The Benton Reef Cup was sailed over a course of 120 miles, from a starting line with the Needles rocks in transit with the lighthouse across the Channel to the Cherbourg breakwater, round it and back to the Needles and back again.
Shown here is the start at midday made under New York Yacht Club rules and without any time allowances. Winds were gale force and both vessels averaged 12.25 knots. By Cherbourg there was just a 2.5 second lead in favour of Navahoe as both cutters housed their topmasts in the smooth water inside the breakwater. In this comparative calm they raced two miles dead to windward, during which Britannia turned a 2 second deficit into a 2.5 minute lead.
In the wild conditions prevailing on the homeward leg, Navahoe nibbled away at this slender lead and on crossing the line and after time correction, Britannia was a mere 2.5 seconds ahead and the distance between the yachts only 300 yards.
An American protest was upheld that the mark boat was in a different position from at the start and that Navahoe had sailed a slightly longer course. In view of the closeness of the result, Navahoe was awarded the race and the Benton Reef Cup returned to America from where it had been won from Dauntless by Genesta in 1885, also in gale force winds.