Alan Gurney RIP

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Paul B, Aug 29, 2012.

  1. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    The latest Scuttlebutt Newsletter has reported the passing of Alan Gurney (

    Gurney should be remembered as a great designer who penned Windward Passage. He was tasked to design a suitable replacement for the equally famous Herreshoff design Ticonderoga, and produced one of the greatest designs of the past 50 years.

    She is still in immaculate restored condition, sitting in a slip less than 5 miles from my home, and remains a monument to Gurney's vision and skill.

    I don't have a lot of sailing-related "stuff" displayed in my home. I do have a beautiful 1:24 half model of Passage. It is easily my favorite design of all time. I even had the privelige of doing some drawings for her 1986 refit.

    Gurney did many other designs. But if he had never drawn another line before or after Passage he should still be considered one of the greats.

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  2. Gary Baigent
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    Gary Baigent Senior Member

    I remember (only from magazine images) Alan Gurney's Windward Passage as being a beautiful design that seemed years ahead of the yachts of the time; hence the records she held; big long dinghy, semi-planing hull, broad stern (compared to the rest); no one else in large yachts, (save for Spencer's small by comparison Infidel - which was later??) was doing that in those days.
  3. gggGuest
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    gggGuest ...

    I think you'll find Infidel/Ragtime was a couple of years before Windward Passage.
  4. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    Passage was definitely a departure from the norm of her time. It was a courageous attempt by Gurney and the Johnsons.

    Despite having a bit of deadrise, her shape was pretty modern. The hull was very fair and balanced, with a shape that was nicely semi-circular through the heeled waterlines. She had a beautiful run aft to a nice, wide transom. Her fin keel was really separate from the canoe body.

    Of all the boats I have seen sitting in cradles Passage has the most "organic" feel. The fair lines, the sweep of the forefoot, the all looks very natural.

    As a pre-IOR design it was quite amazing how long she remained competitive under that rule. After a refit with new keel, rudder, and a sloop rig by Doug Peterson (with approval by Gurney) she was fast enough to force the owners of Kialoa and Ondine to modify thier boats and eventually build new ones. Even then Passage beat them all in the 1982 SORC, winning the Maxi class. In 1983 she finished 2nd in class to the Holland Kialoa, the first of the "modern" IOR maxis. You have to remember she was about 10% shorter than the other Maxis, yet raced boat-for-boat on rating.

    Although she was a bit lighter than her Maxi comtemporaries of the '70s she was still a big boat. She would have had a displacement of about 4 Infidels. This was no stripped out, plastic boat with tubular space frame and pipe cots. It was a pre-WEST wooden boat with a dual purpose interior.

    Infidel did predate Passage by 2 years as ggguest notes. I never really thought of Infidel (Ragtime) as a "wide sterned" boat. The stern is actually quite narrow (especially with the transom extension added). But I suppose compared to her overall beam she does have a wide stern.

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  5. Roger Six
    Joined: Aug 2012
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    Roger Six Surge Protector

    Can you further describe what you mean by, "Passage has the most "organic" feel. The fair lines, the sweep of the forefoot, the all looks very natural." ?
  6. Tad
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    Tad Boat Designer

  7. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    Very interesting. Where was that published?

    I have a similar body plan for Passage. I wasn't going to post it, but now I will.

    The I14 you show appears to be a Kirby IV.

    I just took a look and Passage in Sloop configuration had a DSPL of 80,300#. That's no lightweight.

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  8. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    Many boat designs don't look like anything that you would find alive. The old wineglass shapes that preceeded Passage don't look natural to me. Many modern shapes look quite mechanical. Even something like Infidel/Ragtime is not a shape you would find in nature.

    When I look at the underbody of Passage I have the feeling it could be something found in nature. No flats, nice complex curves, with a volume distribution that looks right. It seems to me you could cut the hull at the waterline, remove the foils, paint it black, and float it inverted in the ocean. If anyone saw it they could believe it was an aquatic mammal or large fish at the surface.

    The sweep of the forefoot reminds me of things like Bluefin Tuna or Orcas. It appears to have the radius tighten toward the bow, which my eye finds very pleasing. I don't think it is as fast as a U-shaped bow, but it sure looks nice.

    Boats don't just sail forward. They pitch, yaw, and heave. When I look at the Passage model I see a surface that will cause very little fuss during these motions.

    With modern tools and knowledge it would be easy to design an improved version of Passage. But for Gurney to do it in the late 1960s, while looking at the competition of the day, well I would call that something special.
  9. Tad
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    Tad Boat Designer

    It was published (with Alan's blessing) in One Design and Offshore Yachtsman, of which Bruce Kirby was editor. And that I14 is indeed a Kirby Mark IV.
  10. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    One Design and Offshore Yachtsman became Yacht Racing Magazine, which became Yacht Racing/Cruising, which became Sailing World.
  11. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    It appears there is a sailplan for Passage (Ketch) on the page behind the linesplans. Can you scan that and post as well? Actually, is it possible to scan the whole article?
  12. Tad
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    Tad Boat Designer

  13. Tad
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Location: Flattop Islands

    Tad Boat Designer

    And the second bit.......apparently I don't have the end of the text...sorry.



    Last edited: Aug 30, 2012

  14. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

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