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05-17-2013 06:34 AM
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?

Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
With all due respect, except for a very brief period before Bill Shaw came on board, Pearson was not the most successful production boat builder of that era.

This also baffles me. One of Bill Shaw's greatest strengths was that he was able to produce designs in a wide range of venaculars.
My first point was merely that Bill Shaw was a preeminent and successful yacht designer in his time, just as Bob Perry, William Lapworth, Phil Rhodes, Bill Lee, Rod Johnstone, and a number of other are. I put the heyday of sailing later than you do, in the 70s, not the 60s.

My second point comes from more of an artistic and spiritual view than a technical design view. All of us have a calling and a purpose in life. If you look at his Bill Shaw's work, you can see an evolution of his design to a point where he realized his calling, his purpose in his field, the distinctive contributions he made.

To draw an analogy, in the art of writing, you can recognize a point where a particular author realizes his distinctive voice, his unique style that develops at a certain point after years of arduous technical work. From a spiritual view, that is where the author realizes his purpose, his calling in life. The same can be said of painters, musicians, and any other field where technique and art intersect. Commercial success does not necessarily coincide with, or diminish, the realization of that style.

Obviously, Bill Shaw favored certain design elements and those design elements were based on his view of how a sailboat should sail and function. Obviously, he was constrained by the science and technology of the time, the market, the business of selling boats, the need to run a company, and the desire to design to certain rules of the day.

I believe Bill Shaw realized his purpose with his design elements in the early 70s, what you refer to as his early IOR work. Several of his most successful designs came out in this period. If you were to pick a prototypical and enduring boat design, if would be the P30, followed by the P26 or the 10M. Bill Shaw realized his vision in the creation of a racer/coastal cruiser for a small family with those combination of elements.

You could say Bob Perry realized his purpose with the Valiant 40, or Rod Johnstone with the J/24, or Bill Lapworth with the Cal 40, or Bill Lee with Merlin or the Santa Cruz 27. Of course, all designers and artists further refine their style or work over the years, and one can argue that they created better work or greater success after that point, but there is a point where they make their most important contribution to their calling. You can also see where particular designers incorporate the work of others into their product. For example, can anyone deny that the Pearson Flyer shows an influence from Rod Johnstone's successful realization of his particular vision in the J/24?

I am not saying all Bill-Shaw-designed boats sail alike, but there is a distinctive feel to the realization of his design in sailboats, one that I favor. If you read the History of Pearson Yachts article in Good Old Boat, it is clear that Pearson succumbed to market forces in the '80s, first by attempting to meet the demand for condo boats, and then, by the recession. IMHO, Pearson Yachts peaked in the 70s, as did Bill Shaw.
05-16-2013 01:23 PM
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?

I'm not a naval architect , I sail a boat that Fred Flintstone may have once owned and love it, but the information and view points I have gleaned from this conversation have been wonderful. I've always had a weakness for the older CCA influenced desgns, yet I've learned a lot from Jeff's and Bob's observations too. I'll still likely trundle along at a slower pace, but the appreciation for other designs has been heightened by the respectful dialogue supported by the evidence. Thanks for keeping the bar high and sharing your knowledge.
05-16-2013 10:13 AM
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?

Originally Posted by jameswilson29 View Post
Say what you will, Pearson was the most successful production boat builder of that era, which was the heyday of sailing.
With all due respect, except for a very brief period before Bill Shaw came on board, Pearson was not the most successful production boat builder of that era. By the time that Bill Shaw joined Pearson (around 1965-66; I first met him about 8 months after he came on the job.) companies like Columbia, Coronado and Cal had much larger production numbers than Pearson making one of those companies "the most successful production builder of that era". By the late 1960's O'day would also pass Pearson's production numbers. By the 1970's companies like Catalina out stripped Pearson's production numbers many times over. By the early 1980's, both Catalina and Hunter, and perhaps even J-Boats, outstripped Pearson's overall and annual production numbers.

