(I will make this shorter with a link soon)
Some Thoughts on Meeting Dick Newick
I will be in Louisville this early October to attend IBEX. I understand that Dick Newick will be there. I have never met him nor even seen him. I
have never before been to any event he attended. I do believe that he has had the most significant career in all of multihull design. How many of us can say that we were both genuinely creative and left an indelible mark? He did both. He changed what it a trimaran was like nobody else ever has, since the western beginning with Piver.
His sculptural design style was not only unique, but nothing like it ever existed before. That is profound. Many designs of things draw from previous work, even from work in other fields. He seems to have drawn only from his own imagination.
I recall a fascinating Sail Magazine article (May 1977) written by Jim Brown where he describes the Newick designs. He writes that he is “amazed by the sheer anatomical inventiveness of the boats. They seem to be the product of eons. Like throwbacks which ran the gamut of natural selection long ago, they have emerged now from Dick Newick’s mind absolutely immutable. The expressions on their faces are a bit cold, almost reptilian, yet smug. They stare at you and say, ‘I am purely operative…I am fast’” They are indeed not friendly designs; they are purposeful. They have an organic elegance that 40 years later reminds me of the brilliant land based designer Calatrava. A kind of graceful bio-mimicry from before it was invented. They seem to have been designed for advanced composites and 3D modeled NURBS, which would not show up until years later.
And again, completely original. I have to emphasize that. So far, neither I nor any other multihull designer that I can think of can point to any truly original work. I can synthesize and integrate design aspects, combined with rigorous engineering, as well as anyone. But I cannot claim profound and original work, like Newick can.
I saw some film footage of the multihulls at the start of the 1976 OSTAR.
Newick’s boats look two generations ahead of anyone else’s. They look fast, purposeful and elegant like none other. I am also struck by how poor the sail handling equipment is on all the multis. And in what looks like only 10 knots of wind, the Newick amas have no more buoyancy. These kinds of things are what got me into the biz. And how I have had a rocky past with Dick Newick.
I started multihull racing on Smoholla the Shaman, my 31’ trimaran, in 1979. In appearance it was heavily influenced by Newick. (though Three Cheers top beam profile was a single arc. I decided that a yoke shape with recurve was much more interesting) Racing is one way to sort out what really works in sailing vessel.
Several interesting things happened that year and the year after. First, I graduated from architecture school that year. That training was very valuable, more valuable than I knew at the time.
Next, the famous Searunner 37’ Trans-Pac winning trimaran Bacchanal moved here. We finally had a famous racing tri to look up to. And a couple of Newick designs also arrived in the Northwest.
Bacchanal turned out to be the slowest multi here. That win was on corrected time. None of us had fully understood what that really meant before. That experience caused me to be skeptical of the famous from elsewhere, until they proved themselves.
At the same time I became familiar with good sail handling equipment; braided line, adequate halyards, proper winches, running backstays and a hull strong enough to allow a tight forestay. Like in the OSTAR video, these performance basics were virtually non-existent in the local multis. How was it that the world famous multi designers didn’t even seem to gasp the idea of a tight forestay as a requirement for going to windward? In that video, Derek has a phenolic winch on what looks like an all rope halyard! A tight forestay is not even a concept to these people. None of the boats have the jib hanked to a luff groove.
Next, it turned out that the Newick designs here in the Northwest could not beat the local monohull racing boats. And they could never ever beat an off the shelf Olsen 30 monohull. How could these famous Newick designs not even beat much of the local sailing fleet? And no Newick boat ever beat my 31’ liveaboard trimaran in a race.
This reminds me of the SIB debacle. The Newick SIB trimaran was brought in to the Hogshead Race, with a famous ocean racing sailor at the helm to take us all to school. If he wasn’t last to finish, he was close. I was very skeptical by then of the famous from elsewhere. I became some kind of crusader for design excellence. I had no patience for sloppy design work. And racing was proof testing as I saw it.
I have a theory that some of it is the local sailing conditions. Here in the Northwest, sailing is almost always either straight upwind or straight downwind. Rarely do we get to reach. And the winds are usually light. Maybe on the other coast they could reach in trade winds all day long. They could then reach impressive speeds with very poor equipment and lazy sail handling design. They were never forced to improve.
