First 12 Meter America’s Cup Winner! In 1958 a new class of sailboats, the 12 Meter class, was introduced as the racing class of the America’s Cup. Off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island sleek and fast, Columbia (12 Meter US-16) stunned its competition with a sweeping win of the first 12 Meter America’s Cup, proving that 12 Meters were justifiable competitors in the coveted America’s Cup!
Commodore Henry Sears and Briggs Cunningham, along with other financial investors, formed one of the New York Yacht Club’s syndicates for the 1958 America’s Cup and commissioned Columbia to be their racer. They hired Olin Stephens of Sparkman & Stephens to design Columbia and she was to be built at the well known Nevins Boatyard in New York. Her design was based on the successful, pre-war 12 Meter, Vim (12 Meter US 15). Although 19 years old at the time, Harold Vanderbilt’s Vim was, up until then, the fastest 12 Meter sailing, and provided the foundation for Sparkman and Stephen’s winning design for Columbia.
Columbia began her path to America’s Cup victory with hard fought preliminary races off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island. The America’s Cup defense trials during 1958 were probably the most exciting ever held. Columbia was one of four American boats competing to defend the America’s Cup. The others, Weatherly (12 Meter US-17), Easterner (12 Meter US-18) and Vim (12 Meter US-15), like Columbia, were also very fast boats and had excellent crew. Columbia was skippered by Briggs Cunningham and had a crew that included the finest sailors in the United States including Olin and Rod Stephens, Harry Sears, Colin Ratsey, Wallace Tobin, and Halsey Herreshoff.
The preliminary America’s Cup defense trial series started on July 12, 1958 of the coast of Newport, RI. Easterner and Weatherly were the first to be eliminated in the America’s Cup trials which left the two Sparkman and Stephens designed boats, Vim and Columbia. In the end 19 year old Vim was unable to defeat the newer and faster Columbia who won the series by only twelve seconds in the final race.
The challenger for the 1958 America’s Cup finals was the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Sceptre (12 Meter K-17). Sceptre, the first of two twelve meters designed by David Boyd, had trained extensively on The Solent and won the America’s Cup trials to be the first 12 Meter challenger of the America’s Cup. Sceptre was shipped to the United States and began racing in Newport, RI on September 20, 1958.
In Newport, RI’s 1958 America’s Cup finals it was immediately obvious that Sceptre was no match for Columbia. Columbia, prepared by her hard fought trials victory, never once trailed Sceptre and won four straight races by margins ranging from 7 to 12 minutes sweeping the first 12 Meter America’s Cup and making her the first 12 Meter to win the America’s Cup.
LOA – 69′ 8”
LWL – 45′ 10”
Beam – 11’9”
Draft – 9’6”
Displacement – 63,200 lbs
Sail Area – 1,846 square feet
Designer – Olin Stephens
Builder – Nevins Shipyard, City Island, NY
Original Owner – Henry Sears Syndicate (New York Yacht Club)
Original Skipper – Briggs Cunningham
Columbia has had a very successful career since winning the America’s Cup. She was a contender thru the 1962 America’s Cup and continued to win races for various private owners while in Europe. After a French ownership Columbia, was brought back to Newport, RI in 1997. She has been restored to her winning lines and features a beautiful teak deck and a gracious, comfortable interior including plush cabins, roomy salon, full heads, and ample galley.
Under the direction of her experienced captain, Kevin Hegarty, and crew she is meticulously maintained and has never looked more beautiful! She continues to be a force to be reckoned with as she regularly competes in New England sailing regattas. In 2010, she again dominated the 12 Meter racing circuit. Team Columbia won their class in New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta in Newport, the Top Gun Regatta in Newport, the Edgartown Race Week in Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket Race Week and the Opera House Cup in Nantucket and the Classic Yacht Regatta in Newport. For the sixth time she won the Ted Hood Perpetual Trophy for the best Classic 12 Meter racing season performance.
12 Meter Charters proudly offers the incomparable America’s Cup winner, Columbia, for charter. Fast, sleek, and beautiful Columbia offers enjoyment to all her guests for racing or pleasure sailing! Come sail on the legendary first 12 Meter America’s Cup winner, Columbia, as she continues her winning ways!
Please contact 12 Meter Charters for more information about chartering Columbia or any of our America’s Cup 12 Meters and our sailing charters.
Photography by Cory Silken. www.corysilken.com