racing yacht Defender was built in 1895 to meet the
America's Cup challenge of the much feared Valkyrie
III. She carried the greatest spread of sail yet
seen in American racing.
The racing yacht Defender was created by America's
renowned designer Nat Herreshoff in 1895 to meet the
America's Cup challenge of an Irish aristocrat, Lord
Dunraven. The challenger was Valkyrie III, built in
Glasgow, Scotland. She was the latest of a series of
sleek, fast boats with a great press of sail which
Lord Dunraven had commissioned to win the Cup for
Great Britain. Defender measured just under 90 feet
at the waterline and displaced just under 100 tons.
Contributing to her speed was an exceptionally
smooth hull made of a special heat-rolled bronze.
Her underside was cut away drastically to reduce
total surface area in contact with the water and
increase speed. And she carried the greatest spread
of sail yet seen in American racing.
The race was conducted off Sandy Hook, N.J. In the
first contest, Valkyrie pulled ahead at the start
and led for more than an hour. But Defender proved
herself faster under fresh breeze conditions and
went on to win. Going into the second race, Dunraven
protested the presence of an unruly mob of spectator
boats, but the race went off. As the two yachts
approached the starting line an excursion steamer
drove between the contenders. Valkyrie dodged to
avoid collision, but her boom struck Defender,
bringing down the topmast. Her crew quickly repaired
the damage and continued the race under protest,
only to finish two minutes behind. Dunraven argued
that Valkyrie was far enough ahead to own the right
of way and should be awarded the victory. However,
the race committee ruled against him. Acting then
out of pique, he caused Valkyrie to cross the
starting line for the third race only to pull down
her colors. Defender sailed the course alone to win
the race by default.
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the full history about America's Cup Racing.