The purpose-built sail training vessel is based on civilian schooners constructed by Bermudians, enslaved and free, in the 19th century prior to the Emancipation of Slavery in the British Empire. The original hull shape was adapted from the Bermuda-built RN Shamrock class, fast dispatch and patrol vessels that ran from the RN Dockyard northwest to Halifax and southwest to Jamaica to contain the rebel colonies. The Bermuda rig was innovated on the coastal sloops that abounded between the 17th and early 19th centuries. Faced with impassable pathways ashore, locals had evolved the lateen rig to short-tack upwind around the island and to the fishing banks windward of Bermuda.
The Spirit of Bermuda is a replica of a Royal Navy sloop-of-war, depicted in an 1831 painting by John Lynn.