In the years following America's legendary win at Cowes in 1851, a few optimistic American yachts crossed the Atlantic in the hope of emulating their namesake's triumph although none was able to do so. One of these hopefuls was the Enchantress, a very large two-masted schooner built for a Mr. Lubat by the famous Captain 'Bob' Fish in New York in 1871. Registered at 341 tons gross British measurement (253 tons American), she was 130½ feet in length with a 24½ foot beam and made a name for herself at Cowes in 1874 when she came over to compete - albeit unsuccessfully - for the Royal Yacht Squadron's Prince of Wales' Challenge Cup under the command of 'Bob' Fish himself. Subsequently sold to Lieutenant-General Owen Williams, himself a member of the R.Y.S., he kept her for ten years during which he entered her in numerous 'big class' events including the Ryde Regatta's Commodore's Cup Race around the Isle of Wight on 12th August 1881. Staged on the fourth day of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club's Regatta at Ryde, there were five entrants including two big yawls, Latona and Florinda, alongside Enchantress and the race itself proved "a close-run thing" for these three.
Latona, at 165 tons, was designed by the great William Fife (Senr.) and built for Mr. A.B. Rowley by White's at Cowes in 1875. An all-wooden straight-stemmed yawl, she measured 95½ feet in length with a 20 foot beam and had already enjoyed a hugely successful career. Winning two Queen's Cups in 1880, she had also won the Nore to Dover races in 1880 and 1881 as well as the match around the Isle of Wight in 1880. Prior to that, she had won a record fourteen 1st and four 2nd prizes in a triumphant run of luck in 1879 and was thus at the top of her form when Cowes Week opened in 1881.
Florinda was another magnificent yawl and she was built for Mr. William Jessop by Camper & Nicholson at Gosport in 1873. Registered at 135 tons, she measured 88½ feet in length with a 19 foot beam and had begun her impressive career by winning six 1st and five 2nd prizes in her first season. In 1877 she secured nine prizes worth £553 and did even better in 1878, with ten 1st and two 2nd prizes worth £736 to her credit as well as winning the Nore to Dover race the same year. After a perfectly creditable season in 1879, she then won a splendid eight 1st and six 2nd prizes in 1880 and entered 1881, like Latona, at the top of her form.
Of the six starters for the 1881 Commodore's Cup, the finishing times for the first three were as follows:-
* Enchantress 4 hours, 21 minutes, 30 seconds.
* Latona 4 hours, 23 minutes, 52 seconds.
* Florinda 4 hours, 28 minutes, 2 seconds.
Once adjusted for time allowances, the winner was declared to be Florinda, by 55 seconds, from Latona, with Enchantress taking the schooner prize.