America’s Cup 1886: Mayflower versus Galatea

NEW YORK—The sixth running of America’s Cup pitted the Scots against the Americans, as Galatea tried to take the Auld Mug trophy away from Mayflower in the final days of 1886’s summer.

Mayflower ultimately defended the America’s Cup trophy on Sept. 7, 1886, keeping the prestigious prize within the halls of New York Yacht Club. A report on the race’s finish in the Sept. 8, 1886 issue of the New York Times described what, for a while, appeared to be a tense race between Mayflower and Galatea.

“There was one moment when the result seemed doubtful – at the start,” the New York Times article stated. “The Boston sloop has shaken her job topsail out of stops on the slender rope that connects bowsprit end with the end of topmast, and was pointing well up the south wind that came at last fresh from the Atlantic straight up the Narrows.

“The Galatea was on the Staten side of her, as they both headed to Long Island with the sails to port the English boat point more off the wind in order to pass the starting boat and cross the line,” the New York Times article continued. “This gave her tremendous headway, and she appeared to outpace the Mayflower, daring nearer, the sight was enough to make the veriest landlubber rejoice.”

Momentum appeared to be in favor of Galatea – and then things went awry.

“After both passed the line, and passed it so close together that a marlinspike might have been tossed from deck to deck, Galatea appeared also to output Mayflower by as much sash had been outpacing her,” the New York Times article explained to its readers. “But this excitement lasted hardly 10 minutes. Then the tepidity of certain failure of Galatea descended upon the fleet, and the only question that stirred the languor of yachtsmen was the amount of beating she would get.”

Galatea’s loss to Mayflower was on the back end a day when many questioned whether a race would take place. Weather conditions on the final day of racing were far from ideal, according to the New York Times.

“The morning opened sullen and thick, in this unlike the day before, which was misty and moist, the fog was lifeless and hot,” the article stated at the outset. “The fog was British, but the heat was American, and most people felt that it was uncertain whether we had an earthquake, but most sure that we would get no race.”

Racing, however, would occur, and Mayflower went on to defeat Galatea to keep the America’s Cup in the United States that year.

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