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Rhode Island

Rhode Island: Ocean State

CAPITAL: Providence
JOINED UNION: May 29, 1790
STATE BIRD: Rhode Island Red
MEANING OF STATE NAME: Possibly named in honor of the Greek Island of Rhodes
1992 POPULATION: 1,005,091
LAND AREA: 1,045 square miles
ECONOMY: Costume jewelry, textiles, silverware, electronics
HISTORY: Home to the Narragansett Indians, Rhode Island began when Roger Williams was exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 for his belief in the separation of church and state. Anne Hutchinson, exiled from the Bay Colony in 1638, helped found the state. Stressing religious tolerance, Rhode Island gave refuge to Quakers and Jews when all around them were Puritans. Rhode Island was the first colony to declare independence from England and it refused to partake of the War of 1812. During the 1890s, wealthy industrialists like the Vanderbilts built magnificent mansions at Newport and these are still tourist attractions today. Present-day Newport is known for its yacht races which attract some of the best boats and crews in the world.

The Longest Streak 1851 to Present

NEWPORT, Rhode Island

The America's Cup, the premier sailing event in the world, was not named after the country, though it well could have been. America kept the Cup for 132 years, the most sustained domination in any sport, until Australia won it in 1983. The United States recovered the Cup in 1987, and retained it with a controversial victory over New Zealand in a special challenge match in 1988.

In actuality, the America's Cup was named after the 101-foot schooner "America," which back in 1851 won a 60-mile regatta around the Isle of Wight that had been staged by England's Royal Yacht Squadron. "America" was the only American entry and beat out 14 British yachts. The trophy they took home was called The 100-Guinea Cup, but was renamed the America's Cup when the owners of the winning boat bequeathed it to the New York Yacht Club with the stipulation to defend it whenever challenged.

And then America proceeded to meet every challenge, 25 of them, until 1983, when Australia II took a stunning victory over defender "Liberty" in the seventh and deciding race on the waters off Newport, Rhode Island. The skipper of "Liberty," Dennis Conner of the San Diego Yacht Club, won the cup back with "Stars and Stripes" in 1987, sweeping four races from Australian defender "Kookaburra III" off Fremantle, Australia.

The following year, Conners was challenged to a Cup defense by New Zealand's Mercury Bay Boating Club, which didn't want to wait the customary three or four years between challenges. The 102-year-old Deed of Gift stated that every challenge must be met, and so a special race was held. The San Diego Yacht Club sent out a 60-foot catamaran to contest New Zealand's 133-foot monohull, and "Stars and Stripes" won in a rout. The furious New Zealanders protested the race and even filed suit, saying the SDYC violated the spirit of the deed by racing a catamaran. A judge in New York State agreed and on March 28, 1989, ordered the SDYC to turn the Cup over to Mercury Bay. The SDYC refused, instead turning it over to the New York Yacht Club as custodian until an appeal was heard. On September 19, 1989, the decision was overturned by the New York Supreme Court, and the Cup was returned to San Diego.

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