Some Thoughts on Meeting Dick Newick

(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.

6 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Meeting Dick Newick”

  1. I own one of the Eaters. The original Trem. design was driven by Olin, I thought, not Newick. So it met the design ideas he had in mind.

    The original Eater did not have plumb bows, they were added later. When I built mine, I actually built to plan, then felt it needed the plumb bows, and drew them over the control jig and faired them out. When I got to the main hull I just added them to the CM panels. This is the kind of thing one can do with CM within reason, and with the assistance of the designer.

    I also made the change that led to a different section being used on CM hulls of one panels width, as the practice was to use the curved section of the J which imparted virtually no pre-curve. To the thanks of a grateful nation, no doubt.

    First I love this boat, and I tell everyone who has asked, and there have been quite a few, that building a KHSD taught me boat building, and that while I had quite a few reservations about the design, the design, and Kurt were always right.

    Well except…. You can’t blame a designer for not doing what he wasn’t trying to do. In my case I did not want a fast sailing boat, though I love the fact it moves under sail no mater how light the conditions. I really wanted a camping cruiser. That is where the Newick design, be it Third Turtle in miniature, has it’s points. I would point out that Newick has used this construction on many other boats. I know of three that use the Argonauta construction with the Conestoga cabin rear alone. Yes folks, an ugly Newick is possible. But as clever as he was, I wonder why the he kept producing this configuration in his smaller boats. I think he knew something others often overlook.

    The advantages to the mid cockpit is that it allows one to carry more than a few crew without sending them all over the boat to keep it on her lines. In a small boat, a rear cockpit with a huge, comfortable set of seats, will not allow you to tack the boat, once the crew gets above a few. The bow will be so high it will not come around.

    It is true that the mid cockpit uses up what might be cabin space in a rear cockpit boat, but practically speaking the Eater has a footwell and daggerboard in that space, and when at anchor water tends to flood the full length of the boat. This led to one pretty tense rescue mission in our boat. I rather like the idea of having the top of the daggerboard trunk emerge in a self draining cockpit. Of course there is always a work around, and we never see water any more, but the cost of that is modifications that are not necessarily preferable to having the board in the cockpit.

    Since one can’t sleep in the wings, the boat is too small, The adult accomodations are foot to head, in a very narrow space, I would far rather two small cabins. Practically speaking we have never slept two people in the boat. I can sleep one person with greater ease in my dingy. The dingy has an area of @ 25 square feet, the Eater takes up a block of 425 square feet, there ought to be a double in there somewhere. I finally came up with the idea that a hammock immediately insider the door might add the sleeping space required. I have yet to test this.

    The overall width of the main hull, due to the adoption of the shape of a larger boat, makes it very difficult, along with the large amas, to get everytning on a trailer, in a convenient package. We use two trailers to move her around.

    The size of the amas has never been pressed in our sailing, but they are increasingly a punishment when setting up the boat. I built the offshore amas, which are more than I have turned out to need. It would not be all that big a deal to make a smaller set for gunkholing trips, when one wanted ease of trailering and set-up. But I have never bothered due to my extreme satisfaction with how she sails. Why mess with a sure thing.

    Would I build her again, yes I would, and I have seen the newer plans, and they are a quantum leap ahead, anyone thinking of this segment should not hesitate. I built mine up to the point of rigging for 3500 dollars, and the number would not be all that higher for one today. Just an outstanding design.

    I never thought the name was an issue. I could design a boat that would beat a Tremolino, any experienced sailer could. Make it of corecell and carbon fiber. Of course Newick did it several times. Designs are judged against the intended service, not something else. I built an Eater/D23 because it was the best value for what I have to spend, and still is. It is incidentally a Tremolino Eater, that costs less to build than a Trem, in most configurations. I knew it wasn’t a Trem or a CC26. I knew it wasn’t a camp cruiser when I built it. And as it turns out, it has been far better suited for what I have had a use for, than what I thought I wanted. It is a lot easier to race around in one’s free time than to get large blocks of time free for cruising.

