I sailed my first Bermuda Race with Alan Gurney aboard George Moffett’s ” Guinevere”, and the 1968 transatlantic race, as well as other races. We corresponded some in the intervening years, not recently however. I am left with that feeling of one more thing I might had said or asked.
I did hear from the individual who recently purchased “Guinevere” and is in the process of restoring her. The photos he sent she looked rather sad.
EIGHT BELLS ~ ALAN P. GURNEY
By Ted Jones
Alan Gurney designed boats the old fashioned way with drafting pencil on
velum, using splines and ducks (weights), a planimeter, and a seaman’s eye.
He thought like the water through which he had sailed, in England,
transatlantic, the USA, both polar regions and much of what lay in between.
As a young lad, he would make boats out of toilet tissue (which at that
time had characteristics of waxed paper) and float them in his bath. He
spurned a career in the army to pursue a career as a yacht designer, and
ultimately moved on to an early passion, Antarctic exploration. He had
amassed an impressive collection of hundreds of photographs of every known
Antarctic penguin species.
I had the great good fortune — a privilege — to be his friend, and to
have had lunch with him frequently as he was in the process of drawing the
myriad details of what was to become “Windward Passage”, the world famous
dream boat of lumber tycoon, Robert F. Johnson. During each lunch-time
visit, I would meet Alan in his basement studio on New York’s East 54th
Street, and he would show me the most recent drawings.
Johnson had selected Gurney for the new design having been impressed by the
performance of George Moffett’s “Guinevere”, a 48 foot Jacobsen-built
aluminum yawl which had won the SORC in 1966, the second of two ocean
racers Alan had designed for Moffett. The first was a wood-built boat, the
Nantucket 38, aboard which I had the sailed in the 1964 Bermuda Race.
Later, I transferred to Humphrey Simson for whom Alan had designed a yawl
similar to “Guinevere”, the 47 foot Derecktor built “Kittiwake”, aboard
which I sailed in the 1966 SORC, Bermuda, and Transatlantic races.
“Kittiwake” did well in her class in the SORC series, overshadowed only by
Ted Turner’s legendary Cal-40, “Vamp X” which won everything in her class
that year including the Transatlantic race from Bermuda to Copenhagen.
I had met Alan Gurney in 1960 following that year’s Bermuda Race. I was a
yacht broker in the office of Tripp & Campbell in New York City when
Englishman Gurney was brought around by G. Colin Ratsey (of the English
sailmaking firm) to meet yacht designer Bill Tripp. Still only 24, Alan had
won a prestigious competition for a modern “club racer” sponsored by the
British magazine, “Yachting World” which brought him to the attention of
Chesapeake Bay yachtsman Jack Lacy for whom Alan had designed a 35 foot
sloop. While nothing came immediately of the meeting with Tripp, both
partners at Tripp & Campbell had been impressed, and when Tripp’s design
assistant resigned a short time later. The firm offered the job to Gurney
who flew back to New York to accept it. — Read on: