I was sad to learn through one of my Facebook contacts that yacht designer and sailor David Thomas passed away Monday. I did not know him well, indeed hardly at all, having only one extended conversation with him at a boat show some years ago.
However , having owned a Bolero Quarter Tonner, designed by David, for 15 years or so(she is still in the family now owned and sailed by my wife) he has given me countless hours of fun, enjoyment and excitement. And not just me but friends and family also in everything from a drifter to 30knots plus.
It is also a matter of fact that a David Thomas design was the first sailing yacht to sail on Shanghai’s Huangpu River for 70 years (since before the Second World War) back in 2004
His name may not mean much to our friends on the western shores of the Atlantic but it is probably fair to say that David’s designs launched more people into small keelboat sailing in the UK than just about any other designer (if any).
Designs like the Elizabethan 23,30 & 33; Sonata, Bolero, Impala, Sigma 33, 38 & 41; Hunter Medina, Horizon, Duette, Liberty & Channel plus the modern classic gaff rigged Cornish Crabber range. At two ends of the size spectrum, the Challenge 67 yachts, built in steel and which raced round the world against the prevailing winds many times and the little Foxer Dinghy which is raced on the Hamble River (UK) in a fleet that includes many world champions in its number.
Not just a yacht designer either, after some wind tunnel research he developed what would later become known as the ‘Solent Jib’ and he was twice a winner of the Gold Roman Bowl in the Round the Island Race, one of the world’s largest yacht races.
I’m proud to say that having coveted a Bolero Quarter Tonner for around 10 years I acquired one 15 years ago and she is now here in China, a pretty yacht and fast too being based on Purple Haze a former winner of the Quarter Ton Cup.
I was fortunate enough to meet David at a Southampton Boat Show a number of years ago and even though he had designed the Bolero two decades previously his delight and enthusiasm to meet an owner of one of his designs (and there are literally thousands of us) was palpable and I only wish I had had the chance to meet him on more than just that once. He struck me right away as a gentle and straightforward person.
His designs brought pleasure to many and as a person, having met him the once and heard so many stories about him over the years he touched just as many in a positive way.
A sad day and I am sure there are many that could write more meaningful and insightful words about him, but I just felt I couldn’t let his passing go un-noticed to the Sailing Anarchy community.
Sail on David. – Shanghai Sailor.