length, Custom House measurement, rig and name of the vessel.
It is to be distinctly understood that the Cup is to be the property of the club, and not of the members thereof or owners of the vessel winning it in a match; and that the condition of keeping it open to be sailed for by yacht clubs of all foreign countries upon the terms above laid down shall forever attach to it, thus making it perpetually a challenge cup for friendly competition between foreign countries.
On motion of Mr. Grinnell, it was
Resolved, That the New York Yacht Club accept the Cup won by the America, and presented to them by the proprietors, upon the terms and conditions appointed by them.
Resolved, That the letter of Mr. Schuyler, with the enclosure, be entered on the minutes, and the Secretary be requested to furnish to all foreign yacht clubs a copy of the conditions upon which this Club holds the Cup, and which permanently attach to it.
Adjourned. N. Bloodgood, Secretary.