For the third year in a row Edward Burgess designed a defense candidate for the Boston syndicate headed by General Charles Paine. Named Volunteer in honor of Paine's Civial War service, the defender met the challenger from the Royal Clyde Yacht Club, Thistle, in September of 1887. Thistle, designed by the brilliant and imaginative George Watson, was conceived with an eye towards specific New York sailing conditions. Watson anticipated light winds and therefore piled on the canvas, and cut away the lateral profile of Thistle's keel in order to reduce resistance. When the two boats finally came together in the same water, observers were astonished that they were so similiar.
1887 was an America's Cup landmark as it was the last time that a race for the America's Cup was sailed over the old Club course. The first race between Volunteer and Thistle was sailed on September 27th in a light southerly wind which took the yachts down the harbor on a winding inshore track around Southeast Spit buoy, out to Sandy Hook lightship, and back again to the finish at buoy 15 off Bayridge Brooklyn.