Introduction to Yacht Design explains the characteristics of boat design in a straightforward and understandable manner. Reading it would benefit most boat owners

Introduction to Yacht Design
Ian Nicolson
Fernhurst, £15.99

I was oddly startled to receive this book.

It seemed to hark back to the days when boats were generally built using wood and amateurs were editorially encouraged to have a go at designing for themselves or at the least to get involved in abstruse arguments about the correct positioning of the meta-centric shelf.

Yachting Monthly, for instance, regularly ran yacht design competitions during the 1930s and 1940s, not least to give men serving in the Second World War Navy something to occupy their minds when off-watch.

Ian Nicolson’s book offers an introduction to design, taking the novice through key first steps then pointing him or her ahead to further reading and data collection.

Traditional wooden construction is no longer affordable for those on normal budgets, however.

If the amateur’s design does reach the construction stage, Nicolson’s suggested material is steel.

He doesn’t discount aluminium, other than on grounds of cost and also considered foam sandwich fibreglass construction, or strip planking that is subsequently glassed. He’s produced a book on this technique.

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Nicolson is writing from a long lifetime of practical experience and also experience of writing and teaching.

He knows how to keep his explanations brisk and accessible; in fact he frequently left this reader wanting more.

He opens, for instance, with a page in praise of curves, then in the interest of clarity, most subsequent drawings are severely straight-lined.

Within the context of this book that’s fine and at least permission has been given to strive for beauty as well as economy.

Refining one’s ideas of what constitutes beauty is perhaps a different challenge.

Nicolson’s advice is to leave the calculations for a while and spend time drawing pretty boats and their fittings.

This is definitely good advice and something that cannot be learned from photographs or written explanations.

Introducing Yacht Design has set itself limited, entry-level tasks at which it succeeds.

It will assist an amateur to engage in less one-sided conversations with experts, be they builders or surveyors.

Similarly, it may whet an appetite to pull out the plans of one’s current boat and get a better understanding of the relationship between design and performance.

It may give confidence to attempt to tweak some features – or refrain from altering others.

And for some people it may be the first step on an inspiring journey towards the fusion between aesthetic pleasure and fitness for purpose.

He makes a shrewd comment that boats which please the eye will also be boats which last for longer as they will be a pleasure to maintain.

Nicolson offers a balanced assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of computer-aided design.

If I were giving this book, I would be sure to add items from his suggested list of design equipment, just to make sure that the eye and hand were given full scope for individual artistry before the power of the computer stepped in.

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