Type: Gaff Schooner
LOA: 101’3″ / 30.86m
LWL: 89’10” / 27.38m
Beam: 22’10” / 6.95m
Draft: 10’11” / 3.33m
Designer: George Steers and Co
Original Owner: New York Yacht Club Syndicate – headed by NYYC charter member Commodore John Cox Stevens
Current Owner: Scrapped, 1945
Year Launched: May 3rd, 1851
Built By: William H. Brown
Hull Material: Wood (white oak, locust, cedar and chestnut)
Gross Displacement: 92 tonnes
Sail Area: 5,296 sq ft (492.0 m2)
America was designed by James Rich Steers and George Steers (1820–1856) (See George Steers and Co). Traditional “cod-head-and-mackerel-tail” design gave boats a blunt bow and a sharp stern with the widest point (the beam) placed one-third of the length aft of the bow. George Steers’ pilot boat designs, however, had a concave clipper-bow with the beam of the vessel at midships. As a result, his schooner-rigged pilot boats were among the fastest and most seaworthy of their day. They had to be seaworthy, for they had to meet inbound and outbound vessels in any kind of weather. These vessels also had to be fast, for harbor pilots competed with each other for business. In addition to pilot boats, Steers designed and built 17 yachts, some which were favourites with the New York Yacht Club.
Crewed by Brown and eight professional sailors, with George Steers, his older brother James, and James’ son George as passengers, America left New York on June 21, and arrived at Le Havre on July 11. They were joined there by Commodore Stevens. After drydocking and repainting America left for Cowes, Isle of Wight, on July 30. While there the crew would enjoy the hospitality of the Royal Yacht Squadron while Stevens searched for someone who would race against his yacht.
The British yachting community had been following the construction of America with interest and maybe some trepidation. When America showed up on the Solent on July 31 there was one yacht, Laverock, that appeared for an impromptu race. The accounts of the race are contradictory: a British newspaper said Laverock held her own, however, Stevens later reported that America beat her handily. Whatever the outcome, it seemed to have discouraged other British yachtsmen from challenging America to a match. She never raced until the last day of the Royal Yacht Squadron’s annual members-only regatta for which Queen Victoria customarily donated the prize. Because of America’s presence, a special provision was made to “open to all nations” a race of 53 miles (85 km) ’round the Isle of Wight, with no reservation for time allowance.