The Lipton Challenge Cup was donated to the Royal Cape Yacht Club (previously the Table Bay Yacht Club) in 1909 by Sir Thomas Lipton, world-famous merchant and yachtsman. It has evolved into one of the most popular races among sailors of Southern Africa, and nowadays mainly is seen as providing a wonderful platform for young race teams to prove their skill and to establish themselves before moving on to campaign for international sailing races.
The Lipton Challenge Cup is sailed annually on L 26 yachts offshore, and all Southern African Yacht Clubs (including teams as far north as Walvis Bay, Namibia and Beira, Mozambique) are invited to enrol one team per race, whereas the winning team qualifies to either host the Lipton Challenge Cup at home the following year, or else, to nominate the next hosting Yacht Club if their own Club is not situated on the coast. The precise conditions and rules for the race are stipulated in the “Deed of Gift”, a document accompanying the silver trophy presented by Sir Thomas. The opening paragraph reads as follows:
“Know all men by those present that I, Sir Thomas Lipton, of London, England, for the purpose of encouraging yachting in South Africa, and especially in the way of friendly contests in sailing and seamanship in deep sea yacht racing, do hereby give to the Table Bay Yacht Club of Cape Town, Cape Colony, the silver cup delivered herewith.”
It is known that Sir Thomas himself generously sponsored a team of young sailors to take part in the very first Lipton Challenge Cup of South Africa, which was competed in Cape Town in 1911.
Today, the Lipton Cup is regarded as South Africa’s most prestigious sailing competition, and the trophy’s intrinsic value is currently estimated at R 2 million, making it the most valuable Cup of South African sailing.