Spinnaker, America's Cup

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The Independent Online

The America's Cup got underway at the weekend, with the deployment of the spinnaker one of the factors that will decide whether the Cup stays in New Zealand or goes to Italy.

The America's Cup got underway at the weekend, with the deployment of the spinnaker one of the factors that will decide whether the Cup stays in New Zealand or goes to Italy.

The spinnaker, the large triangular sail boomed out at right angles to the main sail, is thought to derive from the 1860s, and may have been derived from "spin", in its sense of going rapidly, or "spindrift", the spray thrown up from the waves.

One theory relates to the name of the first yacht known to carry such a sail, the Sphinx. It may have become conflated with "spanker", another type of sail. In support of this is a passage from the Yachting Calendar and Review talking about 1866: "The Sphinx set a 'spinniker', a kind of large balloon jib extending from the topmost head to the deck, and before the wind a most powerful drawing sail."

The America's Cup is named after a boat. The competition began on the Isle of Wight in 1851 as the Hundred Guinea Cup. The Royal Yacht Squadron challenged the New York Yacht Club who, with the super-boat America won the Cup, took it home, changed its name and challenged all-comers. America ended up as a US naval training boat and fell apart in 1945.

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