Julia Jones, Yachting Monthly's literary reviewer discusses Dick Carter: yacht designer – an autobiography from the winner of the 1965 Fastnet Race with Rabbit, his first ever design.

The exceptionally attractive sailing book, Dick Carter: yacht designer is a well-produced autobiography of Dick Carter, winner of the 1965 Fastnet Race with Rabbit, his first ever design.

That this was no fluke was then proved by a string of successful offshore racing yachts which were also designed for cruising comfort.

These included Tina, winner of the 1966 One Ton Cup which became an 8-year duel for supremacy between Carter and the pre-eminent designers Sparkman and Stephens.

Carter’s design innovations included the swing-keel of Red Rooster, winner of the 1969 Admiral’s Cup and the Fastnet Race.

In 1972 his extraordinary 128’ 3-masted Vendredi Treize was the largest fibre-glass yacht ever built, though Eric Tabarley’s 70’ trimaran Pen Duick IV beat her into second place in that year’s OSTAR.

What many people will find appealing about Carter’s designs was his insistence that a racing yacht should also be comfortable to cruise.

His characteristically wide-beamed yachts were innovatory in their hull-shape as well as their underwater profile.

One racing competitor described Tina’s six-berth interior as a ‘ballroom’.

Late in Carter’s relatively brief career he designed the Southerly 33 as a pure family cruiser with its unique variable draft keel.

Dick Carter’s background

Carter himself had learned to sail during family holidays on Cape Cod.

Immediately after WW2 he resumed his education, attending Yale University where he became part of the successful racing team in International 14s and Fireflies.

He also studied the architectural ideas of Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus movement.

In yachting terms this translated into clean lines and notably uncluttered decks. In literary terms Carter’s writing style is understated and every spread of this book offers an elegant visual treat.

The book’s subtitle is ‘In the Golden Age of Offshore Racing’.

Carter championed the offshore cruiser-racer during the later 1960s and 70s and became disenchanted with what he saw as the growing professionalism of the sport thereafter.

He also disliked the design trend for lighter and lighter boats, less sea-kindly and, in his words, less ‘wholesome’: ‘I didn’t want to design boats with an objective I didn’t believe in.’

An educative and admirable book.

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