Reflections

A design career that took off with the 1973 world champion Quarter Tonner, evolved through numerous successful Admiral’s Cup and Maxi designs and ultimately led to the creation of some of the world’s most notable superyachts, provides a tidy basis for RON HOLLAND to muse upon ‘how we got here…’

There’s nothing like writing a book about your life to trigger reflections about 50 years of yacht racing and designing. With the working title of All the Oceans, the memoir has reminded me of how lucky I was to grow up in New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s at a special time in sailing, as well as recalling all the milestones that led to my entirely unexpected career. One of my Italian clients likes to remind me that designing yachts isn’t a real job. ‘It’s a toy job,’ he jokes.

And I must say that I never saw designing yachts as a real job. At least not at the outset. As a nation New Zealanders were so enthusiastic about sailing when I was young that just about everybody who knew how to sail also thought they could design a yacht – and many did. While some of the results were spectacularly successful, even at that time, others were pretty awful. But one of the reasons why New Zealand has played way above its weight in sailing in the course of the Olympics, round-the-world racing and world championships is because New Zealanders live and breathe saltwater. For a small population New Zealanders’ influence on international sailing has by common consent been disproportionately high.

How did this happen? Geographic influence counts for a lot. Isolated in the extremities of the Southern Pacific Ocean, it required a pioneering spirit and effort to live in New Zealand and certainly to ply its waters. When I was at school you could see wooden yachts, nearly all of them sailboats, in various stages of construction in many a backyard – for a time there was also a parallel mania for concrete boats.

I would say this was because the Pacific islands beckoned us with the promise of the exotic and many of these yachts would sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Tahiti and other alluring destinations.


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