The yachting community is saddened to learn of the loss of two leading lights in the world of superyacht design.
Ed Dubois, one of the most prolific and successful designers of super sailing yachts, passed away on March 25 aged 64.
Dutchman Pieter Beeldsnijder, who began his career almost 60 years ago, died on March 21 at the age of 78.
Ed Dubois at the 2015 Monaco Yacht Show. Image courtesy of Justin Ratcliffe.
Ed’s legacy as a designer of racing boats and super sailing yachts is well documented, but few know that he started out as a journalist for Yachts & Yachting. The last time I saw him was during the 2015 Monaco Yacht Show, when he recounted the story of his very first yacht project—“or at least the first one I was paid for”—after graduating from Southampton College of Technology (now Southampton Solent University) in 1974. The boat in question was a 34-foot, three-quarter tonner called Borsellino Trois, which won the 1976 Three-Quarter Ton Cup and numerous other regattas she entered. Ed was paid £1,000.
The rest, as they say, is history. As principal of Dubois Naval Architects, his mission was to combine seaworthiness and excellent performance with imaginative space planning and beautifully proportioned lines. Ed was not only a hugely experienced and talented designer, he was also a charming and erudite man with an almost photographic memory for dates and names. I thoroughly enjoyed our occasional conversations, and I like to think he did too.
“Ultimately, the key to any business is the driving force and the ability of the person who founded it, but you do need a good team behind you,” said Dubois in an interview for SuperyachtDesign in 2012. “If I landed under the proverbial Clapham omnibus tomorrow, these guys could continue—it certainly wouldn’t stop without me.”
Indeed, Dubois Naval Architects will continue under senior designer Peter Bolke, who has been with the group for 23 years and becomes managing director with immediate effect. Ed’s infectious smile and joie di vivre, however, will be sorely missed by all.
Pieter Beeldsnijder during the construction of Athena in 2003. Image courtesy of Justin Ratcliffe.
Pieter Beeldsnijder began his career in 1957 with G. De Vries Lentsch, Jr. working on De Groene Draeck, a traditional flat-bottomed sailing vessel, or 'lemsteraak' that was a gift from the Dutch people to Princess Beatrix on her 18th birthday (the 15m boat is still owned by the royal family today). In later life, his collaborations with Royal Huisman, in particular, resulted in award-winning sailing yacht projects such as Juliet, Hanuman, Ethereal, Athena, Hyperion and Gliss. He also designed motoryachts, including 61m Mylin IV, the first Feadship with a bulbous bow.
I first met the Dutch designer in 2003 at Royal Huisman when the remarkable 90m three-masted schooner, Athena was still in build. Pieter was responsible for both the interior and exterior design and was instrumental in conceptualising Athena with her owner, Netscape co-founder Jim Clark. The two men hit it off from the start: Pieter admired Clark’s intellect, vision and energy, while Clark appreciated Pieter’s creative talent and “impish sense of humour”.
The designer believed that in order to create a truly bespoke yacht, it was essential to get to know his clients to understand their needs and desires: “Clients with grand ideas don't just buy a standard yacht off the shelf; each yacht is the realisation of a dream, and I want to achieve it exactly for them."
In typical Dutch fashion, Pieter was a straight-talking but modest man who believed beautiful aesthetics derived from function, quality and efficiency, not fussy styling. He was right, of course, and some 2,500 of his yacht designs—including the interior of the J-Class Svea, approaching completion at Vitters—are proof that his 'less is more' philosophy of design never goes out of fashion.