The King Edward VII Gold Cup is the oldest match racing trophy in the world for competition involving one-design yachts. It is a highly prestigious trophy with a rich tradition. It was the only King’s Cup ever to be offered for competition in the United States which could be won outright.
The Gold Cup was given in 1907 by King Edward VII at the Tri-Centary Regatta at Jamestown, Virginia. The Regatta was held in commemoration of the 300th Anniversary of the first permanent colony in America. The Trophy was won by C. Sherman Hoyt sailing his “Q” yacht Capsicum.
After three decades as the property of Mr. Hoyt, he gave it to The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. In his letter, he expressed the propriety of “my returning a British Royal Trophy to the custody of your Club with its long record of clean sportsmanship and keenly contested races between your Bermuda yachts and ours of Long Island Sound and elsewhere…”. This gift expresses the long yachting tradition existing between the “Original Thirteen States” and the oldest self-governing British colony.
The Gold Cup resumed competitive activity as a match racing trophy for 6-Metres in 1937. The first winner of the Cup was the celebrated Briggs Cunningham, who was also the first man to win the America’s Cup when that competition was established in 12-Metres. The last year of competition in 6-Metres was 1939 when Bermuda’s A.F. (Bert) Darrell sailing Achilles successfully defended it against George Nicholls of the USA. Nicholl’s boat, Goose, was considered the fastest 6-Metre of her day. Bert Darrell, perhaps Bermuda’s most revered yachtsman and a shipwright by trade, bought the Achilles as salvage from an insurance company after she had been wrecked in a storm. He rebuilt the ten-year-old yacht entirely in his boatyard. The rejuvenated Achilles was launched from Darrell’s slipways and sailed directly to the race-course, where she went on to defeat Goose and establish Bermuda as a yacht racing power to be reckoned with.
In the post-war years, racing in the custom designed 6-Metre boats declined in favour of the International One Design Class. Consequently, when the Club placed the Cup back in competition in 1951, it was for match racing in yachts of the International One Design Class. Bert Darrell had the honour of first defending the Cup in this class.
Although it was always popular with sailors, the Gold Cup continued in relative obscurity until 1983 when Australia took the America’s Cup from the United States, resulting in increased interest in match racing. In 1985, the World Match Racing Conference was formed with the Gold Cup one of five major events. Beginning in 1988, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club introduced sponsorship, prize money, on the water judging, spectator boats, live commentary and racing in Hamilton Harbour. These innovations made Gold Cup match racing more exciting for the spectators and participants.
Since 1937, Bermuda has won the Cup twenty-one times, the United States eighteen times, New Zealand eleven times, Australia six times, United Kingdom five times, the U.S. Virgin Island and Sweden twice and Denmark, France and Italy have each laid claim to the trophy once.