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Four decades of Perry on Design

2016 July 1

Four decades ago, yacht designer Robert H. Perry challenged a review of one of his designs that had been published in SAILING Magazine, saying he could do a better job on design reviews. Then-editor Micca Hutchins took him up on his offer and his first design review—of an Allton Dunsford and Son-designed 26-footer called Carolina—was published in the April 1975 issue of SAILING.

Since then, Perry has reviewed nearly 2,000 designs for the magazine, with both criticism and praise, something that has not always been met with approval by his fellow yacht designers. But Perry makes no apologies for his opinions or his memories.

“I don’t profess to be 100% accurate, but I am 100% accurate according to my memory,” he said. “I try to champion the industry. I want to be fair and promote all designers.”

Serving as SAILING’s technical editor also allows Perry to talk with designers and naval architects about what’s behind their designs, a part of the job Perry said he particularly enjoys.

Perry is, of course, a highly respected designer in his own right. He has designed more than 100 boats, both production and custom, and is credited with being the father of the performance cruiser concept, which he discusses in his review of his own Valiant 40. He is currently designing several boats but also serves as a consultant on designs and boatbuilding projects. 

For the 50th anniversary issue we asked Perry to select four designs that impacted sailing as we know it today.

“I knew it was going to be hard,” he said. “I went to my crony group and asked for suggestions. One suggested that I break it down into four categories: One-design, racing, cruising and multihull.” 

The designs he chose represent his opinion and his perception of the boats’ significance, but Perry knows that not all readers will agree. Although he almost never sails the boats he reviews, Perry has sailed three of the four boats he chose to feature.

Perry lives in Tulalip, Washington, where he spends his time sailing with his grandchildren Violet and Drake and walking his dog Ruby and, of course, designing boats. 

See Perry's picks for the four most influential designs of the past 50 years here:

Valiant 40

Santa Cruz 70