Yachting used to be known as ‘the sport of kings’ (possibly from Charles II’s having been presented with a ‘jacht’ by the Dutch East India Company in 1660). Prince Philip continued the royal tradition into the 1960s by sailing a Dragon class yacht at Cowes on the Isle of Wight with Uffa Fox (the designer of the GP14). Today, UK yachting lacks the royal patronage it enjoyed, but Cowes week is still the premier annual yachting venue in Britain and, in 1990, attracted 661 boats in 19 classes. In the prewar period, local fishermen in ports around Britain were taken on by rich owners as ‘paid hands’ to race in prestige races. This reflected the money and class divide between owners and professional crew. Nowadays the sport has become more ‘democratic’ in that it is no longer only open to the rich, though amateur participants still have to contribute up to £25,000 for a passage in the major races listed below.
   British yachting will always be associated with the America’s Cup. In 1851 the schooner America beat all-comers in a race around the Isle of Wight. Thomas Lipton was the last British individual rich enough to mount a challenge for the return of this cup, in the 1930s. In recent years commercially sponsored syndicates led by businessmen, notably Peter de Savary, have unsuccessfully attempted to regain it.
   The Observer Single-Handed Transatlantic Race (OSTAR) began in 1960, but arguably yachting did not impinge on the national consciousness, until the solo circumnavigations of Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Alec Rose in 1966–7. Television coverage obviously contributed to this. Since then, commercial sponsorship has made a huge difference in yachting. Each of the major international races is sponsored by a commercial organization, and each boat carries the advertising slogans of its sponsor. This has led to a proliferation of races such as the BT Global Challenge 2000/2001, the Whitbread Round the World Race (sponsored by Volvo for 2000/2001). The website for the 1998 Whitbread Round The World Race was visited by one million people per day.
   Yachting in Britain is still dominated by its exclusive traditional clubs such as the Royal Ocean Racing Club, which holds the Admiral’s Cup, and the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes which was founded in 1812. To earn the ‘Royal’ title, clubs’ members must own yachts over a certain tonnage.
   See also: sailing

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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