Category: 1893 : CHALLENGE N°8

A first attempt

After the last modification of Deed of Gift adopted in May 1888, nothing of importance transpired in cup matters until the following spring, when a challenge, dated March 19th, 1889, was received from the Earl of Dunraven.

His vessel was called Valkyrie (afterward known as the "first" or "old" Valkyrie), and was a seventy-footer. Her dimensions, as given in the challenge, being: 85 feet overall, 15.9 feet beam; 11.6 feet deep. She was built by J. C. Fay & Company of Southampton, from designs by George L. Watson.

Lord Dunraven's challenge was accepted April 11th, and a special committee of seven was appointed to arrange details for the match, with instructions to insist that the cup, if won by the challenger, should be held subject to the terms of the deed of gift. Lord Dunraven and the Royal Yacht Squadron were notified of the appointment of the committee, which consisted of James D. Smith, chairman, Rutherford Stuyvesant, J. R. Busk, William Krebs, J. Frederick Tams, Philip Schuyler, Gouvemeur Kortright, Commodore Elbridge T. Gerry, Vice Commodore Latham A. Fish, and Rear Commodore Archibald Rogers ex officio.

Lord Dunraven entered into active correspondence with the committee, asking for five races, and other concessions. The Royal Yacht Squadron would have nothing to do with the deed of gift, however, and on June 27th, 1889, a special committee of the squadron, consisting of Messes Charles Baring, John Mulholland, and Allen Young, announced by letter with much regret that,

We are unable to confirm the challenge with the condition attached that if the cup is won by the club challenging, it shall be held under and subject to the full terms of the new deed, the acceptance of which we consider would preclude the renewal of that friendly competition which it is so desirable to encourage and maintain, and for which the cup appears to have been originally conveyed to the New York Yacht Club.
We would further point out that the effect of accepting the conditions of the New York Yacht Club would be to compel the Royal Yacht Squadron to insist upon receiving, should it be successful in winning the cup, more favorable terms from a challenger than those under which it challenged.

In reply to the Royal Yacht Squadron's letter, which left a sting, the club through Chairman Smith of the cup committee, on July 16th, 1889, expressed regret that the Royal Yacht Squadron could not confirm Lord Dunraven's challenge, and called attention to the “mutual consent" clause, as follows:

To correct the misapprehension which appears to exist in the minds of your committee, and to prevent, if possible, the recurrence of the same, the committee, of which I am chairman, feel called upon to refer to the last paragraph of your communication, and to point out to you that the new deed of gift, to the terms of which you object, expressly provides that "the club challenging for the cup, and the club
holding the same, may, by mutual consent, make any agreement, satisfactory to both, and also any and all other conditions of the match," etc., etc., so that in the event of the Royal Yacht Squadron being successful in winning the cup, it would not be compelled to insist upon receiving more favorable terms from the challenger than those under which it challenged.

The club added that "if opportunity were given" other objections in the deed "would be found susceptible of easy explanation," thus gently intimating that the Royal Yacht Squadron had failed to interpret properly the language of the deed of gift. Here the episode ended, for the time being.

Lord Dunraven reverted to the subject the next year, in a letter to Mr. J. R. Busk of the New York Yacht Club, setting forth his objections to the deed, which were as follows:

Cowes Roads, April 26, 1890.

Dear Sir,

— I should have thought the causes of our dislike to the new deed of gift were clearly indicated in the correspondence of last year, but in view of your letter of the 3d inst., it might seem discourteous if I did not mention my personal objections to it.
I object to the deed of October 24, 1887, mainly in so far as it differs from the deed of January 4, 1882, under which the last three matches were sailed, and I consider it altogether too complicated a document to govern a matter of sport such as yacht racing.
I object to the substitution of ten for six months notice; six months is, I think, sufficient, and ten would lead to much inconvenience.

I object to the stipulation that the challenging vessel must furnish the following dimensions, which must not be exceeded; namely, length on the L.W.L., beam at L.W.L., extreme beam and draught of water, on the ground that too much advantage is given to the party challenged, and also because it might be impossible to find a vessel's proper trim without exceeding the calculated dimensions.

I object to the condition that there shall be no time allowance, because I think it calculated to put an end to international racing so far as this country is concerned.

Holding these views I could not challenge under the conditions that the cup, if won, must be held under the terms of a document which I do not think fair, or likely to create friendly competition.

The New York Y. C. appears to hold that by mutual consent all the conditions laid down in the new deed may be waived. Even so I should refuse to challenge, because the mere fact of anybody or any club undertaking to hold a cup according to the terms of a certain deed, must of necessity commit them to the opinion that all the terms of that deed are sufficiently reasonable and fair.

