The History of the Lipton Cup

The Legend Lives On

In 1905 the Ponsonby Cruising Club, established in 1901, elected the now Sir Thomas Lipton, Vice President of their club. In acknowledgement Sir Thomas sent the Club photographs of Shamrock I, II and III which still hang proudly in the foyer. In 1916 the club, aware that Sir Thomas had donated a World Cup Trophy for football asked why the club should not seek a trophy for their club. The Club duly wrote to Sir Thomas and with it sent a photograph of the committee standing in front of the Esplanade Hotel on the waterfront at Devonport.

There are several stories about how the Ponsonby Cruising Club became a recipient of one of Sir Thomas Lipton’s trophies. Suggestions are that he was led to believe that this grand building on the Devonport waterfront was the Ponsonby Club house. Was this a cunning ploy? Sir Thomas had been an Honorary member of the Club for 10 years and maybe part of it was that he recognised something of himself in the working-class membership of the club. Whatever his inspiration Sir Thomas was impressed and had an appropriate trophy made and dispatched. In a letter dated 29 April 1920 he offered the Ponsonby Cruising Club a silver cup that he had commissioned the “Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Co of Regent Street London” (makers of the Americas Cup) to produce according to:

“A special design which would be typical of New Zealand and also embodying the burgee of the PCC, its general character to be appropriate to yachting.”​​​​​​​

He left the allocation of the competition for the cup to the Club but asked that it be competed for by a specific class. The Cup did not arrive until September 1920 but the Club must have been ecstatic when the magnificent trophy was received.

Sir Thomas Lipton became a benefactor of yachting around the world and in 1931 at the age of 81, he was made an Honorary Member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

Sir Thomas Lipton was a great supporter of yachting in New Zealand and several clubs and organisations were the beneficiaries of his generosity. One such trophy is:

The Lipton Cup Presented by Sir Thomas Lipton Bart K.C.V.O. to the Auckland Yacht and Boating Association for Annual Competition in the 14-foot one design X Class, 1923.

It became an Auckland Anniversary Regatta Trophy and was first won by Iona in 1925. It was last sailed for by the X Class in 1964.

The Ponsonby Clubhouse in St Mary’s Bay, Ponsonby, as it was in 1914. To the right are Collings & Bell, Boat Building yards.