Unfortunate challenger in America's Cup 1920

In selecting a designer for his fourth attempt to capture the Cup, Sir Thomas Lipton has gone to C. E. Nicholson, probably the foremost, or perhaps more correctly, most successful, designer of racing yachts in England, though he has had no experience in an America's Cup race.

Great secrecy is being maintained regarding the designs of the boats, both in England and here, and almost nothing is known about the Shamrock IV, as the challenger will be called, except that she will not be over 75 feet long on the water line. In all probability she will follow very closely the modern type evolved under our rule. With no previous experience in our measurement rule it is not likely that Nicholson will take many liberties with it.

The Shamrock IV was the first of four yachts designed and built for Lipton by Charles E. Nicholson. It was an unconventional looking vessel and was nicknamed the "ugly duckling".

The New York Times - The launching of Shamrock IVThe Yachting World's description: "Her greatest beam is forward of the mast which gives her a very exagerated "cod head" and the extreme bluffness detracts from her looks. the square box stern is another violation of the modern canons of yacht designing. The greatest overhang is forward and the amidship section shows she is very square on the bilge and flat on the floor. The lead keel is flat at the bottom.
The greatest beam is 24 feet and her draught without the centreboard 14 and with the centreboard down 23 feet. The mast is 110 feet high and the "Marconi topmast" gives and additional 50 feet. In conclusion, "if the Challenger is not a flyer, it will not be because power has been sacrified for fine rounded sections."

Shamrock was launched on 26 May 1914 christened by the Countess of Shaftesbury.

On June 4, THE GRAPHIC July 6, 1914 - Shamrock IV undergoing her trials in TorquayShamrock IV had its first sail-stretching spin with theShamrock III on the Solent and won favorable opinion of many of the yachtmen who witnessed her movements.

On June 6, Shamrock IV. with Sir Thomas Lipton, Charles Nicholson, and Mr. and Mrs. W.P. Burton aboard, went on another sail stretching spin for five and a half hours, under canvas, accompanied by the twenty-three meters Shamrock in a light, fluky, northwesterly breeze, which first increased in strength and then dropped. The Challenger shows speed on the wind and creates favorable impression.

On June 9, the first racing test between Shamrock IV. and the older Shamrock took place over a thirty-mile course. Shamrock finished 2 minutes and 15 seconds, elapsed time, ahead of the other, but the difference by no means represents the full measure of the challenger's superiority.

On June 23, after secret change, Shamrock IV. had her first hard weather trial today with the older Shamrock and acquitted herself well. In a stiff northwesterly breeze, necessitating reefed mainsails, the challenger worked out a lead of three minutes in a run of five miles.

How the war affected the United StatesOn June 26, Shamrock IV. beats the old Shamrock over a 17-miles course by 4 minutes 53 seconds elapsed time and wins again on June 27 and 29.

From July 8, Shamrock IV is dismantled for her voyage across the Atlantic and on 18 July 1914, under the command of Captain Turner, left Portsmouth for the U.S.A. under tow by Lipton's steam yacht, Erin. She arrived Azores on July 28, having taken seven days and three hours from Falmouth. Lipton's plans were altered on August 7, when Colonel Neil, in charge of Erin, received a message announcing the start of hostilities between Germany and England. The First World War was underway. Shamrock IV and Erin were ordered to sail to the nearest British port, Saint George in Bermuda, where they arrived on 9 August 1914. Although Shamrock IV reached New York on 13 August 1914. She was hauled out and boxed up at the Shewan shipyard, foot of Twenty-seventh Street, South Brooklyn.

The voyage across the Atlantic (photo from Mitchell Library)
524-Shamrock IV en route from Falmouth to the Azores. August 1914.
From Falmouth to the Azores
537-Shamrock IV enroute from the Azores to Bermuda. August 1914.
from the Azores to Bermuda
Shamrock IV enroute from Bermuda to New York August 1914.
From Bermuda to New York
Shamrock IV at the Shewan shipyard
At the Shewan shipyard


The America's Cup was postponed and did not resume until 1920.

Shamrock IVOn Dec. 3, 1918 the Royal Ulster Yacht Club has sent a cablegram to the New York Yacht Club containing a challenge for the America's Cup, the races to be sailed in September 1919 under the conditions of 1914. But it was declined at the annual meeting of the New York Yacht Club. The organization decided to express to Sir Thomas the opinion that the season of 1919 was an inappropriate time to hold the race.

On October 1919, the New York Yacht Club has received from the Royal Ulster Yacht Club a formal challenge for a series of races for the America's Cup, to be sailed during the Summer of 1920 in American waters. A long time after, on February 17, 1920 the New York Yacht Club formally announced the acceptance of the challenge of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club for a series of races next Summer for the America's Cup. The dates set were Thursday, July 15, for the first race and alterning days thereafter, excepting Sunday, until one of the yachts has won three of a series of five races. It was decided that the races should be sailed over the historic course off Sandy Hook, although the New York Yacht Club had favored holding them of Newport.