Moreover, I must remark that the interpretation of the "mutual consent" clause is a matter that legal experts only can decide. It mentions that the dates, courses, number of trials, rules, and sailing regulations, and any other conditions of the match, may be arranged by mutual consent. This obviously refers to the arrangements and details of any particular match.


The clause proceeds to say that under certain circumstances the ten months' notice may be dispensed with, but no allusion is made to the stipulation as to the dimensions to be furnished by the challenging yacht. As the fact that the ten months' notice can be dispensed with is particularly mentioned, the inference is clear that the conditions as to dimensions cannot be dispensed with.

Even if the mutual consent clause can be made to bear a larger interpretation than that which I have attached to it, and is intended to override all the terms and conditions contained in the new deed of gift, a club challenging would find itself in this position: It would be liable to have to accept a challenge under circumstances which it considered more unfavorable to the challenger than those under which it challenged. It would have to solemnly declare for itself, and on the part of all other clubs, that the cup, if won, should be held under, and subject to the full terms of the deed of gift of October 24, 1887 ; and at the same time, it would be obliged to make an equally solemn declaration that it considered those terms unfair, and that it would never adhere to them. Such a position would not, I think, commend itself to yacht clubs over here.

Briefly, such are my principal grounds of objection to the new deed. I do not wish it to be inferred that, in my opinion, the terms of the old deed, that of January 4, 1882, are in every respect satisfactory, but I will not trouble you with my personal ideas as to the best possible conditions for arranging and conducting international racing.

I am, of course, not addressing you on this subject in your capacity of chairman of the committee, as I have personally no concern with the matters lately in dispute between the New York Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron, but you are quite at liberty to make any use of this letter you think fit. I remain, dear sir, yours truly,

J. R. Busk, Esq. Dunraven.

As there appeared to be no grund on which Lord Dunraven could be met at that time, the subject was dropped. No further correspondence was received by the New York Yacht Club looking to a challenge for the cup until September, 1892; when Lord Dunraven, whose possibilities as a challenger had not been lost sight of, was again heard from.

Correspondence was once more entered into with him, which resulted in a second formal challenge, bearing date of November 25th, 1892. It was as follows:

R. Y. S. Castle, Cowes, 25th November, 1892.
J. V. S. Oddie, Secretary New York Yacht Club.

Dear Sir,
— I am requested by Lord Dunraven to forward to you a formal challenge for the cup on the following conditions, which I understand have been agreed upon between Lord Dunraven and a committee appointed by the New York Yacht Club, to conduct negotiations and arrange all the details, viz. :
Conditions agreed upon between Lord Dunraven and a committee of the New York Yacht Club, and contained in Lord Dunraven's letters of September 16th to Mr. Oddie and of November 7th to General Paine:

First: Length of load water-line of the challenging vessel to be the only dimension required, this is to be sent with the challenge, and the Custom House register to follow as soon as possible.

Second: Any excess over estimated length of load water-line in challenging vessel to count double in calculating time allowance, but the challenging vessel not to exceed, in any case, such estimated length by more than two per centum; the yacht that sails against the challenging vessel not to exceed the estimated length of the load water-line of the challenging vessel more than two per centum, and any excess of length beyond the estimated length of challenging vessel, in load water-line, to count double in calculating time allowance, provided that no yacht of specific rig existing, or under construction October 20, 1892, and available for use by the New York Yacht Club in defending the cup, be barred or penalized beyond taking or giving ordinary time allowance, according to the New York Yacht Club rules.
Third: It is to be understood and agreed that, should the cup come into the custody of the British Yacht Club, it shall be held subject to challenge under precisely similar terms as those contained in this challenge, provided always that such club shall not refuse any challenge according to the conditions laid down in the deed of 1887.

I, therefore, in behalf of the Royal Yacht Squadron, and in the name of Lord Dunraven, a member of the squadron, challenge to sail a series of matches with the yacht Valkyrie against any one yacht or vessel constructed in the United States for the cup, and would suggest that the match be sailed in August or September, 1893. Lord Dunraven would be glad if the precise dates can be left open for the time, but if your committee so desire, he will name the exact date on hearing from them. The following are the particulars of the challenging vessel:
Owner, Lord Dunraven; name, Valkyrie; length, load water-line, 85 feet.

Custom House measurement will follow as soon as the vessel can be measured for registration.

Richard Grant.

As the results of the correspondence which preceded this challenge are embodied in the challenge itself, the letters need not be given here. The New York Yacht Club accepted the challenge on December 13th, voting that the match should begin ten months from December 5th, the day the challenge was received, "the date of the match to be subject to alteration for mutual convenience and by mutual consent." It was arranged that there should be five races, if necessary.