The designer of two of Sir Thomas Liptons early Cup challengers, as well as hundreds of other beautiful, fast yachts, William Fife III (sometimes referred to as William Fife, Jr.) was born into his trade in his fathers and grandfathers shipyard in Fairlie, Scotland. By the age of 30 he was designing and building noted racing boats for clients who included many Americans and Canadians. With G. L. Watson, Fife dominated the design of large sailing yachts in Britain in the 1890s before Watson turned his attention to the design of steam yachts.
When Sir Thomas Lipton decided to challenge for the Americas Cup in 1899, he chose Fife to draw the lines, though, because Shamrock was metal, another builder constructed her. Potentially fast, she was handicapped, first, by having to be heavily built in order to survive the Atlantic crossing and, second, by Fifes illness at the time of the match. After Lipton came to him again for the 1903 challenger, Fife designed the largest, fastest, and most advanced racing boat then known, Shamrock III. It turned out, however, that Nathanael G. Herreshoff went a long stride farther in producing Reliance.
In 1907 it looked, briefly, as if Fife would get another chance at a Cup design, but Liptons negotiations with the New York Yacht Club faltered. When they were resumed in 1912, Charles E. Nicholson had become Britains most prominent yacht designer, and, with Fifes help, he designed Liptons last two Shamrocks.
Although not Americas Cup winners, Fifes Shamrocks and his many other boats, set a standard of excellence for the creation of able, fast boats of remarkable beauty. Long celebrated as one of the best yacht designers in history, his induction in the Americas Cup Hall of Fame places his name on the list of the best designers of Cup yachts.