Raising the mainsail

In response to a friend’s question about purchasing a yacht, John Pierpont Morgan is famously said to have quipped, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

As a yacht and sailing enthusiast, Morgan sponsored races, served as commodore of the New York Yacht Club and collected yachts himself. And the firm he built has a tradition of supporting sailing as a sport, most recently as presenting sponsor of the Baldwin Cup.

Now in its 11th year and hosted by Newport Harbor Yacht Club (NHYC) in Newport Beach, California, the three-day regatta attracts international and national champions, America’s Cup crew members and collegiate All-Americans.

In addition to the Baldwin Cup, the firm has served over the years as title sponsor of Sir Ben Ainslie from 2007 to 2011, lead sponsor of Ben Ainslie Racing in 2012 and of Ainslie and Team Oracle USA who won the 34th America’s Cup in 2013.

A nautical tradition is born

J.P. Morgan’s nautical association dates back to the founding of the America’s Cup. Originally the Hundred Guinea Cup, a British competition, the race was renamed following the 1851 victory of America, a 100-foot schooner from New York City. The cup was later donated for use in a perpetual international competition to the New York Yacht Club, where Morgan served as commodore from 1897 to 1899.

As commodore, Morgan contributed $150,000 to purchase the land for the New York Yacht Club’s current location and oversaw its design, which features curved-glass bay windows shaped like the sterns of 18th century ships. Morgan co-owned the yacht Columbia, which defended America’s Cup challenges in 1899 and 1901.

In 1882, Morgan acquired his first personal yacht, the Corsair, a 185-foot steam-powered vessel. He later bought the Corsair II, a 241-foot yacht, which the United States Navy conscripted into service as a gunboat during the Spanish-American War. The 304-foot Corsair III, the last yacht he owned, included a library, player piano and humidors stocked with Cuban cigars.

To this day, Morgan’s portrait greets members and guests near the yacht club’s Model Room that houses large models of the Corsair II and of the Cup defenders he sponsored.

Portrait of the Steam Yacht Corsair, Currier & Ives, 1881; Courtesy of the JPMorgan Chase Archives.

Steam Yacht Corsair, Currier & Ives, 1881; Courtesy of the JPMorgan Chase Archives.

Following in his father’s nautical footsteps, J.P. Morgan Jr. also served as commodore of the New York Yacht Club from 1919 to 1921. He had a 343-foot, turbo electric driven Corsair IV built in 1930 at Bath Iron Works in Maine, the largest yacht at the time.

Racing against the sunset

Carrying on this nautical tradition, clients of J.P. Morgan Private Bank gathered at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club in California for the annual Baldwin Cup, one of the major first regattas of the season.

After wind delayed the start, the final race saw tight competition into dusk between two top contenders: 2013 champion Larchmont (Larchmont Yacht Club, Larchmont, New York) and NHYC Thunder, with Thunder carrying the day.

Heading into the finals, Larchmont had won the first race and NHYC Thunder the second. “Competitive down to the very end, Thunder showed their steely discipline to win the final race and the Cup,” says Commodore and regatta chair Bill Crispin. “We are honored to have JPMorgan Chase as the presenting sponsor for the fifth consecutive year and to see the mainsails they purchased last year.”

The mainsails were made by Ullman Sails Newport Beach, a world-leader in sail making. “We worked hand-in-hand with the team at Ullman on the design,” says Ethan Morgan, Managing Director and Market Manager for J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Orange County and San Diego, California. The final design was sewn using Contender 7.46 ounce Dacron sailcloth and incorporating Ullman’s trademark “flutter patch” for durability.

“The sailing this year was spectacular,” says Morgan. “We have had the opportunity to help grow this premier regatta, bringing our clients and employees together as avid fans. It is a highlight for the Southern California community and it was great to share this level of racing with them.”

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