The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Photograph: Defender, July 22, 1895—Library of Congress
Photograph: Defender, July 22, 1895—Library of Congress
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The Yachts: Defender


Defender is Nathanael Greene Herreshoff's second victorious defender. The boat is designed in the utmost secrecy and her construction shrouded in mystery. No one was allowed to enter the yard, especially not press or photographers. 

In building Defender, the Herreshoff brothers' special innovation is the use of Aluminum. But, just after the boat is launched, is becomes evident that is suffers from a little known phenomenon: corrosion due to electrolysis. This type of construction allowed a weight saving of 17 tones over classical building methods. 

During the defense selection trials, Defender sails against Vigilant, Volunteer and Jubilee. During the final, only Vigilant (1893) skippered Charlie Barr races against Defender. On August 10 Vigilant notches up a win. Defender does not finish due to rig problems. Defender strikes back on August 29 and 30 with two easy wins against Vigilant and is selected to defend the America's Cup against the British yacht Valkyrie III

America's Cup

September 7 to 12, 1895, off New York 

Defender races against Valkyrie III in the best of five series 

Three different courses.
- The first one: 15 miles to windward off Scotland Lightship and return.
- The second one: equilateral triangle, 30 nautical miles
- The third one: 15 miles to leeward and return from Sandy Hook Lightship. 


Defender beats Valkyrie III by three wins to nil 

- September 7, first race, 30 nautical mile windward-leeward course: Defender beats Valkyrie III by 8 minutes and 49 seconds on corrected time.
- September 10, second race, 30 nautical mile triangular course: Defender is beaten by Valkyrie III by 47 seconds, but Valkyrie III is disqualified by the race committee after the two yachts clash on the start line. Defender is awarded the win.
- September 12, third race, 40 nautical mile windward-leeward course: Defender beat Valkyrie III, although Valkyrie III crosses the start line, but immediately retires. 

Following the Cup, Defender is towed to New Rochelle and stays four years without sailing. 

J. Pierpont Morgan and W. Buttler Duncan rebuild Defender as a trial horse for the 1899 America's Cup defense candidate, Columbia

The yacht is towed to Herreshoff's Bristol yard for restoration to enable it to race in the selection trials for the 1899 defense. 

Following the selection trials, Defender returns to its mooring. 

Defender is broken up. 7/2/2007


Cup(s) Sailed: 1895 (won)

Crew: N/A 

Owners: William K. Vanderbilt, Edwin D. Morgan, and C. Oliver Iselin

Year Built: 1895

Launched: June 29, 1895 

Type: Sloop

Designer: Nathanael Greene Herreshoff

Builder: Herreshoff Manufacturing Company


Frames: Steel

Planking Top: Steel — Supplied by Lukens

Planking Bottom: Manganese Bronze

Deck: Aluminum

Mast: N/A

Boom: N/A

Spinnaker Pole: N/A 

Keel Ballast: Lead


Length Overall: 123.0 ft. / 37.5 m

Length Waterline: 89.1 ft. / 27.17 m 

Beam: 23.1 ft. / 7.03 m

Draft: 19.1 ft. / 5.81 m

Draft with Keel Lowered: N/A 

Displacement: 151.5 tons

Tonnage: 100 tons

Sail Area: 3,721.8 sq. ft. / 1,134.3 sq. m 

Mast: 91.9 ft. / 28 m

Boom: 104.7 ft. / 31.9 m

Bowsprit: 30.5 ft. 9.29 m

Top Mast: 57.4 ft. / 17.5 m 5/2/2007