My inspiration, the pacific ocean

Text and photos by Bruno Cianci

After having presented his latest work namely a book entitled “All The Oceans”, Ron Holland, yacht designer, is enjoying what he calls semi retirement in Vancouver, to which he moved to six years ago with loads of pictures, drawings of yachts and hull models that brought him to international recognition as well as making him a highly respected self taught yacht designer the world over.

Born in Auckland city back in 1947, Ron Holland needs no introduction. His initial sailing experience began as an eight year old child in inshore races on centre boards from the Torbay Sailing Club with his brother. His first offshore race in open waters took him from Auckland to Sydney before he turned sixteen during which his family were understandably very concerned for several days, considering his considerable exposure to those often treacherous seas.

Winning the Quarter Ton Cup in UK with his first IOR project design s/y Eygthene, not only represented an important milestone but also triggered Ron Holland’s decision to become a yacht designer even if he had never been schooled in that specific field. However thanks to prior apprenticeship Ron learnt a great deal about boats and in 1974 set up a yacht design studio in Ireland. His choice of place was determined by the fact that most of his clients were involved in racing events held in Ireland where his yachts won the most. Soon several offshore racers were off the drawing board and winning competitions which gave the studio international renown. Some of the winning yachts were destined to compete in prestigious events and qualified for the Admiral’s Cup. Several of Ron Holland’s most famous racers, among which Golden Apple, Silver Shamrock and Imp stood out of the chorus line in the course of his Irish period.

Kialoa and Condor were the forerunners of Ron Holland’s design philosophy in 1980 which paved the way for firm orders involving larger cruiser racers. 1985 proved to be a crucial year for the design studio in more ways than one. Firstly maxi yacht Drum owned by Simon Le Bon lost her keel due to an error in the course of construction (for others it was due to poor project design work, but this was a different matter). Secondly Whirlwind XII, the first over 100 footer off Ron’s drawing board which then hit water the following year. From then on the studio initialled numerous projects of award winning motor sailers. Among the largest fifty cruiser sailing yachts built in the world, seventeen of the ones in commission to date are from Ron Holland’s design studio. Fifteen were built by Perini Navi, while Mirabella 5 built by Vosper Thornycroft, sports the longest mast ever built which is in carbon fibre and thanks to its 88.30 metres it can carry as many as 3,700 square metres of canvass equal to half the size of a football pitch.

Ron Holland’s design studio is also focused on designing Explorer type motor yachts which feature high standards more especially in terms of naval architecture, efficiency, and enviable long range ocean cruising capacities. RMK Marine, Delta Yachts and Cheoy Lee shipyards are some of the yards that have built or converted Explorer models on Holland’s project design work

We met up with Ron Holland at his Vancouver studio who commented as follows about the place of his choice which has now been home to him for the past six years, “ I wanted to get back to where I belong: the Pacific Ocean even if I’m currently living on the opposite side of it”.

Mr. Holland, why did you choose Vancouver?

There’s no special reason, but I was missing the place I was born in overlooking the pacific Ocean and so when I decided to slow down a little, I felt I needed a change of scenery and wanted to move somewhere closer to my daughters living in north America. What’s more Vancouver is a great spot for sailing which I do most weekends on Kia Aura my Coronado.

Your passions other than yacht design?

Well I’ve taken up reading again which gives me immense pleasure. A little while ago I never found time enough to do so but now that I’ve lots more of it I read books, mainly about the sea but not only. I’ve been reading military historical ones which in the main are made up of vintage fighter airplanes, bombers, recon aircraft and modern ones. That’s after completing the final draft for my book of memoirs “All the Oceans” which is currently presented all over the world.
What is it that got you started on much larger yachts after having delivered scores of project designs of much smaller units?
Well it’s all part of a gradual process which went hand in hand with changing trends and market demand for longer and longer yachts. Perini Navi is the shipyard I worked with most and is also the one I delivered projects of only large yachts to, namely Felicita West, back in 2003 which was the first of the over sixty metre range. Now fifteen years later I’ve delivered over twenty five yacht projects to Perini ranging from an entry level of 45 metres up to 64. As you probably already know I have come up with even larger yacht designs for several other yards.

How much of your time do you dedicate to design work nowadays?

I know longer work with my former rhythms, nor do I follow up on construction work as I used to do personally, but I am in the office here in Vancouver day after day. Specially when it’s Yacht Show time, and more so in the course of other important events which are dear to me and are important to my clients, I am always there. This year I sailed on three yachts during the 2018 Perini Cup event: Sea Hawk, Blush and Felicita West, which is now Spirit of the C’s.

Which do you consider as being your most complex project?

Surely Mirabella 5, for her ultra huge rig, elaborate build in composites, her hefty 50 ton lifting keel and related mechanism and for several other technical details.

Have you incurred in any mistakes in the course of project design work?

During the initial years yes, but we always managed to put things right with full client satisfaction. Some of the owners have in fact returned more than once which is both significant and gratifying.

Is there a yacht around which you would have liked to design?

Yes, a J Class yacht. Always loved them and when Elizabeth Meyer recovered Endeavour and re-launched the class I was involved in other projects. One fine day I had the chance to watch six J Class compete and what a spectacular sight they were.

Can you tell us something about your next project? What have you currently got on the drawing board?

Well I can’t tell you much but I am doing some preliminary work for a 70 metre sailing yacht which will be rigged with two masts for Greenpeace. The request is for a schooner rigged yacht which needs to be easy to handle and with a lifting keel so as to be able to cruise relatively shallow waters featuring good performance under sail and the capacity to sail extensively over long hauls in the Pacific Ocean.

Taking a brief look down memory lane have you any regrets?

No, none whatsoever. I’m leading a wonderful life, I drew up White Rabbit my first boat a mere 27 footer when I was nineteen, I am still doing what I enjoy and aside from designing I am still sailing which I’ve been doing for more than sixty years. Ultimately I consider myself a very lucky man who’s been fortunate enough to remain in the world he likes best, the sea.

All the Oceans.

Designing by the Seat of My Pants
Author: Ron Holland
Preface: Rupert Murdoch
Language: english
Binding, typology 200 colour pictures and b/n.
Sizes: 216 x 228 mm
Pages: 380
Price: 45 US dollars (39 euro)
Code: 978-1-77509-680-1
Here’s a book that went missing for so long. Ron Holland, one of the world’s most winning project designers has finally made time and found the energy to tell us about himself. The book is written all in first person and was published in Spring 2018, it contains loads of anecdotes, memories, pictures and sketches which witness and back up the love he has for the sea and for his boats. However it must be said that prior to becoming a designer Ron Holland has been a yachtsman, and a proven hardy racer to the extent that in 2017 aged 70 he represented the Royal New Zealand Yacht Club Squadron during the 6 metre Class World Championship held in Vancouver his adoptive city. If the scores of boats he initialled are famous, not as much can be said of the numerous souvenirs and stored data he disclosed thanks to which it was possible to reconnect the more important phases of his professional and yachtsman’s life. Many of the sketches, drawings, letters, commemorative plaques and more are inside the book. Naturally his boats are there as well from his smallest White rabbit to his current mega motor sailors.
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