America's Cup Racing YachtsEvolution of a Design - The Early Years |

The early America's Cup races from 1870 through 1876 were sailed primarily in

schooners. After that the cutter took over the scene from 1881 to 1887. For the years

1885, 1886, and 1887 respectively, Edward Burgess of Boston designed*Puritan*,

*Mayflower*, and *Volunteer*, all successful cup defenders. In 1893 a new era for the

America's Cup and sailboat design began with the era of the '90 footers' (LWL). These

were the largest and most impressive of all the America's Cup yachts. The 1893

defending sloop*Vigilant* was 125-foot LOA and the first of five successful Cup

defenders designed by Nathaniel G. Herreshoff considered by many to be the father of

modern sailboat design. (His next four defenders were*Defender* [1895], *Columbia*

[1899 and 1901],*Reliance* [1903], and *Resolute *[1920].) The era of the '90 footers'

lasted until 1903 climaxing with the race between*Reliance* and *Shamrock III*.

The existing rule during this era rated only two of the three major speed-related

parameters of a sailboat, length and sail area. As either the length or the sail area

increased, the rating increased. Little else was considered. Displacement wasn't rated at

all. With no rule to regulate it, displacement became very light, and construction often

became somewhat flimsy to keep the boat reasonably stiff despite the lack of weight.

The yachts became too expensive, complicated and potentially dangerous. Only one

major constraint was imposed, the load waterline length of the boat could not exceed 90

feet. The result was an evolution that produced an extreme scow-type yacht. Length

was measured only at the waterline, so the rule produced a boat with very long

overhangs. On*Reliance *these reached 22 ft forward and 26 ft aft. These long

overhanging ends gave extra length on the water when heeled. Sailing close hauled, in

seven or eight knots of breeze, the effective waterline length of*Reliance* would stretch

out from 90 ft to nearly 130 ft, allowing the boat to achieve much greater speed. The fin

shaped keel came down very deep. The boat would easily settle into a comfortable heel

very easily taking advantage of 16,159 sq ft of canvas on a single mast, approximately

2000 sq ft more than the challenger*Shamrock III*.

schooners. After that the cutter took over the scene from 1881 to 1887. For the years

1885, 1886, and 1887 respectively, Edward Burgess of Boston designed

America's Cup and sailboat design began with the era of the '90 footers' (LWL). These

were the largest and most impressive of all the America's Cup yachts. The 1893

defending sloop

defenders designed by Nathaniel G. Herreshoff considered by many to be the father of

modern sailboat design. (His next four defenders were

[1899 and 1901],

lasted until 1903 climaxing with the race between

The existing rule during this era rated only two of the three major speed-related

parameters of a sailboat, length and sail area. As either the length or the sail area

increased, the rating increased. Little else was considered. Displacement wasn't rated at

all. With no rule to regulate it, displacement became very light, and construction often

became somewhat flimsy to keep the boat reasonably stiff despite the lack of weight.

The yachts became too expensive, complicated and potentially dangerous. Only one

major constraint was imposed, the load waterline length of the boat could not exceed 90

feet. The result was an evolution that produced an extreme scow-type yacht. Length

was measured only at the waterline, so the rule produced a boat with very long

overhangs. On

overhanging ends gave extra length on the water when heeled. Sailing close hauled, in

seven or eight knots of breeze, the effective waterline length of

out from 90 ft to nearly 130 ft, allowing the boat to achieve much greater speed. The fin

shaped keel came down very deep. The boat would easily settle into a comfortable heel

very easily taking advantage of 16,159 sq ft of canvas on a single mast, approximately

2000 sq ft more than the challenger

1903

1893

The next era was that of the Universal Rule and J-class from 1920 through 1937. The

Universal Rule had length and square-root of sail area in the numerator (speed-giving

elements) while cube-root of displacement in the denominator (a retarding quantity).

The rule under which the J's were built was a modified Universal Rule with a set rating

of 76 feet. The Universal Rule was based on ideas proposed by Nat Herreshoff

allowing waterline length to be increased without sail area being restricted, as it had

been under the older International Rule. This was compensated by a larger

displacement and so draught was limited to 15 feet. The rules for the J-class stipulated

that length overall had to exceed about 120ft; LWL had to be between 79 and 87 feet,

and they could displace up to about 160 tons. 1937 saw the building of the last two J's

on both sides of the Atlantic. Both*Ranger* and *Endeavour II *took the waterline length

to its extreme, measuring 87 feet LWL.*Ranger*, the American boat, was designed

jointly by W. Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens. It was a design combination which

produced the greatest J of the fleet, the 'super J' as she was later known.

Universal Rule had length and square-root of sail area in the numerator (speed-giving

elements) while cube-root of displacement in the denominator (a retarding quantity).

The rule under which the J's were built was a modified Universal Rule with a set rating

of 76 feet. The Universal Rule was based on ideas proposed by Nat Herreshoff

allowing waterline length to be increased without sail area being restricted, as it had

been under the older International Rule. This was compensated by a larger

displacement and so draught was limited to 15 feet. The rules for the J-class stipulated

that length overall had to exceed about 120ft; LWL had to be between 79 and 87 feet,

and they could displace up to about 160 tons. 1937 saw the building of the last two J's

on both sides of the Atlantic. Both

to its extreme, measuring 87 feet LWL.

jointly by W. Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens. It was a design combination which

produced the greatest J of the fleet, the 'super J' as she was later known.