Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge Starts This Weekend - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge Starts This Weekend

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

One widely recognized name spans the gulf between "calming" and "exciting." The same man, Sir Thomas J. Lipton, 1st Baronet and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO), brought generations of folks their relaxing "cuppa" tea and also instigated numerous seriously competitive sailboat races worldwide.

In Honolulu this year's racing for the "Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge Cup One Trophy" will be on May 5 and 6, 2012. The contest will include five boats from 30 feet to 40 feet (measured as "length over all") representing the defending cup holder Hawaii Yacht Club (Ikaika), Kaneohe Yacht Club (Troubadour), Maui Boat & Yacht Club (Gung Ho), Nawiliwili Yacht Club (Fast Company), and Waikiki Yacht Club (High Tension).

As a club-versus-club rivalry, much like our local paddling events, the race has a lengthy history and generates a lot of energy among the competitors. Races are expected to be held offshore of Waikīkī out in Māmala Bay (with an alternate course, depending on the winds, set just around Diamond Head in Moanalua Bay). Boats should be easily visible with only a pair of binoculars from any reasonable elevation near the shoreline.

Sir Thomas founded the Lipton Tea Company back in the days when having fast sailboats was an economic imperative to beat the competition in getting your product to the market. From needing fast sailboats for business, Lipton progressed to become an active challenger in the "America's Cup" sailing competitions where he raced five times (all in boats named Shamrock) without ever winning. Still he was regarded as such a good loser that he was awarded a special gold cup for sportsmanship.

Lipton himself inaugurated a series of sailing races in yacht clubs around the globe by donating large and ornate silver cups as awards. Our cup in Hawai‘i is engraved "Perpetual Challenge Trophy presented by Sir Thomas J. Lipton, BART, KCVO, to the Pearl Harbor [STET] Yacht Club of Oahu for Annual Competition in the Star Class of Yachts, Hawaiian Islands Fleet, 1930." The winner of the original 1930 race was the boat Kauila, skippered by R.A. Anderson.

As the engraving makes clear, when originally raced the competition was between individual boats of the "Star" class. Oahu no longer boasts a large fleet of such boats. Over the years the rules have been altered to make the race a club-versus-club event using boats that are assigned differing handicap ratings to balance out their racing performance.

After about a decade of annual competition racing was suspended for World War II and, as the cup itself dropped out of sight, did not resume until 1987 when the cup was returned to the local racing community.

Today the first weekend in May will determine the winner of an 82-year-old tradition. Take some time over the weekend to look out to sea and watch as the boats hoist and drop their party-colored spinnaker sails and jockey for position throughout the course. The boats are different, clearly the sailors are different, but the spirit of competition embodied and encouraged by Sir Thomas remains as strong as ever.

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