Eight Bells: Laurie Davidson
Published on October 5th, 2021
Yacht designer Laurie Davidson, 94, a key figure in Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup breakthrough, died on October 4 in in Auckland, New Zealand.
Laurie struck success in international sailing with winning designs in half-ton, three-quarter-ton and one-ton world championships in the 1970s. He was one of ‘The Big 3’ (Laurie Davidson, Bruce Farr, and Ron Holland) that came out of New Zealand and dominated international yacht design through the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Laurie Davidson and Doug Peterson were the chief designers for Team New Zealand’s challenge in 1995. Laurie Davidson was one of the lead designers of NZ-32 and NZL-38, along with Doug Peterson. Both designers and other members of the design team collaborated on the rig and other components of the two yachts. NZL-32 went on to win the Cup in five straight races over the American defender.
In 2000, when Laurie was chief designer of Team New Zealand, designers of competing syndicates used the hull shape of NZL-32 as the benchmark. But Laurie took a jump ahead by inventing what is now known as the “Davidson bow”, a forward hanging geometry that provides slightly greater sailing length within the rating. Again a Davidson-designed boat won in five straight, this time against the challenger LUNA ROSSA of Italy.
During the 2003 challenge, all the boats but one sported a “Davidson bow”. Laurie was chief designer of the American OneWorld challenge, but the Swiss Alinghi, a yacht resembling in important respects previous Davidson designs, won the Cup. Laurie was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 2007.
He also had several highly successful designs for pleasure boats.