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Forever Young 1

Jul 31, 2008 22 Comments by

Mid 80’s, Its about 4 o’clock, Wednesday, I’m just finishing a few jobs before heading down to Westhaven, phone goes, Its Ray. “Not going today, too busy, sorry for the late notice.” Bugger, not going for a yacht. Well I am! I remember this day like it was yesterday.

Funny how you remember things that they change your life.

We had to row out to the yacht so we all used to meet down on the end of A Pier. Lots of other yachts would pick up crew for the Wednesday night races there also, so I thought, just head on down and see if I can hook a ride.

I’m standing there in my best lets go yachting gear. Around the corner comes this blue hull, about 7 on board. Had just seen the pics in the yachting mags thinking to myself, gezz wouldn’t mind a sail on that one. As they get a little closer I notice everyone on the dock is looking at her. Then the guy on the helm calls out.

Anyone want to come for a ride? I nearly wet myself.

Yeh I do! Jump on quick then, says Jim.

Bugger me I’m standing on the hottest yacht in New Zealand, possibly the world. There is a God.

Can you do bow? Mate, sure can. Good you can help out at the mast then. It was a reach out of the harbour in a gentle northerly out to somewhere off A buoy and then a kite run home. When the kite went up, the guy who would normally trim was away so no-one grabbed the sheet except the guy who did the winding (the owner).

Here I can trim that I said.

Thinking to myself what would Ray be telling me? Work the edge Steve. After about 5 minutes, Jim calls out just as well we picked you up, what’s your name again?

I sailed on Posi for the next few years until she went to Tauranga.

And I’ve waited 25 years to tell this story of one of New Zealand’s greatest yacht designers,


” I like to design yachts that race well, not ones that rate well”



Designer Boatbuilder

206_0696_1[1] []

Great Kiwi Grandfather

Jim Young

Buckle Up Rocket 40, these days known as Flashback, with an IRC of 1.148.

This issue of yachtyakka is collected from members and Aaron Young with Jim’s Help


Young 11, Honeywell

Kitty Cat

The Kitty Cat came along in 1958 when John Peet an Auckland School Teacher wanted to build a yacht to compete in the Australasian 12ft unrestricted Silasec Trophy and boat builder/designer Jim Young a former Sanders Cup Champion who was now an established boat builder in Birkenhead suggested that a cat might do the job. Between them they built and experimented with the Kitty which not only won all its races but one, when the mast broke, Kitty Cat caused the racing committee to exclude catamarans from all future Silasec rases. You see in those days the only other cats sailing were slow and the yachties of the day didn’t take much notice when John told the Q class people that he was building a cat and would they mind if he sailed in the trials to select the Auckland yachts which would race against the Sydney 12fters in their biennial contest? The Q class yachties said they would not mind. “Please go a head we are an unrestricted class.” They doubted that a catamaran as small as 12ft would “go.” The Kitty certainly did “go,” she cleaned up the Q class and by the time the trials had finished she was whipping the fleet by 5minutes. Well, the Aussies were not happy, Kitty won the trophy and cats were then banned from the unrestricted class saying that racing a cat with a monohull was ridiculous. By this time there were as many as 20 Kitty Cats racing, so each went their separate ways and John bought himself a Mistral. The Kitty Cat whipped the 18fters of the Day claiming the first Cock Of the Harbour. Funny how history repeated itself in 1987/88 in the AC 30 years later. If you would like to read more about the Kitty Cat, I have a big collection of News Paper articles from this time sent to me by a member, I can post copies to you.

I called Jim to set an appointment, to talk about his designs and where he saw the future of yachting. 3 hours later I got off the phone. The stories flowed like water, 14ft x-yachts, Sanders Cup, canting keels, water ballast, one design, Multihulls, rockets, foilers, match racing, kite boards, cedar, glues, rule makers, proa’s, what the French were doing, fanging Posi just about everything. When I got off the phone I needed a lie down, so I had a settling Mount Gay.

