The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
The Yachts: Ranger


Ranger raced thirty-seven times in all, and only two boats ever crossed the finish line ahead of her, Yankee twice, and Endeavour once. 

After the America's Cup, Ranger raced thirteen times finishing first twelve times and second once (behind Yankee). In eleven of these races five boats competed (Ranger, Yankee, Endeavour I, Endeavour II & Rainbow). After a time, the other 'J-Class' boats accepted that a win by Ranger was more or less a foregone conclusion and that a second-place finish, for which there was always a grand struggle, came to be regarded as a win." 

This was Harold "Mike" Vanderbilt's description of the "Super J" Ranger during its unique sailing season in 1937. 

Fired up by the mediocre performances of Rainbow against Endeavour in 1934, when the Cup was nearly snatched from the Americans, two years later "Mike" Vanderbilt created the first design team in the history of the America's Cup. He recruited the 59-year old W. Starling Burgess, to work with a young Olin J. Stephens, aged 29 (of the firm Sparkman and Stephens), on the Ranger project. 

The boat was the fruit of the labors of not just Burgess and Stephens, but Ranger also relied on contributions from Professor Kenneth S.M. Davidson (tank testing at the Stevens Institute of Technology), Roderick Stephens (rigging), the sail-designer Prescott Wilson (who had the sails cut from synthetic rayon), and Pete Newell of the Bath Iron Works who was able to build the boat (flush-riveted plating, then welded) in little more than four months of construction work. 

If the 'J-Class' boats of the thirties symbolized the use of technology pioneered in the aviation industry transferred to America's Cup boats, then Ranger was among the best examples. It was the first time that a boat of its size had the mast, boom, and spinnaker pole made entirely of aluminum. Made by the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) of Pittsburgh, the elliptical mast weighed 2 718 kilograms. The ellipse measured 56 centimeters in length and 40 centimeters in width. It was made from aluminum plates that were 7.31 meters long and riveted together using standard techniques. The front and rear pieces were 12.5 mm thick and the side pieces 11.1 mm. 

The boom was built the same way and the spinnaker booms, located on the foredeck, were each 15.24 meters long and weighed 136 kilograms. The technological mastery continued with the sails. For the first time a synthetic material, rayon, was used for the quadrangular jib and some deck portholes were made in translucent Bakelite...everything possible was explored to make the future Defender a true winner. 

Harold S. Vanderbilt explained that Ranger behaved differently than all the other J-Class boats that he had helmed. Although quicker than the others, Ranger was slow to tack as she had more inertia holding her way longer, hence the need to steer harder to help tack. However, the fact that the yacht picked up speed very quickly compensated for this failing. When sailing close to the wind or on a reach, the boat seemed to dig in to the water, and then shoot off. This phenomenon allowed the hull to use the whole of its waterline to express to the fullest the boat's potential for speed. When sailing close-hauled and with its centerboard down, Ranger offered exceptional stability. In combination, these advances explain the astonishing performance of Ranger, the "Super J". 7/2/2007


Cup(s) Sailed: 1937 (won)

Crew: N/A 

Owners: Harold Stirling Vanderbilt

Year Built: 1937

Launched: May 5, 1937  

Type: J Class

Designer: William Starling Burgess and Olin J. Stephens

Builder: Bath Iron Works


Frames: Steel

Planking Top: Steel — Supplied by Lukens

Planking Bottom: Tobin Bronze

Deck: N/A

Mast: Aluminum

Boom: Aluminum

Spinnaker Pole: Aluminum 

Keel Ballast: Lead


Length Overall: 135.2 ft. / 41.2 m

Length Waterline: 87.0 ft. / 26.51 m 

Beam: 21.0 ft. / 7.39 m

Draft: N/A

Draft with Keel Lowered: N/A

Displacement: 166 tons

Tonnage: N⁄A

Sail Area: 2,300.1 sq. ft. / 701 sq. m 

Mast: 154.2 feet

Boom: 67.2 ft. / 20.49 m

Bowsprit: N/A

Top Mast N/A 7/2/2007