Power, Performance and Speed in 20th Century Yacht Design

Written By:  Maureen Mazan December 11, 2016 at 6:47 pm

C. Raymond Hunt and W. Starling Burgess

Exhibition Dates: December 9, 2016 – May 2017

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is thrilled to announce the opening of a major exhibition celebrating W. Starling Burgess and C. Raymond Hunt. The exhibition is a companion to two recent Museum publications, No Ordinary Being: W. Starling Burgess, Inventor, Naval Architect, Aviation Pioneer, and Master of American Design by Llewellyn Howland III and A Genius at His Trade: C. Raymond Hunt and His Remarkable Boats by Stan Grayson. The Museum is dedicating a premier exhibition space, the Jacobs Family Gallery, to this exhibition celebrating these two masters of American yacht design. The show will highlight each of these extraordinary innovator’s revolutionary and most notable contributions to the industry and looks to where their work continues to reverberate today in modern yacht design.

About the Exhibition

The exhibition highlights are actual boats designed by Burgess and Hunt as well as the outstanding photography of Norman Fortier, trophies, tank test models, and ship models borrowed from private and corporate collections. One of the Museum’s greatest treasures is the 1/3 scale Concordia Yawl model by Tom Borges, with exquisite detailing and full rigging. Mystic Seaport is loaning a c.1920 sailing canoe designed by Burgess, and private collectors are loaning an early Boston Whaler and an exquisitely restored 110 series sailboat. These will be complemented with ship models of Burgess and Hunt’s most iconic yachts, from America’s Cup J Boats to Hunt’s Deep V powerboat hull, one of the most impactful innovations in yacht design in the 20th century. Videos and photographs of these and other yachts in action will allow the visitor to fully appreciate the unprecedented beauty, power and speed brought to the industry by these two design masters and their continued influence on modern yacht design.

Starling Burgess, a man whose personal life rivaled the intrigue of his professional ingenuity, was the godfather of 20th century yacht design, influencing L. Francis Herreshoff, Frank Paine, and even Hunt himself. He developed the last design breakthrough for schooners in the staysail rig. Niña was one of the most beautiful examples of this innovation. Burgess created breakthrough powerboats, including the fastest motorboat in the word in 1903 and a 1/3 scale model of a destroyer, the prototype of which went 55 knots. The son of an America’s Cup champion yacht designer, Edward Burgess, Starling created three successive America’s winners of his own: the Enterprise, Rainbow, and Ranger, all of which sailed in Buzzards Bay. Other achievements include the Yankee One Design yachts, which were ubiquitous on Buzzards Bay in their day and the Atlantic One Design. While the focus of the exhibition will be on Burgess’s impact on yacht design, it would be impossible to talk about this unique and talented innovator without acknowledging his remarkable work in hydro-aeroplanes with John Dunne and the charming Dymaxion car.

Ray Hunt is recognized as one of the most influential yacht designers of the 20th Century. While perhaps best known for Concordia yachts and the Boston Whaler, Hunt’s biggest impact was really in powerboats. He felt that there were not many innovations to be made in sailboats after the 1930s but there was endless potential in powerboats where his true genius came into play. His unique Deep-V hull, on which he briefly held a patent, was the basis for all high-speed, mono-hull powerboats that followed including the hulls of Grady White yachts, which are still designed by Hunt Associates of New Bedford. As a racing sailor, Hunt had few, if any equals. Amongst his many achievements, he swept the illustrious Cowes Week in 6 out of 6 races on his Concordia Harrier in 1955, and many of his personal trophies will be featured in the exhibition.

These two titans of yacht design were each in their own way, true Renaissance men, and their continued influence on American yacht design is profound. Each of them was driven to push limits, debunk traditional assumptions, and think in entirely new and innovative ways to create some of the most iconic and groundbreaking designs the industry has ever seen. Their legacy in modern yacht design is all around us, and this exhibition will draw attention to their accomplishments and unique contributions.

New Bedford Whaling Museum, 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA 02740 | 508-997-0046