We set a time for just after 10am at the bus stop out side Westhaven. I had arranged a room at Gulf Group, I was legging it from the ferry and he was busing it from Takapuna. I was going to meet an Icon of New Zealand yacht design on the corner of a street, Just fantastic. As I legged it from the ferry, thinking this is nuts, what am I going to say? So many ideas rushing round my little brain. Round the corner there’s the bus stop, empty, oh well, wait here a bit bus should be along soon.

There was this guy sitting in a car on the footpath?? Starts driving towards me and that grin I used to see 20 years ago from the bow is still grinning at me, I’ve changed my mind he says, …. I remember you he says, let’s go back to my place.. After all these years he still remembers some random he picked up off the pier. I’m impressed, try and stop me now I’m thinking. I got so excited I started to dribble again, dam bells palsy. Can’t get hold of David he’s left his phone on charge and before I know it we are heading over the bridge, hope he calls me when we don’t show up at Gulf Group. He does.

Jim, I have some many questions but I want to start with some from the forums, What’s your most favourite yacht? ……….. there is silence………What yacht are you thinking about right now? Well, Steve he says…….. I don’t actually have any favourite, I love them all.

Like a lot of designers most of Jim’s have only cruised across the drawing board, amongst those favourites that have never been built is a 34ft Cruising Cat, that for reasons beyond his control never got past the drawing board. More on that later he says.

Park the car in the garage, and there on the work bench is a half model of a 43ft he’s working on hanging from the rafters a proa the islanders transported coconuts on across the lagoons. I’ve been in a few yachties garages and they all look the same bits of boats hanging here and there outboard in the corner, this one has wood working tools aswell, and an adze. Walk through into his office and pictures everywhere just like a school boys room with his favourite rugby/football players. This one is special. There would be no other room in the world like this one. As I look around the room drawling over pin ups of Extreme, Camp Freedie, Positive Touch, Jim has some plans out on the pool table, Here it is my favourite, beautiful clean lines of his cat 34 ft side on she looks like an 88 with a slightly higher coach roof good accommodation nice sail plan, a very nice looking yacht.

Over on the drawing board is his latest project. You ready for this? Seems that the 50ft IOR yacht that got smashed on the rocks off Rocky Bay a few years ago is getting a new hull, the wreak of Chaya was bought and Jim has drawn a new hull for it.

More stories about more yachts on the wall, just very hard to keep up, lucky I have a list, Right, 14’s, White Heather, Sanders Cup, Kitty Cat, probably got that covered, this is just a snap shot after all. Fiery Cross, tell me more about her. The rest of the list was pretty much gone by this one yacht we spent pretty much the next 2 hours talking Fiery Cross and where that could have, should have gone. Where did the idea come from? Can of worms I know but some questions you just gota ask. Jim reaches over to his book shelf by this time David had arrived and when Jim pulled out The Common Sense of Yacht Design by Frances Herreshoff Part 2, He had leant part 1 to someone and hasn’t seen it since If you know where it is can you let him have it back please, cheers.

Opens the book shows us who the book is dedicated to, a blank page with the words,

“Dedicated to common sense.”

Flips open a few pages, dam proas every where, David is beside himself, and there on these pages of old yachts is a swing keel, just outlines no working drawing just the idea, Jim just had to build one. A fast boat at min cost and lightweight. About this time, 1950’s, Boat Builders needed to build boats and costing’s in those days did not include advertising, so it was all word of mouth. Jim had just secured the contract to build a 48ft Launch, this meant the shed in Shoal Bay need to be enlarged, once the launch was built Jim had room to build his Fiery Cross, She took 5 years working after work and weekends 7ft beam 45ft LOA, the worlds first swing keel yacht was ready. The keel worked on a cam and bar system which needed to be swung to leeward before the tack then tack and away you went. Swing the keel to leeward in the light to get the sails to sleep, she had helm balance issues to get used to But with a bit of breeze, these sorted themselves out and she pointed higher and sailed faster. Enter Old Farts, no no that’s movable ballast, you can’t race that yacht with us unless you sign this declaration saying the keel is fixed. Jim needed to race his creation to get more business so the keel was fixed for racing and swung for fast cruising.

