Associated Newspapers Ltd are to sponsor the British International Harmsworth Trophy, offshore powerboat racing's equivalent of the America's Cup, in its centenary year.

Associated Newspapers Ltd are to sponsor the British International Harmsworth Trophy, offshore powerboat racing’s equivalent of the America’s Cup, in its centenary year.

The magnificent solid bronze trophy, commissioned by Sir Alfred Harmsworth in 1903 – the year the Wright brothers conquered flight – is the oldest trophy in the sport covering an era of extraordinary pioneers in marine design and technology. Even in its inaugural year, the Daily Mail Harmsworth Trophy was steeped in mystery. The name of the owner of the steel-hulled 75hp Napier, Selwyn Francis-Edge, is etched as the victor on the trophy. But some reports suggest that Dorothy Levitt, who went on to set the Women’s World Land Speed Record, was certainly on board, if not actually driving the winning boat.

The Daily Mail Harmsworth Trophy was to become the province of international competition, with winners over the decades counted amongst the greatest drivers of all time.

This year’s centenary will attract an international fleet from Europe, Scandinavia, the Americas and Australasia, all keen to lift this unique trophy for their nation. The three-race championship begins on Sunday August 17 based at the Royal Motor Yacht Club in Poole. The second race on Thursday August 21 will be hosted by the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes with the final testing 210 nautical mile return race from Cowes to Torquay on Saturday August 23.

One of the leading British contenders will be The Earl of Normanton, who is also Chairman of the Trustees for the Daily Mail Harmsworth Trophy. His racing partner, former World Champion David Allenby, will be racing in the newly re engined Cougar Premier Crew.

Commenting on the sponsorship, Lord Normanton said: “The Trustees are obviously delighted that the Daily Mail has recognised the importance of this historic trophy and we are grateful for their financial and marketing support in this special year. It is remarkable to think that one hundred years ago men and women were taking on the elements on the water, as well as becoming pioneers of the sky. The competition for this trophy has led to the development of marine hulls and engineering, possibly most significantly the design of motor torpedo boats in World War II came as a direct result of this competition.

“In its inaugural year, the winning boat averaged 19.53mph, needless to say that the competitors of today will be reaching speeds in excess of 100mph.”