Doug Peterson: Doing it his way

Published on November 13th, 2019

Since its launch in 2011, the National Hall of Fame has enshrined 81 heroes of the sport, with its induction ceremonies offering an opportunity to witness these outstanding individuals. The Class of 2019 was the ninth such occasion, with pioneering yacht designer Doug Peterson among the latest inductees.

Receiving the award for Doug, who passed away in 2017, was his daughter Laura. Here was her acceptance speech:

On behalf of the Peterson family, my siblings and I are so grateful for this induction. It’s such a wonderful honor to our father, and a great way to continue his celebration of his life.

When I was reading all the descriptions of all the inductees, and I got to dad’s – anti-establishment designer. I had to think, yes, he did get in trouble during the Vietnam War when he was voicing his distaste for it, he did have Japanese and Mexican children, and in 1973 he made his debut in Genoa with his first design – basically an unpainted and almost unfinished boat named Ganbare.

But I also had to think about my childhood. Instead of cartoons, we watched opera. Instead of baby food, we got sea urchin. And instead of playgrounds, we went to boatyards, and the bar sometimes. But at the end of the day, he didn’t really break the rules. Well, that’s not entirely true.

My brother, Mark, reminded my sisters and I of the story from the ’80s. Dad would be driving somewhere, and all of a sudden he would need both hands on the steering wheel. And he would stop and be like, “Ah, oh sh#t. Here, Mark, hold my beer.”

It is true, he was never about dressing the part. I remember reading an article in a sailing book that said, “Then from sunny California, along came an unknown hippy with a beard and sandals called Doug Peterson.” Even when he started working for Prada, while he upgraded to the nice Prada shirts and belt, the man still wore his beat-up Reeboks, old holey khaki pants, and glasses held together by string.

As for the second part of the description, designer, when our father passed away, his old employees wrote some amazing Dougie stories. I want to share one with you now… here it goes:

“They say Mozart was a genius and completed his compositions completely in his head before putting pen to paper. I used to think that whenever I had the opportunity to see Doug’s genius in action. The most amazing thing I ever saw was Doug doing the hand-drawn lines plan for the Adhara Dencho MORC 30 in one night.

“He wasn’t using any pre-existing design as a jumping off point, no manipulated line plans of anything from before. Basically, the design was already done in his head, and he was just putting it down. The next morning I came to the office, and the completed line plan was finished with a note telling me to take it to a blueprint.

“For those of you who have never faired a 3D shape in a 2D, three-view drawing, you might not realize how impressive this is. To produce such a great design by hand in one sitting is pretty much unheard of. It’s the most impressive thing that I’ve ever seen.

“That design went on to place fifth overall and be the top big boat in the next MORC Internationals. And five years later, won the MORC Internationals overall. Not bad for a night’s work.”

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