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America’s Cup Challenger Endeavour vs Yankee - Mainsail Section Signed by Sir T.O.M. Sopwith, 1935
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America’s Cup Challenger Endeavour vs Yankee - Mainsail Section Signed by Sir T.O.M. Sopwith, 1935

Measurements: Overall: 34cm (13.4in) x 38cm (15in)

£1250

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Fragment of mainsail, composed of Sudanese and Egyptian cotton, supplied by sailmaker Ratsey Lapthorne of New York and Gosport, England, inscribed: ‘Part of “Endeavour”s’ Main Sail / Souvenir / T.O.M. Sopwith / Sailing Yacht / Damaged 6.6.35 off Southend / when / opposed to: - U.S.A. Yacht “Yankee”.’

On 6 June 1935 the 125-foot J-class yacht Yankee scored her first win in the America’s Cup trials when her chief rival Endeavour was dismasted off Southend, and a crewman was swept to his death from deck of Astra amid violent seas. Endeavour was commissioned by Sir T.O.M. Sopwith to challenge for the America’s Cup in 1934. He applied aviation technology to Endeavour’s rig and winches and spared nothing to make her the finest vessel of her day. From launching in 1934 she prepared for her challenge by competing against Shamrock V (then owned by Sir Richard Fairey) and the newly launched Velsheda (owned by W.L Stephenson). She swept through the British racing fleet, winning many races in her first season, but like many before her did not win the Cup though she came closer to doing so than any other challenger.

Sopwith was let down by poor crewing. Just prior to departure for the U.S.A., his professional crew went on strike for more money and Sopwith was forced to round up keen amateur sailors, who had the enthusiasm but not the experience. Afterwards, she returned to England to dominate the British racing scene until 1938 when she was laid up prior to the war.
Over the next 46 years, Endeavour passed through many hands, her fate often hanging by a thread.

Among other indignities, she was sold to a scrap merchant in 1947 only to be saved by another buyer hours before her demolition was due to begin. In the seventies, she sank in the Medina River in Cowes. Again at the eleventh hour, she was bought for ten pounds sterling by two carpenters who patched the holes in her hull with plastic bags and got her afloat again. In the early eighties, Endeavour sat at Calshot Spit, an abandoned seaplane base fronting the Solent. She was a complete wreck, a rusting and forlorn hulk with no keel, rudder, ballast or interior. She was fully restored over five years and sailed again for the first time in fifty-two years in 1989.

Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith (1888-1989), aviation pioneer, ice hockey player, and yachtsman made America’s Cup bids with his J-class yachts Endeavour in 1934 and Endeavour II in 1937- both were designed by Charles E. Nicholson. Sopwith funded, organised and helmed the yachts. He was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 1995. He died in Hampshire at the age of 101.

 

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