Originally Posted by jameswilson29 View Post
His designs are still special and have been imitated by many. Bill Shaw-designed-Pearsons sail in a particular manner that many of us still appreciate today.
This also baffles me. One of Bill Shaw's greatest strengths was that he was able to produce designs in a wide range of venaculars. When you think of his body of work, from the CCA era Pearson 24/Larks, and Pearson 35 and 39's to the early MORC Trina, Tartan 27, and Dolphin 24 or later MORC Flyer, to the early IOR Pearson 26, 30, and 10M, or later IOR Pearson 31,32, and 37, to the cruising focused 303, 323, 365 and 424, one of Bill Shaw's strengths was being able to design extremely different boats. Whatever thier individual merits, have sailed many of these boats, I would suggest that they sail so wildly differently that I have a hard time with a statement saying, "Bill Shaw-designed-Pearsons sail in a particular manner".

05-16-2013 07:10 AM
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?

Say what you will, Pearson was the most successful production boat builder of that era, which was the heyday of sailing, and Bill Shaw was its chief naval architect.

His designs are still special and have been imitated by many. Bill Shaw-designed-Pearsons sail in a particular manner that many of us still appreciate today.
05-15-2013 10:10 PM
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?

Your Dad did his job very well.

But,,,,at some point I, like your Dad, am going to be held up against the other designers of my time. My work will be judged. If I come out of that as well as your Dad has come out of it then I will be honored.

We are all judged. It is the human condition. ( Is that how you say it?"
05-15-2013 06:45 PM
Bill S
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?

Mr. Perry,

I am particularly fond of many of your designs. Too many to name, but the Tayana, Valiant, Passport, Saga come to mind. You created some fantastic boats.

TRINA was before I was hatched, or I may have been a seedling at the time. My father was very proud of that boat. In his home office, it is the only design of his that is framed (sail plan, buttocks curves, etc) that is hanging on the wall. TRINA was fully restored by an elderly gentleman and the boat was on display at the Mystic Seaport for a celebration in honor of Olin Stephens. One of the last pictures we have of my dad was him looking into the cockpit. I have since spoken with that man. The boat is in a sad state at a boat yard on Cape Cod.

I think the point I was trying to get across to Jeff was that for his time, the old man designed what the dealers were asking for in terms of affordable boats; boats that could be obtained by the "average Joe", who wanted to experience the sailing lifestyle. He loved his job, and I think to this day still has some loyal followers.
05-15-2013 05:00 PM
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?

We all love our boats. I think Jeff has the bar set pretty high considering what he sails himself and he has a good grasp of the elements of yacht design. In my opinion. I think Bill Shaw did some nice, conservative boats and some real classics but nothing truly outstanding. I kind of like the old Pearson 35 and I also like the look of the 39. But I would expect their performance to be raher outdated by today's standards. I'd say the same thing about some of my own designs. Time marches and we learn more and more about what makes a boat go. My own favorite Bill Shaw boat was the little MORC yawl TINA. I drooled over that design when I was a kid.
05-14-2013 07:17 PM
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?

Mr. Shaw, I did and do not intend to impugn your father's reputation. As some one who was trained by a designer at Sparkman and Stephens and who knew both Olin and your dad, I admired both and certainly admire their legacy. While your father was at S&S he designed some of my favorite boats of the 1960s and perhaps all time, the Tartan 27 and the Dolphin 24.

While we can debate the merits of their build quality; your dad's designs for the Pearson 26, 30 and 10M were amazingly advanced boats for their day and remain good boats to this day. The Flyer and the 1980's era Pearson 37 were also outstanding boats for their day.

But I still stand by my statement, the late 1960's and early 1970's was an era when designers were trying to to come to grips with a rapidly expanding understanding of their design options. While at that point fin keels, and spade and skeg hung rudders had existed for nearly a century, designers were figuring out how to use them and use them effectively. The shift in the rating rules resulted in a scramble from one extreme hull form to another. This resulted in some comparatively miserable boats to sail.

Structurally, fiberglass engineering and technology was evolving and companies like Pearson still had not yet begun effectively using internal framing, so these boats flexed more than later designs. Precision measuring techniques and the proper handling of reinforcing materials were still in their infancy so that resin rich laminate was the norm. The wide spread use of admixtures in resin resulted in a more brittle laminate as well documented in an insurance industry study of boats of that era.

While there were some lovely boats designed in this era, the Tartan 41 being one that I've always had a fondness for, by and large the boats of the late 1960's through 1970 era were not even close to stellar. Compared to what designers did shortly after this period (your dad included) and what designers are now able to do, boats of that era were truely mediocre designs.

