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Class of 2019: Everett A. Pearson

Published on November 6th, 2019

The U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame selected ten people in 2019 to join the 71 previously-recognized individuals who have been enshrined since the first class in 2011.

Among this group to be inducted on November 9 is the grandfather of fiberglass production, Everett A. Pearson (Warren, R.I./Estero, Fla.). This tribute is provided by 2011 inductee Gary Jobson:

Everett Pearson was the first builder of fiberglass production cruising sailboats. He was an active racing sailor, graduating from Brown University in 1955 as an Economics major, where he was captain of the football team. Everett and his cousin, Clint went right into boatbuilding, experimenting with new materials in the family garage. Pearson Yachts was born.

At Tom Potter’s urging, the Pearsons got Carl Alberg to design a 28-foot cruising boat that sold for under $10,000, the Triton. It was introduced at the 1959 New York Boat Show. Seventeen were sold. Within 10 years, they’d built 700. Three years later they launched the 22-foot Ensign, selling 1800 boats with the class remaining active today. In 1964 Invicta a 38-foot sloop designed by William Tripp, was the first production fiberglass sailboat to win the Newport to Bermuda Race.

When the original Pearson Yachts was sold to Grumman Allied Industries, Cousin Clint left to found Bristol Yachts while Everett partnered with Neil Tillotson to form Tillotson-Pearson, Inc. (TPI). In 1977, Everett became the “3rd Brother” to Bob & Rod Johnstone (2016 Inductees) to build a revolutionary design called the J/24.

Deja vu all over again: a boat for less than $10,000. Over 700 were sold in the first year. To catch up in May of 1978, Everett was building six J/24s per day, 6-days a week in two locations. Ultimately over 5000 of these international one-designs were built plus another 7,000 J/boats from the J/22 to the J/65.

TPI later added the word “composites” to the company name, expanding to build: Swimex Exercise Pools, Windpower Blades, Disney and Airport Buses, Lagoon catamarans, Alerion Express and Freedom sailboats. In 2005-06, TPI was contracted to build sixteen 44 foot sloops for the U.S. Naval Academy. Everett put more boats into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame than any other builder: Five — Triton, Ensign, J/24, Freedom 40, and J/35.

Everett also contributed to the Sport of Sailing. In 1992 the U.S economy was struggling, a 10% luxury tax brought sailboat sales to a halt. In response, Everett became a co-founding member of Sail America and Sail Expo to promote sailing and “sail only” boat shows.

At the same time, he built the trend-setting 35-foot J/105 with retractable bowsprit and asymmetric spinnaker for less than the $100,000, where the Luxury Tax kicked in. He did much to revive excitement in sailing.

In addition to his production talent, two of Everett’s technical innovations were immensely important for the marine industry…. (1) SCRIMP infusion molding system to produce higher quality and stronger laminates and, (2) Use of vinlyester resins to provide a 10-year transferable warranty against gelcoat blistering.

Everett Pearson was passionate about building better boats and sharing his talent. Many of the people who worked for him went on to build their own successful marine industry careers. Thousands of his boats will be sailing for many years into the future, securing Everett’s lasting legacy in the sport.

The 2019 class will be formally celebrated on Saturday, November 9, 2019, with an Induction Ceremony hosted at Seattle Yacht Club, Seattle, WA.

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