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Sailing has many enthusiasms within it, ranging from the wild, dangerous and strange to the charming and sensible. One of the latter groups is the group I call the Harrison Butlerians, a collection of people who care for the remaining yachts built from the designs of Thomas Harrison Butler.
Harrison Butler, as he’s always called, was an ophthalmologist by day and a designer of very distinctive yachts by night. They’re distinctive because he had some firm views about what made a wholesome yacht. Famously, he was an adherent of Admiral Alfred Turner’s metacentric shelf theory intended to create yachts that would steer predictably and lightly at any angle of heel, but he also thought, for example, that in small and medium-sized cruising vessels, make the least freeboard about a tenth of the LWL, and that the beam of a round-bottomed cruising boat should be found from the formula square root beam=cube root LWL.
Again, he believed sail area should be estimated using a formula derived also from Admiral Turner that goes like this:
(Ballast in tons x distance in feet from the centre of gravity to the metacentre)/
(Sail area in sq ft x height of centre of effort in feet above the metacentre) = R
# where R is some value in the range 16/10,000 to 24/10,000.
My first edition copy of his classic book Cruising Yachts: Design and Performance was first published in 1945 and opens with a grand quotation from Thucydides: ‘Seamanship, like any other form of skill, is an art and cannot be pursued at odd times as a secondary occupation; on the contrary, no other work may be subordinated to it.’
It seems an odd quotation to choose, given that the author was necessarily a part-time yacht designer who had presumably just spent a busy war caring for the eyes of injured soldiers, but it seems somehow in keeping with a personality that was hard-working and thorough where detail was concerned – it seems that these qualities of an effective ophthalmologist contributed also to some sweet and widely admired yachts.
The images above show the cover of my copy of Cruising Yachts, a profile of Sprite-of-Arden (a boat we’d like to find in our Christmas stocking at the end of this year), and a sailplan of Harrison Butler’s own Vindilis.
Sadly, there seems to be little of much interest about Harrison Butler and his yachts to be found around the World Wide Web.
The Wikipedia has this .
The Harrison Butler Association is here, though sadly isn’t terribly informative.
Possibly the best set of photos of one of HB’s yachts is this collection this set of a boat that was sold some time ago.
Here’s anotherfor a boat that has been sold.
And still another .
And A & R Way have some photos dating from some work they did onherself.
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