Bystander, Classic America’s Cup Tender, Restored by Narragansett Shipwrights

Elizabeth Meyer & Michael McCaffrey on Bystander


In a classic labor of love, a boat that has participated in America’s Cup races since 1930 has been restored to gleaming beauty by Newport’s Elizabeth Meyer and her husband Michael McCaffrey. The recently completed Bystander is in the water at Carter’s Wharf, near the International Yacht Restoration School.

Bystander at anchor


In 2002, Ms. Meyer purchased Bystander and shipped her from Australia to Newport. Although entirely original, with all her original hardware, Bystander needed a major refit. Bystander is now in perfect condition, meticulously restored to her 1930’s configuration and provided with updated systems and navigation equipment. Her historical value is obvious. She is also a beautiful, fast and practical towboat, committee boat, tender and cruising boat.


The boat was originally commissioned by Harold S. (Mike) Vanderbilt. Owner of Marble House, Mr. Vanderbilt was the skipper of the defenders of the America’s Cup in 1930, 1934 and 1937. In 1930 he spent a lot of time thinking about how to set up a perfect defense team. One of the things he did was to commission the design and construction of Bystander. She was purposely built to act as a towboat, crew carrier and sail carrier for the J Class sloop Enterprise. Under the ownership of Mike Vanderbilt, Bystander went on to tow in four America’s Cups: for the J Class sloops Enterprise, Rainbow and Ranger; and for the 12 meter Vim. Vanderbilt sold Vim and Bystander to the Australians, who used Vim as a trial horse and Bystander as a towboat for two more America’s Cups – for the 12 metres Gretel and Dame Patti. So, Bystander was a tender for six America’s Cups, three for J Boats and three for 12 metres.


When Ms. Meyer bought Bystander, the boat was brought from Australia, and remains the only tender to have taken part in six America’s Cups, and the only extant America’s Cup tender from earlier than 1950. “She is a really cool boat,” states Ms. Meyer.


Narragansett Shipwrights, a working waterfront restoration facility, currently has another 1929 48” Fife 8 meter undergoing meticulous restoration by Mr. McCaffrey and his team.

At work  at Narragansett Shipyards

1929 48” Fife 8 with restoration plans

1929 48” Fife 8 Interior

Michael McCaffrey's workbench


The loft office

Elizabeth Meyer at Narragansett Shipyards facility

Michael McCaffrey's office door

Aboard the renovated Bystander


The wheel

The new electronic control panel

State of the art spa bathroom

The galley

Bystander's original brass compass











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