Britannia, built for King Edward VII when Prince of Wales in 1893, was undoubtedly the most famous racing cutter of them all. Hugely successful during her long life, she won 33 firsts out of 39 starts in her maiden season and competed against all the fastest yachts of the day. Sold in 1897 - although bought back for cruising in 1901 by which time the Prince of Wales had succeeded to the throne - her second racing career really came into its own when King George V had her refitted for big class competitions in 1921. Under the King's enthusiastic ownership, Britannia went from success to success. Despite being re-rigged seven times in all, her hull shape was so efficient that she remained competitive almost to the end and was only finally outclassed by the big J-class boats introduced in the mid-1930s. King George V died in 1936 and under the terms of his will, Britannia was stripped of her salvageable gear and scuttled off the southern tip of the Isle of Wight.
Shamrock (V) was the last in a series of splendid racing yachts, each an improvement upon her predecessor, built for the immensely wealthy tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton. Between 1899 and 1930, Lipton mounted no less than five challenges for the elusive America's Cup - or the "Auld Mug" as he invariably called it - and, even though all were unsuccessful, his efforts and tenacity rewarded him with an almost heroic status among the British public. The last of the celebrated Shamrocks was designed by Charles Nicholson and built by Camper & Nicholson in their yards at Gosport in 1930. A centreboarded Bermudian-rigged cutter, she was registered at 103.86 tons gross (93.98 net & 163 Thames) and measured 120 feet in length with a 20 foot beam. Despite her failure to capture the America's Cup in 1930, she was still a magnificent boat and, when Lipton died late in 1931, she was bought by Mr. T.O.M. (later Sir "Tommy") Sopwith, another of yachting's most colourful characters. He too would soon become an America's Cup challenger, with his two successive Endeavours (in 1934 and 1937), but for several years he was content to 'cut his teeth' on Shamrock (V); she was, after all, the very first of the immortal 'J' boats and a force to be reckoned with in any race worthy of its name.
In point of fact, Cowes Week in 1935 was something of a disappointment for both Britannia and Shamrock (V). Despite their many triumphs, often against each other, in the early 1930s, each found herself outclassed by newcomers in 1935 and they finished the regatta without a prize between them notwithstanding some memorable duels. On the Saturday of Regatta Week, Britannia was laid up, never to sail again due to the King's death the following January, whereas Shamrock (V) somehow managed to survive both war as well as sheer old age to become one of the three remaining 'J' class yachts still afloat and able to sail competitively.