The Arrow, which has been called "the epitome of the first sixty years of salt-water racing", was one of the fastest and finest yachts in British racing history. Indeed, before the advent of the Prince of Wales's legendary Britannia in 1894, the Arrow was arguably the most celebrated cutter of the nineteenth century and enjoyed an extraordinarily long racing career of almost sixty years.
Built for Joseph Weld of Lulworth Castle, Dorset, by Mr. Inman at Lymington in 1821, she was measured at 85 tons and was 61½ feet in length with an 18½ foot beam. From the outset, she proved a match for all-comers although her first real triumph came in 1826 when she won the £100 gold cup at the [Royal] Yacht Club's annual regatta; that year saw the inauguration of cup-racing at Cowes and thus the honour of winning the very first trophy ever offered by the Royal Yacht Squadron fell to Mr. Weld's Arrow. It was an historic victory and the first of many in what was to prove an astonishingly long life. Replacing her with a larger cutter, Weld sold Arrow after the 1828 season whereupon she disappeared into obscurity until acquired by Mr. Thomas Chamberlayn, another R.Y.S. member, in 1846; he had seen her languishing on a mudbank, realized her potential in an instant and purchased her for a bargain price.
Restored, refitted and also slightly lengthened, Arrow's reappearance at Cowes in 1847 marked the beginning of a remarkable renaissance during which she became the best-known British yacht of her day. In August 1851, she was one of the flotilla which sailed around the Isle of Wight against America, the parvenu challenger from New York; history records that this memorable race was won by America but it fails to mention that had not Arrow run ashore at Ventnor, the subsequent history of international yachting might well have been very different. Throughout the 1850s Arrow took prize after prize, even beating the fabled America for the Queen's Cup at Ryde in 1852, yet the passing of the years failed to diminish her success. Entering her fifth decade, she won the Prince Consort's Cup at Cowes in 1860, the Squadron Cup in 1863 and the Town Cup in 1869, and though raced less often in the 1870s, she nevertheless continued to astound competitors. In 1878 it was said that "the old Arrow had never sailed in better form" despite the shortness of her season, and when she made her final appearance at the Ryde Town Cup in 1879, it was a triumphant finale to an altogether brilliant career. Pitched against the seemingly invincible brand-new Formosa, Arrow beat her in an epic race which electrified all who witnessed it. It was even hailed as "the greatest victory the old ship has achieved in the half-century of her existence" and whilst this is possibly an exaggeration, it can still serve as a fitting epitaph for the yacht which, for fifty-eight years, was the most formidable cutter afloat.