Sixty Years a Yacht Designer

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In the late s Hood designed, built and demonstrated how his shallow draft heavy displacement hull form could win races when he designed, built and sailed his first Robin. In following years this innovative design developed steadily, and in one man became two, when Ted Fontaine was appointed Chief Designer of the Ted Hood Design Group. The next decade saw the concept refined, with a strong emphasis on the offshore cruising sailor seeking the optimum in both performance and comfort. Fontaine continued to lead the refinement of the Hood hull forms until , when a consolidation of the Hood and Hinckley Companies created an opportunity for him to purchase the assets of the Ted Hood Design Group and begin a new company under his own name.

The current trend in yacht design is clearly towards lighter displacement, deep-keel boats designed primarily for high performance with a lower priority on comfort and, in some instances, safety. This has been driven in part by the new generation of racing boats that are designed with a singular objective to sail around the world or the race course in as short a time as possible.

These extreme designs have placed a tremendous burden on mast and boat builders by allowing only the narrowest margin of error in balancing safety with weight-saving construction, sometimes with tragic consequences. Why should a boat-builder enter a National Championship where the elite were competing?

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And, to make it worse, his yard was on the River Thames at Hammersmith. Though Holt did not win he made a good placing. He was busy in the Thirties building other boats, designed for eager sailors. His boat in the 18ft class was an outstanding success as was his 12ft National. During the Second World War Holt built lifeboats and wooden copies of enemy planes for the Government, moving with his staff down the river, taking to a former oar-making works near Putney Bridge; it is still a Jack Holt shop, selling everything you could need for a boat including clothing.

After the war, a small group from Ranelagh Sailing Club, based on the same stretch of the Thames, commissioned Holt to design a small boat. It was called a Merlin and was accepted as a fine racing boat more simply made and more economic than other 14ft boats. The first Merlin is now on show at the Maritime Museum, in Greenwich.

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The Merlin was a success and in Yachting World magazine asked Holt to design a children's boat. His design could be sailed by boys and girls aged 8 to They were soon sailing them very proficiently and word of this small boat went all over the world.


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It was called the Cadet. In those early post-war years there was still a divide in the sailing world: with the yacht club for the gentry and the sailing club for the workers. But youngsters, in Holt's cheap and simple Cadet, did not know this and when Cadets from yacht club and sailing club were out on the same bit of water the class privilege was ignored. It was the first breakthrough in solving the class problem on the water.

The boat was adopted by many countries and large regattas are held for this class every year. The Cadet was followed by a simple boat called Enterprise, commissioned for promotional purposes by the News Chronicle newspaper in , with blue sails. This too became very popular and has world-wide fleets. The Asian Games, which are held every four years, between the Olympic Games, still use the Enterprise as their prime Class. Then came an even simpler boat that people could make from kits themselves.

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It was called the Mirror, promoted by the Mirror newspaper titles, and it too was accepted as a World International Class. Manufactured as a kit by Bell Woodworking, it has been built in greater numbers than any other of Holt's designs; 69, Mirrors have been registered to date. Other innovatory craft from Holt's design board included a single-handed boat, the Solo, and a longer one called the Hornet , which was the first boat to have an aid to the crew in having a seat that extended over the water, the forerunner of what is now known as a trapeze. One of his very successful designs was the General Purpose 14 GP14, , a very wholesome boat, well adapted to sailing, going fishing, with room for a picnic, and a good boat to row.

Holt also made time too to race, both in Britain and in countries abroad. He was a first-class racing helmsman and won many championships, including three Merlin championships in that boat's early days. He was invited to Australia where about five of his classes were raced and he had the joy of his life going from centre to centre in Australia, each of which held a special Jack Holt Regatta.

All these Holt boats could be built by any other builder, professional or amateur. Doing all this, Holt was a gentle man in every sense. I knew him for more than 60 years, and was his business partner for the past 50, and never heard a cross word or a refusal to help anyone. John Lapworth Holt, boat designer: born London 18 April ; married Iris Thornton one daughter, and one son deceased ; died Chichester 14 November You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists?

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