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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