All the Oceans: Designing by the Seat of My Pants
All the Oceans, a recently released memoir from yacht designer Ron Holland, is sure to become a classic on the bookshelves of anyone interested in the world of yacht design from the 1970s to the present. At the age of 16, Holland began to immerse himself in the world of offshore sailing and yacht racing, and he went on to design and sail some of the world’s fastest speedsters in some of the most challenging races. This first-person account of his epic career introduces the reader to his contemporaries including Olin Stevens, Doug Peterson, Laurie Davidson, Bruce Farr, Gary Mull, and Charlie Morgan.
And it’s not just other legendary designers that we get to meet through the pages of this book. Over his career, Holland became friends with such notable figures as former British Prime Minister Ted Heath, newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch, and Prince Rainier of Monaco.
The primary focus is on Holland’s designs, though, which have won many of the world’s toughest races, including the Sydney to Hobart and Fastnet races, and taken second and third place at the Whitbread Round the World Race (now the Volvo Ocean Race). Holland also designed a number of production yachts for Nautor’s Swan, Camper & Nicholsons, and Jeanneau. He also collaborated with Laurie Davidson and Bruce Farr for New Zealand’s first entry in the America’s Cup in 1987 (which lost out in the finals to Dennis Conner’s Stars and Stripes).
In the 1980s, Holland became the first person to design 100-foot-plus sailboats. He has designed 30 of these “superyachts” to date, with his most celebrated design, the 247-foot Mirabella V, launched in 2005. Mirabella V was, and still is, the largest single-masted sailing boat ever built. Until then, the technology to manufacture the massive masts, winches, rigging, sails, and hydraulics for such large vessels didn’t exist. Though many skeptics said these structural challenges were insurmountable, Holland proved them wrong. He said he never worried about asking for help, but help came in diverse ways, including from the aviation and oil and gas industries. What makes this feat all the more impressive is that Holland was never schooled in yacht design; he learned the basics while working and taking classes as an apprentice boat builder.
A pioneer in the yachting industry, Holland helped write history. All the Oceans takes us on an amazing insider’s voyage through it all, from the high-seas drama of being arrested by the Cuban military when he got too close to shore, to his near-death experience during the notorious 1979 Fastnet Race where 24 yachts were abandoned and 15 people died.