All the Oceans: De­sign­ing by the Seat of My Pants

Passage Maker - - @rest - BY RON HOL­LAND

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.


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