Charles Oliver Iselin

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C. Oliver Iselin, c. 1895
Charles Oliver Iselin
Born June 8, 1854
New York City
Died January 1, 1932
Glen Head, Long Island, New York
Alma mater Columbia University
Occupation Banker, yachtsman
Spouse(s) Fannie Garner (marriage ended in her death)
Hope Goddard
Parent(s) Adrian Georg Iselin, Sr.
Eleanora O'Donnell Iselin

Charles Oliver Iselin (June 8, 1854 – January 1, 1932) was an American banker and yachtsman who was captain of racing yachts that successfully won the America's Cup three times.[1] He was born on June 8, Adrian Iselin and Eleanora O Donnell. His great great-grandfather Isaac Iselin came to America in 1801 from Basel, Switzerland, where the Iselin’s had been merchants, public officials, and military and professional men since the 14th century. Isaac amassed a large fortune in the importing business, and his descendants became private bankers and philanthropists in New York City.

Charles was considered to be one of the greatest American Yachtsmen of his time, participating in and winning six consecutive America’s Cup races: 1887, 1893, 1895, 1899, 1901 and 1903.[2] He built a large ‘’breakwater’’ next to his New Rochelle estate so that he could dock his yachts ‘’Defender’’, ‘’Reliance’’ and ‘’Columbia’’ safely at home.[3] His wife Hope was the first woman ever to serve as part of the crew on an America's Cup yacht.

C. Oliver’s sailing career began with small, over rigged boats known as “sandbaggers”. These were wide shoal boats on which capsize was always imminent. He took part in catboat races in Long Island Sound and gained a reputation as a skilled racing skipper early on as a teenager was elected to the New York Yacht Club in 1877. Within ten years he found himself a crew member aboard ‘’Volunteer’’ in 1887. This experience no doubt led Iselin to successfully manage the Cup yachts built by Herreshoff. He headed up the ‘’Vigilant’’ syndicate in 1893, the same year the Earl of Dunraven was elected to the New York Yacht Club as an honorary member.

Aboard ‘’Defender’’ in the 1895 America’s Cup challenge, Iselin was at the center of the “eary of Dunraven controversy. As his honor and that of his nation were in question, Iselin put his fate in the hands of a New York Yacht Club committee which vindicated him and gaulted Dunraven. Being the great sportsman and yachtsman that Iselin was, he offered to resail the entire match. Few could equal his experience at racing and tuning these great yachts and few could equal his sense of dignity and honor in the face of poor sportsmanship.

In 1899, Iselin managed the syndicate that built the Herreshoff yacht Columbiaat a staggering cost of $250,000. Coming out of retirement to manage the ‘’Reliance’’ in 1903,[4] Iselin oversaw a perfect defense that year. As manager of these Cup Defender syndicates, he showed the embodiment of America's Cup spirit. He understood the great yachts, commanded with authority, and defended the America's Cup with honor and dignity.