The worldwide yachting fraternity was saddened to hear of Laurie Davidson passing the bar on October 4, aged 94. Davidson’s long list of championship winners in dinghy, keeler and IOR classes, along with his America’s Cup (AC) involvement, made him one of New Zealand’s most successful yacht designers.
Born in 1926 in Dargaville, Davidson designed his first boat aged 20 – the M Class Myth made other M Class dinghies obsolete overnight. Davidson designs would dominate the M class for the next four decades.
Davidson made his name as an international designer with successful IOR yachts such as Blitzkrieg, Fun, Waverider, Pendragon, Shockwave, Great Fun and Outward Bound. He also designed production yachts including the Davidson 31, 28 and 35.
In 1986 Davidson, Ron Holland and Bruce Farr teamed up to design the yachts for New Zealand’s first AC campaign. The trio’s final design –
KZ7 – came agonisingly close to winning the Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to challenge the Australians for the 1987 AC.
Davidson joined Team New Zealand and, with Doug Peterson, designed NZL 32 which won the 1995 AC. Davidson then designed
NZL60, which successfully defended the AC in 2000. He remains one of the very few AC designers to have designed both a winning challenger and defender.
Davidson’s later work included Teddy Bear, Starlight Express, Canterbury Export, Jumping Jack Flash, Emotional Rescue, another
Shockwave, Jive Talking, Pendragon IV (which inspired the TP52
Class), two Volvo boats for the d’juice Dragon team and the 88m proa motor yacht Asean Lady.
Davidson was never big on self-promotion, but he was nonetheless highly-regarded within the yachting industry. In 2000 he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and in 2007 inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame. He also received a John Britten Award.
Davidson is survived by his wife Kay.