Home | Go Sailing! | Get On Our List! | Support Us

Kirby, Bruce - 2012 Hall of Fame PDF Print

next


Bruce Robert William Kirby

Bruce Robert Williams Kirby, Jr.  

January 2, 1929 - 
Birthplace: Ottawa, Ontario
U.S Citizen: May 31, 1999

 

“Once I’m in my Sonar, the aches and pains go away.”

Bruce Kirby was a newspaper man in Ottawa and Montreal before he became a yacht designer. A competitive sailor in International 14 dinghies from age 15, his focus was on making the boats faster. After being beaten in a regatta at Cowes in heavy wind, he drew the Kirby Mark I on a piece of shelf paper. It was fast upwind in a breeze.  He sold 30 of the Mark I.

Untrained, Kirby began designing by observing. “I had a copy of Skene’s Elements of Yacht Design. If you can understand 50% of what’s in that book, you can design a boat. Design isn’t brain surgery. We should always pretend that it is, but it’s really not.” Having made that modest disclaimer, Kirby grants that designing a vessel that is compatible with two disparate elements – air and water – is, in fact, a challenge. There were seven versions of the Kirby International 14 built: 739 boats total. “It was done seat of the pants,” Kirby says. “No testing. It was all empirical. Each new boat was a take-off on the old one.”

In 1964, Kirby moved to Finns and made the Canadian Olympic team.

He didn’t quit his day job. By the mid-1960s, Kirby had become editor of One Design Yachtsman (now Sailing World). He jumped into a Star boat in 1968, and again represented Canada in the Olympics. In 1971, a car-top dinghy he had designed at a friend’s request was launched, and Kirby’s fame was assured. The boat was called the Laser. More than 250,000 of this demanding Olympic class dinghy have been built.

In the summer of 2011, at age 82, Kirby sailed in the Sonar European Championships held in Scotland. He won two races. He continues to sail the 24-foot Sonar, personal favorite of his 63 designs, out of the Noroton Yacht Club in Darien, Connecticut. He gives away 20 years to the next oldest skipper, but still manages to record frequent top three finishes. “I do my best work in 15 knots and above,” he says. “Once I’m in my Sonar, the aches and pains go away.”

 

- Roger Vaughan


Click Here to View Photo Gallery


Links of Interest:

Wikipedia entry for Bruce Kirby

Master list of Bruce Kirby boat designs - from Bruce Kirby Marine

Back to the 2012 Hall of Famers

 
Home
About Us
Hall of Fame
Math & Science
Collections/Libraries
On-Site Programs
Sailors & Stories
Info/Contact/News
Contributors
Search
Mid-Year Update
Classic Regatta

The Class of 2014


facebook-btn twitter-btn Instagram- @sailinghall US SAILING LOGO
donate_now
sunsail-discount


© 2014 National Sailing Hall of Fame, a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

facebook-btn            twitter-btn             Instagram-sailinghall            US SAILING LOGO