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Sunday, July 02, 2017

June 26, 2017-Doug Peterson

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Doug Peterson

The world of yachting lost a great designer when, after a long battle with cancer, Doug Peterson died in a San Diego Hospital on June 26, 2017.

We only knew Doug slightly, but we consider him to have been a great friend of ours; after all Doug Peterson designed Wings, this lovely boat of ours, so we have a connection with him. And now he is gone.

For giving us Wings we owe Doug Peterson a lot, and we will miss him.

Doug was a boat nut. He grew up in Los Angeles and moved to San Diego as a teen-ager and was often found hanging around the San Diego Yacht Club. Members there remember a scruffy young man who really liked boats. He stated in an interview: "I started putting boats down on paper when I was 10, and have never wanted to do anything else." "My father is an aerospace engineer, and he taught me a lot from the beginning about design," Peterson said. "I was the kind of kid who used to crawl around boat yards looking at things. I was the one always looking over the side of a boat at the wake."

Doug sailed a lot and as young man decided to make his career designing yachts. He drove to the east coast and got a job with one of the established firms but he must have had his ideas already in his head and he was impatient. He only stayed one week, sleeping in his car, and then suddenly, he announced that he was going back to California to build a boat. That boat was Ganbare, a wooden 35 footer which turned yacht design upside down. It was his first boat and it won just about everything.

But it wasn’t easy. Doug was 28 years old 1973, still wore his hair maybe a bit too long to get a real job and he was not an established designer. He didn’t have a commission from anyone to design a boat for them. He didn’t really have the money himself. He had however impressed some of the local sailing community with his ideas and enthusiasm, including Carl Eichenlaub, the fabled San Diego sailor and wooden boat builder, and Carl agreed to build Doug’s design, on a budget. In eleven weeks they completed Ganbare, an IOR One Tonner which shocked the IOR fleet with her speed and sweet sailing ability.

After nearly winning the 1973 International One Ton Cup with Ganbare, clearly the fastest One Tonner in the series despite being built on a shoe string budget, Doug’s career took off. He sold the boat in Italy, paying back all of his costs, and was rewarded with several new design commissions.

Another of Doug’s boats, 'Gumboots', swept the fleet the next year. By then Doug Peterson was a design sensation and his office was producing design after winning design. After Ganbare,and Gumboots, he produced many well known and successful boats including Kindred Spirit, Vendetta, Racy, Great Pumpkin, Petrified, High Noon, Anabelle Lee, High Roler, Country Girl ( Half Ton ), Louisiana Crude, Stinger, Checkmate, Eclipse, Yena, Rubin, Ragamuffin', and Moonshine. Besides pure speed, Doug Peterson’s designs were known for being moderate boats with great all around sailing characteristics. Because of this his designs dominated both offshore racing and production racer/cruisers fleets as well. Production boats such as the Contessa 35, the NY 40, the Baltic DP Series and the Serendipity 43, sold well, were commercially successful, and sailed well, being winners in race fleets around the world.

Wings was the first Serendipity 43, a production boat built from the Louisiana Crude lines by Tommy Dreyfus in his shop in New Orleans.

By the early 80’s much more radial boats, which the IOR rule encouraged, were being designed by others. Peterson preferred moderate boats and his later IOR designs, still moderate instead of radical, were not winners. In a way though, Doug was right about that. The new boats were not popular with the owners and IOR racing soon faded from the scene. Doug continued designing boats even though the IOR design faded from popularity. He moved on and designed several well known cruising boats such as the Peterson 44 and later became involved in several Americas Cup campaigns. He was a key design member of the winning 1992 America3 and in 1995 the was part of the Team New Zealand design team which produced NZL 32 Black Magic, another breakthrough boat. Black Magic dominated the 1995 America’s cup series. He designed the winning Louis Vuitton Cup boat for Prada Challenge in the 2000 cup.

We met Doug the first time in the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club basement on a snowy night when he and Laurie Davidson attended a workshop with the owners of several IOR boats for the purpose of adjusting the IOR rule to make older designs, such as Peterson’s Serendipity 43, competitive with the newer boats, such as Davidson’s fractionally rigged one tonners (Mad Max was an example). Doug and Laurie understood why the newer boats rated better under the IOR and they proposed an adjustment which leveled the fleet. Although Judy and I did not win many races under the IOR in the 80’s even with that rule change, we appreciated Doug Peterson’s easy going approach to solving the problem.

Later I spent a little time around Doug in Auckland New Zealand while I was covering the 2000 America’s Cup and Doug was working for Prada. One time I mentioned to him that I owned one of his boats, Wings, and that it had turned out to be a great cruising boat. Doug was surprised, he said, “It did?” I replied, “Yes, it did.” He seemed happy to hear that.

On another occasion I shared with him a joke I had made to people we met cruising that the Serendipity 43 was one of Doug’s better design and that he had taken many features of it over to Black Magic, his famous breakthrough AC boat. When I mentioned this joke to Doug he surprised me by agreeing, “Yes, I did.”

Doug was hard to manage in a corporate world however, and the America’s Cup was definitely corporate. When I tried to schedule interviews with him, he never showed up. Other reporters had the same experience. Finally a rather flustered Prada PR manager told me I’d just have to find him myself and that the press conferences were a good place start. It was and once I buttonholed him he was friendly and open. He told me one day that he loved the lines of a Swiss AC boat called “Be Happy”. When I saw the boat on a pier prior to being shipped back to Europe I understood Doug’s statement. I liked the boat too and if Doug Peterson thought it was a good boat, I knew it was. I thought of making it into a cruising boat. What a fantasy.

Through the 2000’s Doug continued to design beautiful super yachts for European clients and builders, and he spent time racing classic wooden boats in Europe as well. In 2008 the 227ft replica of the schooner Atlantic, for which Doug was the consulting engineer was launched. Atlantic, built at the Van der Graaf BV shipyard in the Netherlands, was completed in 2010.

His most recent design is a 104ft Jongert Sloop, the design was done in 2015 and the boat is under construction now.

In March 2017, Naval Architect Doug Peterson became the fourth SDYC member to be inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame

Doug Peterson isn't the first of Wings' creators to die. Tommy Dreyfus Wings' builder, died in 2007.

Peterson died Monday, June 26, 2017 in a San Diego hospital after a long battle with cancer, aged 71.

click here for more photos of Doug and his boats.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, La Cruz Huancaxtle

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Blogger SV Crystal Blues said...

Great story about a great man.

05 July, 2017 05:00  

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