Des Townson dies aged 74

New Zealand yacht designer Des Townson,74, has died at his home in Auckland after a long battle with cancer.

Mr Townson was born in Auckland in 1934 and from his father developed a passion for sailing. He won the Tanner Cup, the premier teenage yachting championship in 1950 and at the age of 17 designed his first boat, a small dinghy. Over the following fifty-seven years he designed eighty-two different boats ranging from an 8ft rowing dinghy to a 72ft keel boat.

His influence on New Zealand yacht design during the 1950s to 80s was as significant as that of the famous Logan family during the colonial yachting era. During the later part of the 1950s he was at the forefront of the post war sailing expansion where he created a range of small dinghies, racing yachts and powerboats. Fifty years later the Zephyr and Mistral classes remain as popular as in their formative years. During the 1960s and 70s Townson designed racing and cruising keelboats.

Mr Townson’s most important creation was the 2.9 metre Starling yacht for teenagers, designed in 1969. Over 1300 have been built. The Starling class national championship has for many years, been the largest national yachting contest for any indigenous boat in the country and regularly attracts between 100-150 entrants.

In 1987 Mr Townson designed the radio controlled Electron model yacht. Over 1000 were built in his workshop and sold throughout the world.

Mr Townson’s contribution to yachting earned him the award of a New Zealand Order of Merit the in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year.

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