Thistle was built under conditions of great secrecy during the winter of 1886-7 and launched with her hull covered by a huge canvas. After winning or placing second in 13 of 15 Scottish regattas in her first year afloat, Thistle sailed to New York as the challenger in the 1887 America's Cup against the US defender, Volunteer. Skippered by John Barr, she lost both Cup races, and returned to Scotland in September 1887. John Barr's younger brother Charlie Barr was also a crew member who, after emigrating to the United States, went on to achieve success skippering three consecutive successful America's Cup defenders.
Following a few very successful years racing in Britain, Thistle was sold to the German emperor Wilhelm II (who otherwise used the SMY Hohenzollern) in 1891 for 90,000 gold marks and renamed Meteor. Between 1892 and 1895 Wilhelm II raced against the Britannia owned by his uncle the Prince of Wales later King Edward VII each year at the Cowes Week. Being a more experienced yachtsmen and having the faster ship Edward won all the races comfortably.
In 1895, Meteor was handed over to the German Navy in Wilhelmshaven as a school yacht and renamed Comet. In 1921, the vessel was broken up.