Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Saturday, May 26, 2001

Hawaii’s own Lipton
Cup back in Waikiki

IN HAWAII, as in many boating communities across the U.S.,sailors compete annually for trophies called Lipton Cups.

And while these Lipton Cups haven't become nearly so famous as the world-renown America's Cup, they are historic in their own right and even have a direct connection to that more prestigious event.

The America's Cup was so named because the trophy was first won by the schooner America. Reportedly, it had been called just a "100-guinea cup" when it was put up as the winner's trophy for a new yacht race created in 1851 by England's Royal Yacht Squadron.

The 101-foot America had been entered by members of the New York Yacht Club, so after winning the cup, they took it home, christened it after their yacht and successfully defended it 22 times, over 113 years, from 1870 to 1983.

Early in that defense, England's famous tea merchant and shipping tycoon Sir Thomas Lipton launched into what became a 30-year campaign to reclaim the America's Cup for his country.

In five successive bids, beginning in 1899, Lipton tenaciously entered a series of yachts named Shamrock in hopes one would capture what became a most elusive prize.

Ultimately, Lipton's goal remained out of reach. But, over the long competitive process, he nevertheless gained a strong respect for our country's sailing community. And, to demonstrate that respect, Lipton donated numerous trophies to yacht clubs throughout the U.S.

In 1930, while Hawaii was still a U.S. Territory, Lipton visited the islands and presented two of his trophies to the local yachtsmen. From then until the onset of World War II, both were regularly raced for by Oahu's Star Boat fleet.

After December 7, 1941, of course, yacht races and their trophies were retired indefinitely. But, at the war's end, when recreational boating resumed in Hawaii, the two Lipton Cups somehow failed to resurface.

Then, in 1987, one of the trophies was "found" and restored as the prize for one of Hawaii's premier yacht racing events. Individual entries from yacht clubs around the state are now invited to compete each May in a two-day Lipton Cup regatta.

This year's Lipton Cup race featured four boats: Bill Riddle's and Chuck Cotton's Fast Forward from Kaneohe Yacht Club (last year's winner and this year's host club), Mike Rothwell's Hookipa from Waikiki Yacht Club, Les Vasconcellos' Urban Renewal (skippered by Graham Eder) from Hawaii Yacht Club, and Robin Durnin's Makapuu from Makani Kai Yacht Club.

After five races over the two-day event, and suffering with unusually light winds throughout, Hookipa edged out Urban Renewal for first place by one point with two wins and three second-place finishes.

"The Cup is back at Waikiki Yacht Club where it belongs," Rothwell said with a laugh, apparently referring to the fact that up until two years ago, it had been in that club's trophy case for the previous eight years.

Should you be wondering about the second missing Lipton Cup, it was returned to Hawaii's sailing community in 1993 and is designated as Lipton Cup II. It is now awarded each October to the winner of a second statewide regatta.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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