At the start of the 25th defense of the America’s Cup off Newport, Rhode Island, in 1983, the cannon was sounded from the deck of Black Knight. This visually striking race committee boat was on loan from a member of the New York Yacht Club. Its glossy black hull, gleaming brightwork and classic lines created a sense of purpose appropriate to the then 132-year-old international competition.
Black Knight was designed in the 1960s by Walter J. McInnis of the Eldredge-McInnis company that he co-founded with Albert Eldredge in 1926 in Boston, Massachusetts. McInnis designed this boat to be a sportfishing yacht, with an LOA of 82 feet, a beam of 20 feet, and a displacement of 108 gross tons. Powered by twin GM Detroit Diesels, it was reported to have a top speed of 16 knots. Built in East Boothbay, Maine, by the Goudy & Stevens Shipyard, it was delivered to R. K. Mellon in February 1968 bearing the name Cassiar.
The original drawings for the boat show a flared bow with rounded entry below the waterline, and a deep draft that extends nearly the full length of the hull. Protected running gear and balanced rudders are raised to prevent damage during grounding. Above the waterline is a broad foredeck that might have been a race committee’s perfect working platform at anchor. Black Knight also has a Portuguese bridge and raised pilothouse forward of amidships for optimal visibility.
Aft of the pilothouse is a salon with large windows, some designed to lower by hand-cranking mechanisms, plus two doors that open to the side decks.
Beneath the boat deck are three passenger cabins, including a large owner’s stateroom aft, with a bathtub-equipped ensuite head. As is appropriate for such a large wooden yacht requiring constant maintenance, Black Knight has crew quarters for three, plus a private cabin for the captain.
When the 1983 America’s Cup ended with Australia as the winner, Jan Stenbeck—the multi-millionaire patron of the failed Swedish challenger that year—purchased Black Knight to use as a cruiser and to ship to future challenges in Australia and New Zealand. Black Knight has since changed hands, but continues to ply waters today—she was spotted in Maine in 2022. The black-hulled yacht inspired the design and construction of Yorel, now renamed Kizbel, a white-hulled sistership launched in the late 1980s. —John Wooldridge
This article was originally published in the December 2022 issue.