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Yachting and the Kaiser
At the turn of the nineteenth century the sport of racing yachts gained in prestige. Commercial vessels had engaged in unofficial races for years but the participation of men of wealth and power attested to the new sport's appeal and with the patronage of wealthy and royal families in Europe and America the calibre of sailing reached new heights. Kaiser Wilhelm II was a primary sponsor of the sport along with his uncle King Edward VII, also a keen yachtsman. The friendly rivalry between the two men was highlighted when Edward VII's Britannia bested the Kaiser's series of five state-of-the-art yachts, all called Meteor, in a number of races including the fashionable and highly competitive society races at Cowes. Expanding his interests, the Kaiser decided to reinstate the old challenge of transatlantic racing. In 1905, at the invitation of the Kaiser for a new Ocean Cup challenge, eleven large yachts, including square-riggers, schooners and yawls set off amid great fanfare from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, USA, on a race for the Lizard, Cornwall, England, sailing without handicap or race restrictions. The three-masted schooner Atlantic, which made the crossing in just over 12 days, set a record of over 200 miles a day for displacement sailing yachts. The German schooner Hamburg came second in what became a legendary race. The Kaiser was also a patron of the Kiel Yacht Club, which had held its first sailing event in 1882, and he won a number of trophies at the club. In 1887 the Marine-Regatta-Verein was founded and in 1891 the club became known as the Kaiserlicher Yacht Club. It is still active and known as the Kieler Yacht Club.
The last Meteor, Meteor V, was built in 1914, replacing the steel schooner Meteor IV which had been built in 1909 at Kiel. In addition to his racing yachts the Kaiser travelled and entertained on SMS Hohenzollern, the elegant Imperial yacht, a familiar sight which appeared frequently on stamps and postcards. So ingrained was the image of the Kaiser as a yachtsman at the helm of his personal yachts, as well as of his country, that not only photographs, but frequently cartoons and political commentary depicted him on shipboard in his uniform as Admiral of the Fleet. Indeed his dismissal of Bismarck was known as 'dropping the Pilot,' and his most cherished goal was the instatement of the German navy as a world power.
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