Philip R. Marett (1820? – 23 April 1857)

Philip R. Marett, born circa 1820 in Southampton and lived at West Quay, had been involved in yacht racing in the Solent well before 1851, when he may well have witnessed the yacht America win the Royal Yacht Squadron's £100 Cup. However speculative this assumption may prove, he was certainly the first to write about the design and naval architecural aspects of yachting in the 1850s and used the plans of the America, amongst many others, to analyze yacht dimensions and performance in a mathematical manner. He was probably the first to introduce a mathematical approach to "coefficients" in the mid 1850s, which, with due allowance for obvious lack of hydrodynamic research (most of Froude's useful work started later) was to some extent visionary.



Marett's three volumes on yachtbuilding.

We hold all three editions of P.R. Marett's Yachts and yacht building : being a treatise on the construction of yachts and other matters relating to yachting.

  • The true first edition was published in London, by Hunt, New Church Street, Edgeware Road, in 1856.
Marett writes in his preface: "A great portion of the following work was published about six months ago in "Bell's Life," in a series of papers which was very incomplete without the tables of calculations, drawings, &c. I have therefore at the request of many yachtsmen and friends produced them in the current form."

Philip Marett died the year after this publication; see obituary below.
  • A second impression, not stating that it was a slightly modified reprint from the original printer's plates, and therefore perhaps implying that it was the first edition, was published in London by E. and F.N. Spon, 16, Bucklersbury, in 1865.
  • A stated "Second Edition" (which dropped the word "other" from the subtitle) was published in London by E. and F.N. Spon, 48, Charing Cross; and New York, 446 Broome Street in 1872. No mention is made of, nor credit given to, whomever the author of the additional drawings and text may have been.

Differences between the various editions

All three editions included plans of:

Pl 1: Schooner yacht 165 tons (in the 1856 edition, paginated before the text)
Pl 2: America
Pl 3: Titania, Scooner yacht, 100 tons
Pl 4: Mary Taylor
Pl 5: Mosquito
Pl 6: Cygnet, cutter, 35 tons
Pl 7: Thought, cutter, 25 tons
Pl 8: Vesper, cutter, 15 tons

The 1856 and 1865 imprints included plans of:

Pl 9: Little Mosquito, cutter, 8 tons
Pl 10: [sail plan], (assumed America)

The final 1872 edition included plans of:

Pl 9: Little Mosquito, cutter, 8 tons, renamed as L'Hirondelle, of 10 26/35 [sic] tons
Pl 10: Flying Cloud, Schooner yacht 75 tons built for Count Batthyany by Inman
Pl 11: [sail plan], (assumed America)
Pl 12: Cassandra, Drontheim yawl (no dimensions given, attributed in text to Lord Robert Montagu)

All three editions contain a fold-out table of twenty-eight mathematical dimensions and formulae calculated for thirty-eight yachts; the formatting varies very slightly, the content is identical. In the 1856 edition, it is paginated between the Introduction and The Treatise; both the 1865 and 1872 editions have it facing the title page.

The 1856 and 1865 editions both contain an identical, single page, 'Preface' (1856 signed "P.R. Marett, West Quay Southanmpton, June 5th, 1856"; 1865 simply signed "P.R.M." and undated.) The 1856 and 1872 editions have an 'Introduction', paginated very slightly differently but apparently identical text, missing from the 1865 edition. The 1872 edition has an added section 'Model yacht building' at pages 89-93, corresponding to the newly added Plate 12.

We have reached the conclusion, without absolute proof, that Dixon Kemp (1839-1899), for nearly thirty years yachting editor of The Field, took up the work started by Marett, updating the lines of L'Hirodelle, and publishing the lines and a discussion of Flying Cloud and Cassandra with credit to Marett. Kemp's work took fuller form in 1876 with the large quarto volume Yacht Designing, and two years later a smaller but no less valuable work, A manual of Yacht and Boat Sailing.

[Note] Bell's Life, who had already published work by Marett, implies in the following obituary ("death in 1857" at "age 37") that he was was born circa 1820. A note from a somewhat distant relative suggests that he was probably born, and certainly lived, at West Quay, Southampton; and that his full name was Philip Rouse Marett. There are also recorded variations of his name, e.g. 'Mr. P. Merrett of Southampton' recorded in the The Memorials of the Royal Yacht Squadron (Montague Guest et al; John Mrray, London, 1902; at p. 273) concerning handicapping by sail area.

Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle [Town Edition]

03 May 1857

DEATH OF PHILIP R. MARETT, ESQ. We have this week the painful duty to perform of announcing the death of P. R. Marett, Esq, a gentleman to whom our readers are indebted for numerous most excellent contributions on yachts and yachting matters, which from time to time have appeared in the columns of Bell's Life. Endowed with abilities of no ordinary nature, and having received an education befitting his position and rank in society, his love for what eventually became his favourite pursuit and amusement was very early in life developed, aud having by hard labour both in the yard and in the mould loft of one of the most eminent shipbuilders on the banks of the Thames laid the foundation for his subsequent acquirements, he by study and actual practice afloat succeeded in becoming one of the best amateur yachtsmen in this or any other country. It was furious in the palmy days of the Heroine, Cygnet, Mosquito, &c, to observe how easy it was to ascertain by noticing in a match how the yachts were handled whether or not Mr Marett was aboard one of them, and many a cup has he won for the former owners of those and other vessels by whom he was valued, and not beyond his merits, as a staunch friend and a pleasant companion, whether on or off the water. Shortly before his death, which took place on the 23d of last month, he published a work, entitled Yachts and Yacht Building, having for its foundation a series of articles which he had previously penned for this paper. When it appeared it was pronounced by able critics to be one of the best, if not the best, book extant upon the subject, and, although for some time past he had himself been fully aware that he held his life on a very precarious tenure, he was almost up to the last moment engaged in experiments having for their object the development of the peculiar views which he had advocated in that treatise. So much for what may be termed the public character of a man whose career was ended at the early age of 37. In private life aud with his private acquaintances he had a manner peculiarly his own, genial, healthy, and spirit-inspiring, reflecting as it were the image of his kindly and excellent disposition. No one who knew him could long be in his society without feeling that he was better for the life-giving intercourse with a joyous and light-hearted companion. His friends aud relatives have sustained a loss hard to bear, and still more difficult to supply, and many a rough pilot and weather-beaten sailor of his native place (Southampton) has 'ere now dropped a bitter tear of regret on the grave of one who, in the hour of need, was ever at hand with prompt and willing aid.



Back to the Yacht Design main page.

This is currently (March 2021) a work in progess, to rationalise, facilitate and expand our exiting page at


Naval Marine ArchiveThe Canadian Collection
205 Main Street, Picton, Ontario, K0K2T0, Canada
Telephone: 1 613 476 1177
E-mail: for comments, queries and suggestions.

Copyright © 2023
Naval Marine Archive
The Canadian Collection

Revised: 30 March 2021.