Every defender of the America’s Cup from VIGILANT in 1893 to RESOLUTE in 1920 was designed by Captain Nathanael Greene Herreshoff and built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company.
Known as “the Wizard of Bristol,” Nat Herreshoff dominated yacht design for more than seventy five years. An innovator, not a traditionalist, Captain Nat designed the Cup defenders: VIGILANT, 1893; DEFENDER, 1895; COLUMBIA 1899 and 1901; RELIANCE, 1903; and RESOLUTE, 1920. Captain Nat trained as an engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then went to work designing engines for the Corliss Steam Engine Company in Providence.
He left to become a partner of his blind brother John, the founder of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company. In the 1880’s and 1890’s, the company produced steam launches and the first torpedo boats. Nat designed a sailing yacht, CLARA, whose performance was so remarkable that Commodore E.D. Morgan of the New York Yacht Club asked him to design two similar boats for him. Morgan was so pleased with PELICAN and GANNET, as they were called, that he asked Captain Nat to design a large yacht for him to the rules of a new racing class. The result was GLORIANA, a yacht that set the direction for the design of racing yachts for many years to come. Captain Nat had equal success in designing both small boats and large, both power and sail. His power yacht STILETTO could cruise effortlessly at 20 knots and in 1895 made an eight hour run at an average speed of 26 knots. He also experimented with catamarans, the first of which was the U.S. patented, 33 foot AMARYLLIS.