For many years the month of October has been marked in the calendar of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club by the weekend dedicated to the Endeavour Trophy. However, ask the average Member, waiting at the bar for his pint or anxious to catch the next launch, exactly what the Endeavour is all about and you may get blank looks. Many will connect it with the scale model of the ‘J’ Class Endeavour that takes pride of place in the entrance hall but may have no idea how it comes to be connected with a sailing event for the cream of the country’s dinghy sailors.
The connection has its origins in the challenge for the America’s Cup in 1934 by Tommy Sopwith’s Endeavour. A pay dispute with the professional crew, sail makers, shipwrights and craftsmen all based on the East Coast, had resulted in their dismissal and the need to find a replacement crew at short notice. Sopwith contacted ‘Tiny’ Mitchell, the Commodore at the time, and it was he who helped to round up the crew of eager amateurs, all members of RCYC. Ironically, these young men went with their wages guaranteed by their employers, so proud were they to be connected with the enterprise.
The series of races against Rainbow turned out to be full of controversy. Endeavour won the first two races but lost the series, the closest England has ever got to winning the coveted America’s Cup. The event was greatly celebrated nevertheless and is marked today by a copy of Norman Wilkinson’s oil painting in the Dining Room, showing Endeavour winning the first race. This had been commissioned by the RCYC Members and presented to Mr and Mrs Sopwith. Also in the Dining Room can be seen a numbered copy of an unusual view of Endeavour, along the curve of the boom, depicting the trials which took place between Endeavour and Shamrock V off Cowes. This was presented to the Club by the artist, Frank Wagner, in 1990.
Years after the America’s Cup Challenge, Robin Judah held an important conversation with Beecher Moore. Robin, a respected RCYC member, who represented UK in Dragons at the Acapulco Olympics, was anxious to establish a series of races for dinghy sailors in order to discover the ‘Champion of Champions’. Beecher, one of the Endeavour crew, had recently purchased a beautiful scale model of the boat, offered to donate it as the trophy for the proposed event and thus it was that the idea was born. The first race took place in 1961 and the entrants, by invitation only, were all Champions of various National classes. The winner was Peter Bateman, representing the International Cadet Class, crewed by Keith Musto and they carried off the scale model as the prize.
Since then the race has had a chequered career using a range of dinghies with varying success. The original idea was to use the Club’s own One Design Class (RCODs) but this idea was eventually rejected as the boats were considered too specialist and would have placed a perpetual limit on the number of entries as there are only fifteen boats in existence. In recent years the Championship was sailed in RS400s but a change was made for the Championship in 2005 and the selected dinghy was the Xenon Topaz.
In 2013 the choice of boat was changed again – this time to the Topper Topaz Argo. This again brings the event to the cutting edge of dinghy sailing, regarded by one and all as the Championship that really matters.
These days the competitors bring their own RS200 boats that they have hired/borrowed or own.