Research – yacht design


Guide to Sources for Research into yacht design

Journals, periodicals, biographies and plans: to follow.

This guide intends to provide a list of reliable reference materials to introduce researchers to the history of yacht design.

Books: Part one, the designers as authors

These bibliographies, and accompanying notes, are based on the work and writings of various designers and are in roughly chronological order.

As the doyen of North American yachting history, W.P. Stephens, wrote in his Origins and early hstory, 1871-1896 (Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, 1963), "Prior to the importation in 1876 of Dixon Kemp's monumental work Yacht designing, at a monumental price in New York, there were no books on yachting except the little known work of Marett."

Philip R. Marett - the earliest author to take a mathematical approach

Dixon Kemp - a dominant authority in the last quarter of the nineteenth century

Continuing on into the twentieth century, the following dominant designers wrote of their own work:

L. Francis Herreshoff - a major authority in the United States.

Douglas Phillips-Birt - a major authority in the period following WWII.

C.A. 'Tony' Marchaj - scientific aero- and hyrodynamic reseach in the 1960s and '70s.

Lars Larsson and Rolf E. Eliasson - 1994: Principles of yacht design. This work extends basic design parameters to construction considerations covering engineering stress under dynamic conditions.

Steve Killin - 1998: Yacht design explained : a sailor's guide to the principles and practice of design.

To follow:

  1. Claude Worth?
  2. Norman Skene
  3. Westlawn School

Books: Part two, the designers as seen by others

  1. Capt. Nat Herreshoff, Burgess
  2. Watson, Fife
  3. Olin and Rod Stephens
  4. Uffa Fox


This is currently (March 2021) a work in progess, to rationalise, facilitate and expand our existing page at the Naval Marine Archive. Some pages are very recent, some date back twenty years and may or may not have been reviewed and/or edited recently; we appreciate any suggestions for improvements.