For the third year in a row Edward Burgess designed a defence candidate for the Boston syndicate headed by General Charles Paine. Named Volunteer in honor of Paine's Civil 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, won by Volunteer by 19 minutes and 23¾ seconds, was sailed on September 27th in a light southerly wind which took the yachts down the harbour on a winding inshore track around Southeast Spit buoy, out to Sandy Hook lightship, and back again to the finish at buoy 15 off Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The second race off Sandy Hook was a much more fiercely fought contest. Run over a course of 40 miles, in breezy conditions, it included a long beat to windward at the start and a downwind leg to the finish - Volunteer winning by 11 minutes and 48¾ seconds.
Soon after her triumph Volunteer was purchased by John Malcolm Forbes, the owner of Puritan, who re-rigged her as a schooner in 1891. Thistle was ultimately sold to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Re-rigged and renamed Meteor, she was the first of five magnificent racing yachts, each called Meteor, which he was to own over the next 25 years.
This magisterial and spirited work shows the second race with Volunteer (leading, seen on the left) and Thistle gybing downwind. The New York Yacht Club committee boat is in front of them and numerous spectator craft are astern, witnessing one of yachting's grandest events during the so-called 'Golden Age of Yachting'.