The memoirs of yacht designer Ron Holland
Just say yes! An equally simple as, perhaps, ingenious, life motto. Trust in yourself and your intuition and abilities, say “yes” when new opportunities arise and see how things develop. It’s not just that he has lived and still does, intuitively and out of his gut, so he probably designed his many famous and successful yachts. This is the book, a big colorful book about a big, colorful life. The really unusual life of Ron Holland: sailor, traveler, yacht designer.
Born (1947) and raised in New Zealand, where his brother and he began sailing as little boys: his father gave him a small sailing dinghy for his 7th birthday. Already at 15 he was a regular crew member on New Zealand racing yachts, soon after he started a boat builder apprenticeship. His instructors, however, recognized his design talent and promoted this side in him. At 18 and with no formal education that he does not have until now, he was able to design his first boat. Around this time, he sailed on a small racing yacht across the Pacific to Hawaii, the crew was next to him and his friend and later competitor, Doug Peterson. Finally, Ron was able to start a job as a trainee at the American yacht designer Gary Mull in San Francisco.
His breakthrough as a designer came after he won the IOR Quarter- Tone Trophy in Europe in 1973 with a small self-designed and built boat called Eygthene . As a result, he was commissioned by the Irish sailor and entrepreneur Hugh Coveney to design an IOR monotone. Ron and his first wife, who were aboard their tiny regatta boat in England at the time, moved to Ireland – where Ron Holland would live for 40 years. Not yet 30, Ron Holland celebrated huge successes with his regatta yachts in the 1970s and quickly set up a large design bureau with a number of employees in Ireland. Many famous yachts have been designed there, including Golden Apple , Silver Shamrock(which, with Ron aboard, in the Fastnet race of 1979, like many other yachts lost the helm in the hurricane and had to be abandoned by the crew) and, above all, Imp .
Long-haired, in cowboy boots and pockets full of cash, Ron Holland and his co-designer, Butch Dalrymple-Smith, jockeyed around in those years of world history to visit clients, sail regattas or build one of the many yachts they created to inspect; in New Zealand as well as in England or America. In their design studio, the hobby musicians were often inspired by loud rock music at work and when it became too tedious and time-consuming to fly in line machines, they just bought their own plane and hired a pilot. With the recession in the 1990s, however, the business crash came and Ron, who had never paid much attention to the money, but had always spent it with his full hands, even had to file for bankruptcy for his company.
Soon, however, it went up again, it was now the beginning of the megayacht era. Ron Holland was also at the front here and almost as one of the pioneers; In 1986 he designed a sailing yacht of more than 100 feet in length and in the early 2000s, with the spectacular Mirabella V , and the largest sloop in the world – 76 meters long – until today.
This book is also so pleasurable to read because it is very personal and sometimes funny and because it does not gloss over anything. Relatively open, Ron Holland also writes here about his rather lax management and the resulting bankruptcy, as well as about the failure of two marriages, which has obviously put a great strain on him. Funnier are the numerous sailing anecdotes from his also in this respect plump life. Anyone who has experienced the times of the IOR formula and the beginnings of the maxi yachts, will recognize many things here, or maybe even get late insights.
After all, his life reflects the history of the yacht from the 1970s until today. As one of the key designers, Ron Holland has influenced the development of sailboats at this time, such as at most his friend and rival Doug Peterson, or somewhat later, his countryman Bruce Farr. Above all, it was Ron Holland and Doug Peterson who in the 1970s adopted the design scepter of the recognized greats, above all Olin Stephens.
Ron Holland has sailed almost everything, much of it designed himself, for famous people with whom he became a friend – Ted Heath, Rupert Murdoch, Prince Rainer of Monaco, Simon Le Bon, many others. A moving life in every way. Born and raised in New Zealand, he first lived in the US, then in Ireland for 40 years and now, for several years, in Vancouver. He has four daughters from two marriages and several grandchildren. He is still active as a designer and as a sailor (now for the pleasure, as he assures). Although he himself never attended a university, he was recently invited by the University of Auckland to help shape the new degree program “Master of Engineering Studies in Yacht Engineering” and also to give lectures there.
After all, even without a university degree or training, the yacht designer and sailor Ron Holland really has a lot of knowledge to pass on after 40 turbulent and mostly successful years. And, as can be seen from this book worth reading, there is a lot to tell!
Review of All The Oceans published in Magazine GOOSE, by Detlef Jens
Published by Robbe & Berking
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