I also quickly learned that if you push a trimaran hard upwind, pretty soon the whole boat is riding on one ama. And many times after a mark rounding, a couple of crew might be on the lee net trying to pack a heavy, wet spinnaker. The amas have to be large enough to do the job safely. Look on the OSTAR video. Those amas on that beautiful Newick tri are almost under water in a light breeze. They have no reserve. I consider that a design defect of the highest order.
In the early 80’s a fellow began production of a 23’ Newick design trimaran called Tremolino. It was to resemble the amazing Newick designed OSTAR racing tri Third Turtle, in miniature. It was very inventive as it used Hobie Cat 16 hulls as amas and the Hobie 16 rig. That could make it an easy step up for Hobie owners. To my eye it had major defects however. For reasons I could never understand, it had a flat bottomed dory main hull.* It had a long bow overhang and thus a short waterline. To get enough displacement to carry the weight, it had a very deep main hull. The drag must have been terrific. The Hobie 16 amas were far too small to push the boat hard, and the Hobie 16 rig was very underpowered.
Philosophically I disagreed with putting the cockpit over the widest part of the main hull. The hulls were so small; the interior should be there taking advantage of whatever width there was. I admit I didn’t respect the Walter Mitty aspect of dreaming you were racing across the Atlantic.
To my thinking, too few designers and even sailors ask “what if?” enough during the design process.
I designed a 23’ tri to address all these problems. The main hull, though slender, was full and rounded, like Tornado cat hull. It had plumb bow for maximum waterline length. The draft was only 11”, foils up, fully loaded. The amas were big enough to carry almost double the weight of the boat. It could be pushed hard. The rig was the larger Hobie 18, and the interior was in the widest part of the main hull. I named it Tremolino Eater, and it would and did. As you might expect, Dick was not happy.
Also that first year, my friends at CSR Marine bought a nearly complete Brown 40 trimaran. It had a misfortune in a rogue wave and only the main hull survived.
We decided to give it big CM amas, and put them way out there. And skip the solid decks. All examples of asking “what if?”. I thought Brown should have been there observing the build for ideas, but that’s me. Of course, Chaak was wildly successful.
In those days, Newick, Brown and Marples were kind of a trifecta. Both Brown and Marples designed their boat line-ups with a full-on Newick look. Marples, with Newick , designed a 44’ trimaran for a customer here. It was named Chaak Duster and was intended to beat Chaak. Of course it never did beat Chaak.
The three of them did hitch their stars to double or triple diagonal plywood hulls and beams. They apparently did not know that the orientation of the face grain of plywood to the load was critical to strength. The diagonal plywood has about 1/3 the bending strength of orientated plywood sheets, in the important direction of a hull or beam. I learned that early, from the architecture school. That lack of engineering rigor is also part of what got me into the multihull design business. I wondered “what if, they were engineered better as well as looking good?”
In an exchange of letters, Dick berated me for the Tremolino Eater phrase. I reminded him that he had no objections to the Chaak Duster phrase. I also reminded him that I was the one person who got the USCG to decide to apply a defined design rule to catamaran designs. Nobody else had done that; I did it. We seemed to reach some sort of accommodation.
I heard from Charles at Multihulls that he liked my 16’ tri. But he was angry about Salty’s KHSD 46 trimaran (it demolished at least one race time record in his own neighborhood)
A monohull sailor once asked me if any multis would ever become classics, like a Herreshoff mono. The most likely candidate would be a Newick Native, to my eye.
I’m still a fanatic about efficient design. I hope I haven’t mellowed. I’m sure though that I have more perspective now than I did 25 years ago. And I recognize his amazing contribution. So if I meet Dick Newick this October, I will want to congratulate him for his truly indelible, original, and paradigm changing body of work.
* You might tell me that F-boats have flat dory main hulls and they can be fast. True, but they also have a very clever combination of narrow overall beam and small amas that are easily pushed under. Upwind in a breeze they are usually heeled at least 20 degrees so that main hull is now actually a V bottom. Back to the small amas. It used to be that the unofficial motto of the multi sailors was “Keep it right side up”. The unofficial motto of the F-boat sailors seems to be “If you haven’t rolled it over yet, you aren’t trying hard enough”. It all fun until somebody gets hurt.