Category: 1895 : CHALLENGE N°9


All Efforts to Have the Race Called Off Failed.

LogoNYT Sept. 12, 1895 - The protest of C. Oliver Iselin against the Valkyrie was sustained by the Regatta Committee, and the race sailed on Tuesday, ...

... in which the Valkyrie finished first, has been awarded to the Defender. It was late yesterday afternoon when the Regatta-Committee rendered its decision, and the result pleased some and was criticised by others.

At the conclusion of the race Mr. Iselin made a written protest to the regatta committee, as follows:

Sept. 10th, 1895. On Board Defender.
To The Regatta Committee,
New York Yacht Club,

Dear Sirs,
It is with much regret that
I hereby protest the Valkyrie in the race
to-day.I shaped my course for the line,
(which course, according to my orders, was
not altered in the slightest degree), on
the starboard tack, with sheets trimmed down,
when Valkyrie bore down on us with wide sheets,
and, in luffing, fouled our starboard main
rigging with her main-boom, carrying away
our spreader, and springing our topmast.

Respectfully yours,
C. Oliver Iselin.


To this Lord Dunraven made reply that Defender luffed into Valkyrie after establishing an overlap, and therefore was to blame for the foul. He stated also that Valkyrie only just succeeded in clearing the committee boat.

That these statements unfortunately were not in accordance with the facts was shown by photographs taken at the time of the foul, and five seconds afterwards, which the committee put into its report. They showed Valkyrie luffing, and with ample room to clear the committee boat.

To Americans there seemed no other way to look at the foul than that it was caused by Valkyrie bearing down on Defender to avoid crossing the line ahead of the gun, and to still keep her weather position until gun-fire. Lord Dunraven, though an authority on navigating vessels, and an expert sailor, did not see the facts as the photographs showed them. He later stated that neither he, nor Mr. Henderson, his representative on Defender, saw a protest-flag displayed. It certainly was displayed very prominently, and twice, before Defender crossed the line. Being scarlet, the flag could easily be seen.

The regatta committee ruled, after examining the evidence, that "from our own observation, confirmed by that of others, who were in good position to see all that occurred, we find that Valkyrie, in contravention of section II of racing rule 16, bore down on Defender, and fouled her by the swing of her main-boom when luffing to straighten her course. We also consider the Defender left Valkyrie sufficient room to windward to pass clear of the committee boat."

The protest of Mr. Iselin, therefore, was sustained, and the race was given to Defender. Mr. Iselin offered to resail the race with Lord Dunraven, but the offer was declined, and, it appears, very properly, by Lord Dunraven, on the ground that the committee having given the race to Defender he could not accept an offer to resail it.

Many fair-minded persons thought the committee in error in not ordering the race resailed, as it had power to do. When Sir Richard Sutton was fouled by Puritan, and had a right to the award of a race, he refused to accept it. Lord Dunraven was not of Sir Richard Sutton's sort, and the regatta Committee, by not ordering the race resailed, lost a good opportunity to set him an example in courtesy. The committee decided that its powers to order a race resailed did not extend to a race decided on a protest which showed one of the contestants to have been at fault. The committee ruled that its power to order a race resailed should not be exercised arbitrarily, but only in the case of races given up when neither contestant was at fault, as in the case of fog. Mr. Iselin placed himself and Defender at the disposal of the America's cup committee, which, " while declining to take the initiative and order the race resailed, agreed to sanction an offer to do so from Mr. Iselin to Lord Dunraven," to quote the committee's report.
There were not a few members of the New York Yacht Club itself, and hosts of other yachtsmen, who thought this a fine distinction. Mr. Iselin later made a tentative offer to the cup committee to resail all the races with Lord Dunraven, but the committee did not think favorably of the proposition.

On the evening of September 10th Lord Dunraven notified the America's cup committee that unless he could have a clear course he would not sail on the 12th. His communication to the committee was as follows:

Yacht Valkyrie, Sept. 10th, 1895.

Gentlemen: It is with great reluctance that I write to inform you that I decline to sail Valkyrie any more under the circumstances that have prevailed in the last two races, and for the following reasons:

First. To attempt to start two such large vessels in a very confined space, and among moving steamers and tugboats, is, in my opinion, exceedingly dangerous, and I will not further risk the lives of my men or the ship.

Second. At the start of the first race the crowding was so great that we could not see the mark-boat, and could not tell when we were near the line; and we were much hampered by steamers, especially on the reach home.

To-day, on the reach home, eight or nine steamers crossed my bow, several were to windward of me, and, what was worse, a block of steamers were steaming level with me, and close under my lee. I sailed nearly the whole distance in tumbling, broken water, in the heavy wash of these steamers. To race under those conditions is, in my opinion, absurd, and I decline to submit myself to them again.

I would remind your committee that, foreseeing the trouble that might occur, I urged upon them the desirability of sailing off Marblehead, or in some locality other than New York Bay, and that they refused to do so. At the same time I wish to testify to my full belief that your committee has done everything in their power to prevent over-crowding.

The fact is, that when a contest between the representatives of two yacht clubs creates so much popular interest, and attracts such crowds of people, if the races are sailed in the immediate neighborhood of a great city, and if the dates of races and times of starting are known and advertised, it is impossible to keep a course free from causes of exceptional danger, and clear enough to insure the probability that the result of the match is decided according to the relative merits of the competing vessels.

I have the honor to remain,
Your obedient servant,


This was ground not covered in the articles of mutual agreement governing the races, as construed by the committee of the New York Yacht Club. Lord Dunraven was the victim of a condition of affairs that had grown worse with each cup contest off Sandy Hook, and he doubtless believed he was interfered with more than the home boat, which perhaps was but natural; yet he had infinitely less cause for complaint than Sir Richard Sutton, Lieut. Henn and Mr. Bell, who were obliged to contend with greater crowding on the inside course of the New York Yacht Club,"Harper's Weekly." dated September 19, 1885 but who accepted their ill-fortune without a murmur.

The American public was deeply interested in the performance of the yachts, and this interest alone led to the crowding complained of, a condition that had existed in all international matches, on both sides of the Atlantic, from the first race sailed for the cup.

It will be recalled that in the London Illustrated News' account of the America's race at Cowes it was stated that "steamers, shore-boats and yachts of all sizes buzzed along on each side of the course, and spread away for miles over the rippling sea."

The New York Yacht Club sent a special committee to Lord Dunraven on September 11th, to confer with him, and if possible reach some agreement that would lead him from the course he threatened. Nothing was accomplished, for at 11.30 on the night of September 11th Lord Dunraven addressed a letter to the cup committee, in which he admitted that the committee could not promise a clear course, but stating that he would sail the race if the committee would take it upon itself to declare the race void if the vessels were interfered with by steamers. This, the committee had no authority to do. It therefore instructed the regatta committee to prepare to start the race of the 12th.

Publié : Sept. 12, 1895
Defender Awarded the Second Race for the Cup. All Efforts to Have the Race Called Off Failed.

Publié le 12 Sept. 1895
and tuesday's race is awarded to the Defender.

Publié le 12 Sept. 1895
The regata commitee sustained the protest and disqualified the Valkyrie.