Innovation in Small Craft Design - A Tribute
Few sectors of the maritime industry have seen greater innovation in design than the small craft sector. Both commercial and recreational small craft have benefited from the inspirational ideas of designers - ideas which although perhaps considered revolutionary at the time, have had a longstanding impact on the design of small craft today.
As a tribute to those designers who have had such an impact on the small craft sector, the Small Craft Committee have commissioned a number of pen portraits of some of these designers. Some will be well known, others perhaps less so, but they have in common a significant contribution to the development of small craft design. That the Small Craft Committee has chosen to pay tribute to designers of the past is not to decry the achievements of today's designers, but to save them embarrassment. Nor indeed is the choice intended to value their contribution above that of designers. Rather, the choice has been based on the wish to illustrate the breadth of development in the design of small craft, and on the personal admiration of one or more members of the Committee. No doubt there are many others for whom such a tribute to their contribution would be equally deserved.
Carl-Gustav Pettersson (1876 - 1953)
Not many naval architects have made their name synonymous with a particular type of boat, but Carl-Gustav Pettersson is one of that select group. The name 'Pettersson boat' conjurs up a picture of a varnished mahogany motor boat with a distinctive raised foredeck. In the course of a long career C G Pettersson, or 'CG' as he was usually known, did design many boats of this type, but his design talents spread much wider.
Richard A Oakley (1906 - 1988)
The modern rescue lifeboat is a highly sophisticated and seaworthy vessel capable of operating safely in the most extreme sea conditions. Despite this sophistication, even the best craft can succumb to a rogue wave and capsize still remains one of the greatest fears for any lifeboat crew. The ability to self-right unaided following capsize or knock down is therefore now an essential component of lifeboat design, something that can be traced back to the work of one man, RNLI Naval Architect Richard Oakley.
William Albert Hickman (1877 - 1957)
Albert Hickman was the inventor of the inverted vee planing hull known as the Sea Sled, but much of Hickman's life went unreported. It is believed he was born in Dorchester, New Brunswick, Canada in 1877, but he grew up in Pictou, Nova Scotia, as part of a wealthy shipbuilding family. He gained a degree in engineering from Harvard University in 1899, subsequently becoming a Commissioner of New Brunswick, a lecturer for the Government and a Fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute. He was, also, a successful novelist. He was highly intelligent but, openly, did not suffer fools gladly and was forever irritating his contemporaries in the marine business. This probably contributed to the low coverage of his ideas in the boating press.
There is no doubting, however, that Hickman was a true original thinker and innovator. Along with the Sea Sled, a direct forefather of the modern high speed catamaran, or tunnel hull, he is credited with producing the first surface propellers, working out that they produced lift and, apparently, patenting ideas for lifting strakes, sponsons, anti-trip chines and prop-riding craft. These are all well known and widely used principles today.
Charles E Nicholson (1868 - 1954)
The son of Benjamin Nicholson, who had joined William Camper in the Gosport yard in 1842, Charles E Nicholson, usually referred to as 'CE,' not only inherited a family business but had a uniquely gifted eye for a yacht and a driving quest for pioneering improvements.