America (pictured here in 1901 with a much reduced rig) was designed by George Steers, superintendent of the mould loft at the yard of
New York’s leading shipbuilder, William H. Brown, at the foot of 12th Street on the East River.
With a hollow entry and carrying her maximum beam of 22ft well aft, America measured 101ft 9in overall on a waterline length of 90ft 3in. By the standards of the day she was a stripped out racing machine, able to carry only the barest provisions.
America was designed to the principles of Scott Russell’s Wave Line theory, first employed in the steamer Wave in 1835, and espoused by the American John Griffiths under whom Steers worked. Russell described America as ‘a pure wave line vessel’ and revelled in the acclaim.
Influential at the time, this theory was not universally accepted. British Naval Architect Dixon Kemp, founder of Lloyds of London and the Royal Yachting Association, said the America was the only Wave Line yacht that got a reputation for speed. By 1880, Russell’s theory had been partially discredited.
A variety of woods were used in her construction: the frames, braced by iron diagonals, were of white oak, locust, cedar, chestnut and hackmatack; her planking, copper fastened, was of 3in white oak; her decks were of yellow pine and her coamings of mahogany. She carried 61 tons of iron ballast, two thirds of it under the mainmast. On her steeply raked
79ft 6in foremast and 81ft mainmast she carried a simple rig: jib, foresail and mainsail, totalling 5,263 square feet made of cotton duck material.