EIGHT BELLS: CYRUS HAM­LIN (1918–2017), NAVAL AR­CHI­TECT

Cruising World - - Underway - — Brian Har­ris

Cyrus Ham­lin, who died on March 17, 2017, may be the most in­flu­en­tial yacht de­signer you’ve never heard of. Hav­ing cho­sen his pro­fes­sion at age 9, he was al­ready work­ing for Hinck­ley Yachts be­fore World War II. In the 1950s, he de­signed the light­dis­place­ment Con­tro­versy and Am­ph­icon se­ries of trail­er­a­ble cruis­ing sail­boats. In the 1960s, he cre­ated the Hur­ri­cane Is­land pulling boats used by Out­ward Bound, as well as the Hud­son River Sloop Clear­wa­ter, the project spear­headed by folk singer Pete Seeger. Those last two projects alone in­tro­duced more than a mil­lion peo­ple to sail­ing.

“I can tell you that Cy is a big rea­son the project was a suc­cess,” says Capt. Betsy Garth­waite, pres­i­dent of the board that runs Clear­wa­ter. “With­out his wis­dom and direction, the group might have wound up with a stun­ning replica of a Hud­son River sloop, but one that never could have been more than a dock­side at­trac­tion.”

Be­gin­ning with his Con­tro­versy se­ries, of which more than 100 units were built, Cy ad­vo­cated a glued­strip build­ing method that ren­dered light-dis­place­ment craft — at a time when the trend of pro­duc­tion com­pos­ite boat build­ing tended to­ward heavy boats of resin-rich wo­ven rov­ing.

A spirit of gen­eros­ity and joy runs through all of Cy’s projects. Be­gin­ning in the 1970s, with the United Na­tions and the World Bank, he worked with fish­eries de­part­ments of na­tions on ev­ery con­ti­nent ex­cept Antarc­tica. Dur­ing the 1980s, he taught a gen­er­a­tion of as­pir­ing yacht de­sign­ers at the Land­ing School in Ken­neb­unk, Maine. His 1989 book Pre­lim­i­nary De­sign of Boats and Ships stands as a pri­mary text­book on the sub­ject.

Through­out his ca­reer, Cy was an in­no­va­tor with a keen sense of his­tory. When a 2014 in­ter­viewer pointed out that his boats were 60 years ahead of their time, he replied: “Well, I was part of a trend. Ac­tu­ally glued-strip had been used for I don’t know how long up in Canada, and some say the Egyp­tians and the Vik­ings es­sen­tially built strip boats.”

Cy Ham­lin’s work was un­bounded by both time and place. To learn more, watch “The Land­ing School — an In­ter­view with Renowned Naval Ar­chi­tect Cy Ham­lin,” Au­gust 19, 2014, at cruis­ing­world.com/cy-ham­lin.

Cyrus Ham­lin, at home on the wa­ter and un­der sail.

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