As the oldest international sporting trophy in the world, it is timely to reflect on what the Cup, affectionately called the “Auld Mug”, is and how it is governed.
The Cup, an ornate sterling silver bottomless ewer, was originally awarded on 22 August 1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron for a race around the Isle of Wight in England. That race was won by the U.S. schooner “America” and the trophy was promptly renamed “America’s Cup”. On 8 July 1857 George L. Schuyler, as sole surviving owner of the Cup, donated it under a Deed of Gift to the New York Yacht Club to hold on trust ‘upon the condition that it shall be preserved as a perpetual challenge Cup for friendly competition between foreign countries’.
The Deed of Gift is essentially a trust. The current version of the trust deed is the third revision of the original deed as amended in 1887.
The deed provides for successive trustees. It requires the current trustee or Cup holder to ‘deliver the said Cup to the foreign yacht Club whose representative yacht shall have won’ following a successful challenge. The new trustee must covenant to hold the Cup on the terms and conditions of the trust so that it is available for perpetual international competition. If the trustee is dissolved, the Cup is to be ‘transferred to some Club of the same nationality, eligible to challenge under the deed of gift, in trust and subject to its provisions’.