Fiery Cross was a doorway to the future, alas the door was shut for 50years

A few years later it was time to sell Fiery Cross and the new owner insisted on Jim fixing the Keel, Fiery Cross has swung no more. Those old farts have a lot to answer for I reckon, stopping development of such an innovation for 50 years. Imagine were we would be today, makes you want to yell Get A BIG Piedy up ya! But, I wont that’s coming later. Trailor yachts, Heatwave, NZ37, Cedar core glass over, rockets, power to weight, corners chines 99’s, 11’s, 1034’s 12’s 43’s his 17 meter, well at least a hull of sorts is been made for that IOR yacht. Launches, planning hulls all briefly touched on but nothing you don’t already know.

Next level and you can’t stop him. Another question I had been asked to ask was where to from here a 2008 Jim Young. What would she look like, What’s it for? he says. I reply, Balls out 40ft for a handful of skiffies?


Well when he said that David fell apart, his eyes watered up and grinned from Arkles Bay to Katmando! Where ever that is. A Proa, that can tack, water ballest, 2 rigs for maximize sail area without height, with controllable foils of course.  David said 50 knots? Why not? Sure let me show you something back out into the garage hanging from the ceiling is this proa, the one I talked about before to a model ballasted with small green coconuts on wooden spikes,  they used to race these across the lagoons.

Simplicity is the hardest thing to perfect.

Wont float properly, unless its sailing, too narrow, like the moths? Yeh, just faster! All I need is a millionaire, out comes that book again look here, see, like this.

A true yachtie likes to go sailing, racing is fine and has its place, but just going for sail and go as fast as you can trim, that’s yachting. I have a design built out of ply, hard chine with flat bottom that would beat the pants off anything today 22ft, cheap to build, You guys interested?

1957 Fiery Cross with Pendulum-keel designed & built for Jim himself

Heatwave – This was Jim’s ugly duckling,

Jims design a boat within a rule,

a competitor in the 1978 one ton cup in Europe,

she was first to the top mark in every race and just about won

the dam thing if it wasn’t for a rule change

part way through the contest. Seen here in Westhaven.

Positive Touch, Rocket 31 2007

See those sails in the distance? That’s the 1st Division, by the time the sun went down Positive Touch

would catch and pass most of them including Higher Ground and most of the 40ft racing fleet.

Jim was born in Wellington and has lived most of his live in Auckland.

His designs are amongst the most innovative of the modern era.

He says,

“Racing rules are dreamed up by mathematicians

who know what they want to achieve, but

are unable to foresee the

undesirable characteristics they spawn.

I don’t like the idea of having to make a boat go slow

in order to win races”

You getting the big picture now Logan?

Jim and his mates with White Heather – 1951

Left to right: Roy Dickson, Jim Young, Frank Dickson & Jack Kendall

continued part 2

Designer, luxury, Multihull, NZ Yachting History, Profile, Sailor Profile, Young

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22 Responses to “Forever Young 1”

  1. Gary Underwood says:

    Now own Fiery Cross had her for 3 years great little boat!

  2. skiff says:

    Hi Gary,

    Do you have any images I can post here?

  3. Brian Cunynghame says:

    Flashback (ex Buckle Up) returns to Sydney from Adelaide.
    The delivery crew handed Flashback to its new owner Brian Cunynghame who, with his family brought to up the harbour its new home on the Lane Cove river. Brian intends ti race her with Greenwich Flying Squadron, replacing his Beneteau First 29, Loius which he moved to Lake Macquarie. Brian started racing at GFS in the early 1970’s with a very fast Triton 24 ex Max Tunbridge (Silver medal Olympic in Stars). Brian celebrates his 70th birthday next month.
    His crew had the first look at Flashback last Wednesday evening when GFS called off the twilight race due to a 40kt sotherly. We took Flashback out in the semiprotected Lane Cove river with a No4 headsail and two reefs and still reaced at 9.5 knots. We can hardly wait to try out the range of asymetrics to fly off the new bowsprit.

