Created by Stevens' Founding Family, America’s Cup Retains Ties to the University
In 1851, nineteen years before the founding of Stevens Institute of Technology, Edwin A. Stevens and his brother John Cox Stevens created another enduring institution: the America’s Cup sailing competition.
The Stevens brothers designed and built the schooner America themselves, sailing it to the U.K. to challenge the formidable Royal Navy Squadron to a race around the Isle of Wight. America was victorious, and its crew brought home a silver ewer that would come to be known as The America's Cup — the oldest international sporting trophy and the ultimate prize in sailing.
John Cox had been a founding member and commodore of the New York Yacht Club, headquartered at Castle Point. After that inaugural Cup race, the Yacht Club issued a standing challenge to foreign yacht clubs, creating the series known today as the America’s Cup.
Ever since, that fabled competition has become linked to the university.
In 1935, for instance, professor Kenneth Davidson — a sailing hobbyist conducting design research in a campus swimming pool — enlisted a group to create a tow tank facility for the specific study of maritime scale models. At the time, the U.S. possessed only two such facilities; Stevens' experimental towing tank became the third.
The tank measured 101 feet long, and its first project was an evaluation of yacht designs. Experiments simulated craft behavior in wind and wave conditions, helping designers develop faster, more optimal crafts. Within months the tank was being used to design the Ranger, a J-Class racing yacht that would go on to win the 1937 America’s Cup. Many subsequent America’s Cup entrants and grand prix racing yachts would be developed with the aid of the tank, eventually renamed Davidson Laboratory after the professor who founded it.
In preparation for the 2017 America's Cup final in Bermuda, the race returned to familiar waters in the spring of 2016, conducting a preliminary event regatta on the Hudson River near Castle Point. The top two finishers utilized Stevens faculty expertise in the design of their yachts in some form, and race operations were supported by Stevens as well.
Davidson Lab forecasting technology, led by then-lab director Alan Blumberg, provided logistical intelligence for the event, including real-time current and water level forecasts for all six competing yachts throughout the three-day event.
The return of the America's Cup competition to Hoboken brought its heritage full circle — paying homage to its founders while also demonstrating confidence in the modern university they created. “The opportunity to forecast for the America’s Cup racing,” said Dr. Blumberg, “is a special recognition of the quality research at Stevens.”