Category: 1895 : CHALLENGE N°9

LORD DUNRAVEN left Valkyrie II at New York for the winter of 1893-94 but did not race her in American waters the next season, as he had intended doing. His eyes were still turned toward the Cup, and in the autumn of 1894 he opened correspondence looking to another challenge.

His first letter on the subject was dated October 24th, 1894, at Dunraven Castle, and addressed to Mr. J. V. S. Oddie, secretary of the New York Yacht Club.

In it he suggested that he would challenge again on the terms of the Vigilant-Valkyrie II races, slightly modified. He desired the yachts to be measured with all weights on board, and their water-lines marked; all races on windward and leeward courses to be started to windward; the races to be sailed off Marblehead, as offering a clearer course than that off Sandy Hook. He also requested the right to come over with the fastest British vessel, providing his challenger was found not to be the fastest.

The club appointed a cup committee to deal with the challenge, consisting of Messrs. James D. Smith, Latham A. Fish, A. Cass Canfield, J. F. Tams, Philip Schuyler, Charles J. Paine, and Gouverneur Kortright, Mr. Smith being chairman and Mr. Canfield secretary.

The committee on Nov. 15th informed Lord Dunraven that it would grant his request to have the vessels measured with weights on board; that it did not believe it practicable to start all windward and leeward races to windward; that the Marblehead course could not be considered, and that if Lord Dunraven desired to substitute another vessel for his challenger, a second challenge would be accepted on the withdrawal of the original challenge. This gave Lord Dunraven the chance to pick the fastest yacht in England, and was a broad concession.

Regarding the one-gun start employed in 1893 the committee wrote:
"The experiment of a one-gun start, although most interesting last year, was an innovation upon the custom of the club, and we feel that a certain short period, say two minutes, must be allowed for crossing the line after the starting signal. The exact time of any yacht crossing during that period to be taken as her start, and the end of the period as that of any crossing after its expiration. The feeling on this point is very strong, as well as the opinion that our practice produces a more satisfactory race."

The committee referred to the holding of the cup, in the event of its being won by Lord Dunraven, pointing out that in its opinion any special agreement as to holding it was superfluous, under the deed of gift, and "most inadvisable, being in the nature of an addition to the deed itself."

On December 6th, Lord Dunraven's challenge was received by cable from the Royal Yacht Squadron. It was as follows:

In a letter written December 1st, before this challenge was cabled, but not received until December 10th, Lord Dunraven asked that the ten months' notice be reduced to eight months.

With regard to the one-gun start he wrote:
"That method of starting is, I think, far preferable to the plan you propose, especially in a match. Two minutes may represent, owing to variations in the force of the wind, occurring between the start and the finish, anything from one hundred yards to half a mile ; and your proposal consequently induces an element of chance which is avoided where the yachts start practically together, as under our system. Should they not start together, the advantage gained is surely a legitimate one, arising from superiority of handiness and handling. But as your committee feels strongly that the ordinary custom of the club should be adhered to, I accept their proposal."

The passages about starts in the correspondence of the committee and Lord Dunraven are here quoted as they embody the arguments for and against the one-gun start, about which there has been much controversy among yachtsmen.

Lord Dunraven asked in his letter if the club would accept the challenge on exactly the terms of his last challenge. To this the club replied by cable that it could agree to no conditions as to holding the cup. In subsequent correspondence with the Royal Yacht Squadron it pointed out that the conditions as to holding the cup in Lord Dunraven's former challenge were explained and modified by certain letters of his lordship. The conditions were not then considered satisfactory to the club, but had been allowed to stand for want of something better, owing to the limited time for concluding the correspondence. The Royal Yacht Squadron replied, December 16th, by cable, "If challenge accepted now and [our] representative wins, squadron will not demand cup, failing satisfactory agreement as to receipt."

To this the New York Yacht Club replied, December 17th, that it did "not agree that the squadron had the right, after having won the cup, to reject custody of it" according to the terms of the deed of gift, and stated that it would wait until January 15th for an official reply.

The reply of the Royal Yacht Squadron, received by cable, was as follows:

This placed the Royal Yacht Squadron on record as accepting the deed of gift only with the New York Yacht Club's modifications added. From this point negotiations went on smoothly. Lord Dunraven's challenge was accepted January 14th. The ten months' notice was changed to eight months, in view of the lateness of the season for the races under ten months' notice; and details of the match were left until Lord Dunraven's arrival in this country, the date of the first race being fixed for September 7th, 1895.