AMERICA CUP YACHT SAVED FROM FIRE THE ESCAPE OF SHAMROCK IV 1920With the assurance that his challenge would be accepted, Sir Thomas Lipton had the Shamrock IV take to City Island on Long Island Sound in Winter quarters at Jacob's Yard, undergoing alterations recommended by Charles D. Nicholson.

In February, Shamrock III which raced so successfully in England in 1911, 12 and 13 was being rerigged and altered to make her faster than ever, so that the challenger may have a really fast boat over here to tune up with, an advantage not enjoyed by recent challengers.

On February 25, a fire which destroyed seven costly and handsome pleasure craft in the shipyard of Robert Jacob on City Island seriously endangered the Shamrock IV saved by a fortunate quick shifting of the wind.

On April 22, Captain Turner and twenty-three members of the crew of the yacht Shamrock IV. will sail for New York on board the steamer Lapland.

Captain Turner and Charles E. Nicholson at the helm of Shamrock IV during trialsOn June 2, SHAMROCK has had her first trial spin. She had two and a half hours of it in very light to fair breezes on the Sound. Designer and skipper are well pleased with impressive speed of the Yacht.

On June 19, Shamrock IV. showed what she could do, when in competition with her trial horse, the 23-meter Shamrock, she outsailed her in windward work, reaching and running, and, over a course of slightly more than twenty-eight miles, won by a margin of 13 minutes 15 seconds. On June 22, Shamrock IV wins second trial race by a small margin and fails to make impressive showing. On June 25, Shamrock IV again defeated the Old Shamrock, off Sandy Hook when she covered a 25.4 miles course in 13 minutes and 26 seconds less than the trial horse. On June 29, once more Shamrock IV. defeated his old and trusty 23-meter Shamrock over a short windward and leeward course but it was not the kind of victory to bring great joy to Sir Thomas and others who are anxious to see him lift the cup.

RESOLUTE / SHAMROCKOn July 5, Shamrock IV proved to be the stellar attraction to thousands of vacationists who were in the vicinity of Sandy Hook Bay today. With her full crew aboard and under mainsail, jib, staysail, baby jib topsail, club topsail and eventually her spinnaker, she was put through the most extensive series of manoeuvres undertaken since she has been in American waters.

On July 7, Shamrock IV., Sir Thomas Lipton's Challenger for the America's Cup, and Resolute, the New York Yacht Club's defender of that precious piece of silverware, are now snugly stowed in Morse's Dry Dock at the foot of Fifty-seventh Street, South Brooklyn, ready to be measured. Allowance is 7 minutes 1 second officially announced by the America's Cup Committee one week after operations of measurement, the day before the first race. Lipton's Challenger, because of greater sail area, is forced to make record concession.


The races for America's Cup 1920

America's Cup: Resolute vs Shamrock IV, July 1920- from 15 to 27 July 1920, at New York.
- the first yacht to capture three races will be the winner.
- starting signals to be given at 11 o'clock, and delayed only in event of changing the starting-point, fog, or agreed postponement; preparatory gun to be fired fiften minutes before starting signal, and handicap gun two minutes after.
- time limit for races 6 hours.
- the first, third and fifth races to be to windward and leeward, the second and fourth over a triangle, all courses to be thirty miles, and laid to windward when possible.

Resolute is confronted to Shamrock IV, the challenger of Royal Ulster Yacht Club.
Height races disputed.
Three races canceled : time limit.
Resolute beat Shamrock IV three wins to two.

- July 15, 1st race, 30 miles, windward-leeward : Resolute abandoned on accident. Shamrock IV ends in 4h 24 mn 48s.
- July 20, 2nd race, 30 miles, triangle : Shamrock IV beat Resolute by 9 mn 27 s elapsed time and 2 mn 26 s corrected time.
- July 21, 3rd race, 30 miles, windward-leeward : Resolute beat Shamrock IV by 7 mn 1 s corrected time.
- July 23, 4th race, 30 miles, triangle : Resolute beat Shamrock IV de 9 mn 58 s corrected time.
- July 27, 5th race, 30 miles, windward-leeward : Resolute beat Shamrock IV de 19 mn 45 s corrected time.

Resolute lost the first two matches before recovering to defend the Cup 3-2 against Shamrock IV.

Published: May 8, 1914
"A Futurist Design" Is Yachting World's Description of Challenger.

Published: July 30, 1926
Sir Thomas Lipton's famous American cup challenger, the Shamrock IV, now lies under forty feet of water.