  2. I moved to St. Croix in 1970 and soon made friends who sailed for Dick Newick’s company. I met Dick a number of times and attended an open house when he moved into his beautiful new house. I enjoyed a number of sails on his boats and even got a “preview” of one that was going to sail in the big event – I wish I could remember the name of that boat but don’t know it right now. Actually I am looking at a picture of myself on that boat which sits on my desk after all these years. The fact that he will be in Louisville next month is intriguing – I live in Louisville now andI will have to look into attending one of the IBEX sessions and hopefully seeing him again.

  3. My mistake – where I put “cylinder molding” paragraph 6 I meant “constant camber”

    Thanks for publishing my response

    Phil Thompson

    1. did just want to note that on any long slender part, loaded globally, the lines of stress do mostly run in-plane and oriented along the length. compression one side and tension the other side. the trick then is to align the fibers with those loads for best results. hence face grain orientation.

  4. Gday Kurt

    I think your observations of the contributions of the earlier multihull designers is off beam in many areas.

    Take for instance Kelsall and the phenolic winch. In this video he is on Toria which he launched and raced around Britain in 1966. She won the race both on scratch and corrected time. These winches were standard at this time. Toria is a classic design (first foam tri, introduced round hulls) and showed the way for many designers. Luff foils were not standard in offshore racing until the mid to late seventies and rarely fitted to multis until later.

    SIB was never designed to go fast and this may be where you an other designers depart. She was designed as a third world fishing and cargo boat and as such had low tech sails, rigging and was never designed for speed alone – weight carrying, ease of building and maintaining and sweet sailing were also prime. Her genesis was a talk about how multis could be of benefit to poor people. Phil Weld paid for her construction as a test pad for a laudable attempt to put back into the communities that had multihull traditions going back thousands of years.

    I don’t know why your local Newick designs didn’t do well. Maybe your local conditions were suited to big ama boats with longer waterlines. A friend of mine got a Newick built not for speed alone, we could have got an Aussie speedster, but for the mix of sailing qualities the designs are well known for. The sailors I know who have Newicks are very happy with their boats for the handling, seaworthiness, motion offshore, and ease of sailing – not just top line speed. Newicks have an obvious affinity for offshore windward work – the OSTAR is a windward race. Newick designs did very well in this race, winning in 1980. They were also used by good sailors like Phil Steggall, Mike Birch, Rob James, and Nigel Irens in their offshore campaigns that were not tradewind races. It is incorrect to say that OSTARs and Round Britain races are downwind sleigh rides. I think it more likely that your local Newicks were beaten by boats that were more, as Newick would say, greedy.

    Looking back in old designs and criticising them is easy. We know now that with modern materials and rigs we can have powerful amas and not have amas looking low freeboard. In the 60s and seventies the idea that amas could be less than 100% was a well proven one. Most designers of tris like Crowther, Gougeons, Farrier and Newick used submersible amas on their race boats. Every Trailertri and Kraken has submersible floats.

    The triple diagonal ply was Constant Camber. I guess you don’t like this method but it is not correct to say that we know the exact load path through every part of a hull. It is even sillier to suggest that the only ply with veneers 0 and 90 degrees to the centreline are in line with load paths. Remember that pioneering work Shuttleworth did in the 80s showing the loadings on a hull. I am sure your FEA modelling will show that trying to get ply to be oriented along the load paths in a hull is impossible. Sure cylinder molding was heavier other methods but it made a thick, beautiful and stringer free interior allowed more freedom in shape than simple tortured plywood. These boats were well engineered – Newick, Brown and Marples all have designed sturdy boats where people did serious miles offshore so the design criteria has to include more besides weight and speed.

    Chaak, Bachannal and the Tremolino were again not designed solely to race. Searunners were a cruising boat. The Tremolino was a design that used Hobie parts to try and get sailors who couldn’t take their families out on the Hobie 16 sailing again. As such it had to be underpowered with the Hobie rig and under ama -ed due to the Hobie hulls. I used to sail against one and it was such a sweet sailer – the owner loved it and wouldn’t sell it. That is a boat that has fufilled its design criteria.

    I write to you, not to publicly contradict you but to ask you to show a little more humility with our shared past. I feel that your comments show you in a negative light and that would be best served by removing the post from your web page. It has received a fair bit of negative comment on the forum I usually visit that does little to enhance your reputation in my opinion. Rather than contribute to the forum I felt that stating the problems as I see them in your post would be more worthwhile.


    Phil Thompson

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