And more specifically the Pearson 39 was an idiosyncratic design even for that idiosyncratic era. By 1970, most of the design world had given up on the yawl rig for good reasons. The backwards mounted atomic 4 was a PIA to maintain at a time when maintenance was required a lot more frequently than it is today. The wheel mounted between the offset companionway and the cockpit made it inconvenient to pass between one and the other.

With a PHRF rating typically in the 130's, these boats do not perform well compared to later coastal cruisers of their size. Heck, your dad's Pearson 37 design is 30 seconds a mile faster. The long overhangs and pinched ends robbed these boats of the speed that their comparatively modern foils should have allowed them.

When it comes to my comments about stability, are you going to try deny that in order to sail anywhere near thier potential, the 39's sail on their ear in even a moderate breeze?

While you may be cavalier about motion comfort, that still does not make me wrong to point out that relatively speaking these boats really had the kind of poor seakindliness that grind a crew down.

Which gets back to the heart of the matter, I can understand why you might want to defend your father's work, I would defend my father as well. But honestly, your dad was very capable of producing advanced designs, he understood what it took to make a forgiving boat like the Tartan 27's, or well rounded designs like the Pearson 26, 30, 10M, or even decent cruisers like the Pearson 323, but is particularly for that reason I respectfully suggest that it does not reflect well on him to try to hold this design out as one of his better designs. He could do much better and he usually did.

In the end, I am glad that you like your boat. That is a good thing. But these discussions are comparative. If you dispassionately compare the Pearson 39 to other boats of that era and of earlier and later eras, I think you would come to similar conclusions to my own.

05-14-2013 06:08 PM
Bill S
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?


The materials used during construction was what the norm was for the time period. We are talking about the 70's. Furthermore, the designer had little to do with the materials used or installation thereof. In the early seventies fiberglass boat building was still evolving.

I disagree with your comment that this was not one of his better designs. In defense of my late father, I find it rather insulting that you would fault the designer for what you declare is poor construction techniques. My father trained under Olin Stephens; who in my mind is to this day an unmatched yacht designer. My father took great pride in his work. Yes, he designed some duds. He would be the first to admit it. But having sailed on just about every boat my father ever penned, I dispute your comment - "an era which produced particularly mediocre sailing boats from a seaworthiness, stability, motion comfort, accommodations, build quality and performance standpoint".

To generalize that all boats built during that era were mediocre, lacked stability, seaworthiness, accommodations, etc is laughable. Compared to what? If that were true, why is it that many of those boats built during that era, regardless of the builder, are still sailing today and still make viable brokerage boats? If the build quality was lacking, then why are many of the boats of that generation still intact today? The accommodations found on boats of that vintage are no different than any other production builder of the time. Whether a Pearson or a Bristol, the layouts were similar. (V berth, head forward, main salon with opposing settees, and a quarter berth. Your point? Motion comfort? Take some Dramamine if you are not comfortable. How does the placement of the wheel conflict with your movement into and out of the cockpit; did you mean to say the companionway? Performance?!? Get a sport boat if you need performance. My old 39 performs just fine; brings home some silver from time to time, and still safely gets my family from one destination to another, regardless of the weather conditions.

Bill Shaw Jr.
05-14-2013 05:01 PM
Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?

Originally Posted by Bill S View Post

I just came across your comment about the Pearson 39. Even though this is an old post, you have no idea what you are talking about. The P39's were very well built and many of these old girls are still sailing today. You should really do some fact checking before you post such ridiculous comments.
I am glad that you like these boats. To me from the skip tabbed bulkheads, to the formica over non-marine plywood bulkheads (yes, I know that some had mahagony plywood bulkheads), to the clear plastic waste hoses, to the un-tinned stranded wire stapled to the bottom of bunk flats, to the whippy shafted link between the engine and the vee drive, to the miserable rolly, hobby-horsing motion, to the wheel placed up against the bridge deck making it very difficult to get into and out of the cockpit, to the dolphinite bedded toe rails that leaked as new boats and which I had the priviledge of removing and rebedding when I was replacing the clear plastic waste piping and the shorted wires with the staples through them, I stand by my opinion.

Bill Shaw designed quite a few nice boats in his day, but this was not one of his better designs.

So tell me, which of these facts would you like me to recheck.

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