Bring Back the Beautiful Tenders

Published on September 12th, 2017

The resurgence of the J Class has delivered immaculate yachts of a bygone era to present day competition. Each yacht’s historic appearance is tightly controlled by restrictions, a condition that perhaps should be extended to their modern tenders. Tripp Estabrook explains.


The J Class yachts of the thirties had purpose built tenders… one of which still exists today: Bystander.

Bystander was built in 1930 as tender and towboat for the NYYC’s America’s Cup Defense Syndicate under the direction of Commodore Harold S. (Mike) Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt wrote, “This boat, the Bystander, proved not only to be a great success, but absolutely indispensable. When Enterprise was underway it was Bystander’s duty to live up to her name and be ready to pass a line or to be useful in some other way,” such as towing a J Class yacht at 8 knots.

Subsequently, Bystander was a tender for seven America’s Cup Syndicates during her 40-year Cup career. Three for the American J Class defenses (Enterprise, Rainbow, and Ranger) and four more for one American and three Australian 12 Metre challenges.

In 2002, Elizabeth Meyer purchased and meticulously restored Bystander to her historically accurate 1930’s configuration with modern upgrades like a 400+HP engine modern galley and a bathtub. For those fortunate enough to witness the awesome 2017 J Class Worlds in Newport, RI, it was Bystander that effortlessly led the spectator fleet to every start, mark rounding, and finish.

Notes Elizabeth, “Bystander acted as towboat, crew tender, sail storage and transport, mark boat and race committee boat for speed testing through seven America’s Cups over a 40 year span. She is the longest lasting and greatest artifact of the America’s Cup in existence.”

To witness Bystander, she will be featured in the 2017 Newport Brokerage Boat Show on September 14-17 in Newport, RI.


For video of the 2017 J Class Worlds …

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