  4. Yachting News April Part 9 says:

    […] Read about Jim Young here, […]

  5. Sailing & Yachting says:

    Sailing & Yachting…

    […] A true yachtie likes to go sailing, racing is fine and has its place, but just going for sail and go as fast as you can trim, that’s yachting. I have a design built out of ply, hard chine with flat bottom that would beat the pants off … […]…

  6. Mike says:

    Hi Gary
    There is mention of a 22ft’er in the Jim Young srory that will beat the pants of anything today. Did that boat ever get built and are there plans of it avaliable.

    Love you artical, need to be longer though. I have a young 6.
    Cheers Mike

    • Geoff Bartlett says:

      Hi Gary
      Just read your post
      i have a 22 footer but dont race it is fairly fast i think
      if you are ever in Melbourne i can show it to you.

  7. skiff says:

    Hi Mike,

    Jim has his own webpage, you can contact him through here, simply send me an e-mail with your details, I will make sure he gets it.

    Happy sailing


  8. Gary Underwood says:

    Hi Mike,
    Dont know about the 22fter but best to contact Jim. I was interested in the cruisng Heatwave design and Jim put me onto one now in Opua. He keeps track of his boats!

  9. Dave Downer says:

    Hi there.

    I am presently reconditioning 2 x 110 hp 1964 Volvo Pentas that have been removed from a Vindex 28, Tauhara, which was the 2nd Vindex built by Jim Young Boat Builders for Mr Arnold Downer.. She was lauched in Kinlock, Taupo in 1964 and still remains in pristine contition mored in Acacia bay, Taupo.
    Is Jim contactable by email so I can send a few pictures.


    Dave Downer.

  10. Advertise on Yachtyakka says:

    […] every bit of sailing I do it faithfuly records all my yacht racing and allows me to interview other yachties and yachting like the stewart 34’s , yachting action from the heart of Kiwi yachting. After […]

  11. Mike Bourke says:

    Steve (SKIFF)
    Can you pass my email onto Jim please or email me so I can get your emaill address.
    I tried Jim Y web page but cant see any contact details.
    Cheers Mike

  12. Wade says:

    Hi just wondering if there is anyway to contact jim young, because i’m interested in getting plans for the young 780 rocket.
    Cheers Wade

  13. Mike says:

    I have his email address so if you email me on, I will pass it on from there rather than leave it posted here. I also know a guy who has built one, he may give you a few tips.

  14. Jim Young Project says:

    Jim is currently working on his autobiography and dedicated website.
    We would like to extend the invitation to anyone with Young designed boats to submit their photos and stories for inclusion in this project.

  15. Yachting News 7th August 2010 says:

    […] and provides an authentic account of life as a boat builder in the 1950’s.more heremore about Jim Young heremore images hereevent website herelike? comment here This post is tagged 1851 Cup, Cowes Week, ETNZ […]

  16. Yachting News 9th September 2010 says:

    […] R31 and built by Terry Cookson in 12mm strip kahikatea in 1982 for Laurie and Jim Kean.more hereJim Young on Yachtyakka hereA pilot reports a strange haze enveloping his plane, then disappears; eleven hours after fuel […]

  17. von Coler says:

    Hey Folks
    I sailed my heatwave from Jim Young in the 8oth and I am still missing her- she was the greatest and most interesting sailboat I,ve ever sailed. Aftert that my boats were all named Heatweave- in honour to the great Jim young. My latest is a 1-ton carbon racer ( Rubin IX) . Compared to ma Heatwave boaring to sail.
    Say Hello to Jim- I am his fan!
    ulli from Germany

  18. Interesting Sailboats - Page 363 - SailNet Community says:

    […] NA of the XX century and if he had lived in Europe he would have been much more well known. Forever Young 1 Young Yacht Design It is very interesting to hear him talk about the evolution of modern boats, […]

  19. Martin Bay says:

    Hey ..! nice article. I love the helpful information which you write in this article. Thanks for this kind hear ted job.

  20. Interesting Sailboats - Page 420 - SailNet Community says:

    […] NA of the XX century and if he had lived in Europe he would have been much more well known. Forever Young 1 Young Yacht Design It is very interesting to hear him talk about the evolution of modern boats, […]

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