America was a 19th-century racing yacht and first winner of the America’s Cup international sailing trophy. On August 22, 1851, America won the Royal Yacht Squadron’s 53-mile (85 km) regatta around the Isle of Wight by eighteen minutes.
The cup’s name comes from the yacht America which, in 1851, won the Royal Yacht Squadron’s race round the Isle of Wight for a Cup of One Hundred Sovereigns (not guineas – the cup is often referred to mistakenly as the Hundred Guinea Cup, by which name it became known in America where it was subsequently engraved). The cup is named after the yacht, not after the country that held it for so long. From contemporary accounts of the challenges the Americans seem to have used pounds (sovereigns) and guineas interchangeably. 100 guineas would have been £105.
The cup is sometimes mistakenly referred to as The Queen’s Cup. This misnomer appears to have arisen from a speech given on the victorious return of America’s owners to the New York Yacht Club; this was widely reported and the name stuck. The Queen did present a cup each year to this club but that race was only open to Royal Yacht Squadron yachts: in 1851 to cutters of between 50 and 100 tons. She did however present cups to other yacht clubs and America was initially entered to race for The Queen’s Cup of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club at Ryde on the Isle of Wight, just across the water from Portsmouth. This may have been the source of the Americans’ confusion about the cup’s name. Alternatively, the course round the Isle of Wight was known as The Queen’s Course so that also may account for the confusion.