Endeavour, a 130-foot J Class sloop, was commissioned by Sir T.O.M. Sopwith and built by Camper & Nicholson at Gosport England to challenge for the America's Cup in 1934. Having prepared his campaign in Shamrock V, Sopwith was keen to ensure that this yacht was the most advanced design possible. With his experience designing aircraft Sopwith applied aviation technology toEndeavour's rig and winches and spared nothing to make her the finest vessel of her day. From launching in 1934 shecontinued her preparation by competing against Shamrock V (then owned by Sir Richard Fairey) and the newly launched Velsheda (owned by W.L Stephenson). She swept through the British racing fleet and into the hearts of yachtsmen the world around, winning many races in her first season. Like many before her, Endeavour did not win the Cup but she came closer to doing so than any other challenger.
Endeavour pioneered the development of the Quadrilateral genoa, a two clewed headsail offering immense sail area and power, and still used on J Class yachts racing today. She also had a larger and better designed spinnaker but Sopwith was let down by poor crewing. Just prior to departure for the USA, his professional crew went on strike for more money and Sopwith was forced to round up keen amateur sailors, who had the enthusiasm but not the experience. Afterwards, she returned to England to dominate the British racing scene until 1938 when she was laid up prior to the war.
William Fife III (1857-1944), also known as Wm. Fife, Jr., was the third generation of a family of Scottish yacht designers and builders.
Fife was born in the small village of Fairlie on the Firth of Clyde. His father and grandfather (both also named William and often referred to as Fife I and Fife II) had also been designers and boatbuilders in Fairlie. The family business operated from a yard on the beach in the village. Fife began building yachts in 1890 and soon surpassed the achievements of his father and grandfather and became known as one of the premier yacht designers of the day.
As the third generation of a venerable Scottish boat building family, William Fife inherited a rich legacy but was quick to establish his own reputation as one of the top designers in the yachting world. Often dominating his chief competitors, Fife was a master of his trade who received commissions from European royalty and from clients as far away as Australia. Following on the heels of the success of his design Dragon (1888?), Fife adopted a stylized Chinese dragon as his trademark. Thereafter, those yachts that took shape on the shingle at Fairlie were known throughout the yachting world by this distinctive scrollwork.
Fife designed two America's Cup yachts for grocery and tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton who challenged for the cup a total of five times. The Fife designed Shamrock I lost to Columbia in 1899 and Shamrock III lost to Reliance in 1903. After the establishment of the first International Rule in 1906, Fife became a prolific designer of meter boats, designing and building several very successful 15- and 19-meter yachts in the years leading up to the Great War.