On a fittingly beautiful day, the previous America’s Cup victor, VIGILANT is matched up against the forenamed DEFENDER, a Herreshoff yacht of renown. Set upon the East River just south of the tip of Manhattan, the action is focused on determining who would be chosen to defend the America’s Cup against the second challenge from the Royal Yacht Squadron on behalf of Lord Dunraven. VIGILANT’s successful battle against Dunraven’s VALKYRIE II in 1893 had been the closest match yet, and the Americans wished to improve their odds against George L. Watson’s latest design, VALKYRIE III.
Couch masterfully puts a present feeling on yesterday’s greatest yacht races. He excels is his dynamic realism of the structure and function of the racing yachts, with everything in strict accordance to the actual yachts. Painstakingly researched, the scene comes back to life on his canvases. Full of architectural detail, the buildings of Broadway, including the Washington Building, Trinity Church and The Havermeyer Building are in view.
DEFENDER was built for one purpose, to win and hold the Cup. The racing yacht had aluminum top plating over steel, with Manganese bronze plates, rare and expensive, for her hull. Her growing dominance in the 1895 season is captured here, and she’d perform masterfully under Captain Hank Haff and the syndicate of Ieslin, Vanderbilt and Morgan, and the New York Yacht Club.
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