Friday, October 30, 2015

Lipton Cup Preview

J/105s sailing Lipton Cup (San Diego, CA)- The life of Thomas Johnstone Lipton of Great Britain was an amazing one at many levels, not the least of which was his contribution to yachting worldwide. Sir Thomas, who was knighted in 1898 by Queen Victoria, offered all yachtsmen an excellent example of a true sportsman in the broadest sense. He was undaunted by defeat, despite his team’s inability to win the America’s Cup after multiple attempts.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland (1850), Thomas Johnstone Lipton eventually became one of the world’s great success stories. He went to work at an early age as an errand boy in a Glasgow bookstore. At the age of 15, he came to the United States as a steerage immigrant but never forgot his homeland. He first worked in a grocery store, then drove a mule streetcar in New Orleans, became a traveling portrait salesman and finally worked on plantations in South Carolina and Virginia.

Sir Thomas returned to Glasgow at age 26, with enough money to open a small grocery store. As his business grew, he opened other stores– first in Scotland and then all over Ireland, Wales and England. To supply these stores, he acquired tea plantations in Ceylon and also purchased coffee and cocoa plantations. A global entrepreneur, Sir Thomas operated a large packing house in Chicago, a bacon curing plant and bakeries in England. He had fruit orchards and factories for making jellies and jams. Within 10 years, he was employing 8,000 persons.

His passion for being on the water was undiminished by his business interests.  Ultimately, in 1898 at the age of 48, he challenged for the America’s Cup sailing the famous line of “Shamrock” designs.

J/105 sailing Lipton Cup San DiegoBy early 1903, Commodore Lucien Blochman of the Corinthian YC (later San Diego YC) knew of Sir Thomas’ respect for sportsmanship and wrote to the tea baron, requesting that a trophy be created in his name for West Coast yacht racing excellence. This exchange resulted in the San Diego Lipton Challenge Cup. On July 22, 1903, the spectacular silver trophy arrived in San Diego, compliments of Sir Thomas Lipton.

Since its inception, the Lipton Challenge Cup has been considered as one of the preeminent events in Southern California racing, and the event’s history closely follows the history of yachting in Southern California- from the CCA days, to IOR heydays and now to one-designs. Since 2002, the event has been sailed in J/105s, a very popular offshore keelboat class on the west coast.

The 2015 edition promises to be every bit as competitive as has been over the past century.  Last year, the St Francis YC team led by skipper Chris Raab won the event for the first time in decades.  Chris and his tactician Russell Silvestri (an Olympic-class sailor) will be back to defend the title against a field of sailors that includes multiple National, North American and World Champion sailors.  Participating clubs and their skippers include: Annapolis YC (Peter McChesney), California YC (Bob Little), Chicago YC (Steve Knoop), Coronado YC (Patrick Powell), Larchmont YC (Dan Pletsch), Long Beach YC (Dustin Durant), New York YC (Brian Keane), Newport Harbor YC (Jon Pinckney), San Diego YC (Tyler Sinks), San Francisco YC (Jack Barton), and Southwestern YC (Shala Youngerman).   For more Lipton Cup sailing information