Oct. 12/2021:  Here we have another sad tale of mortality. On the last day of last month, as I understand it, the well-known yacht designer Ted Brewer passed away peacefully at his home in British Columbia. Born in 1933 in Hamilton, Ontario, he certainly had a good long run on this planet, both as a human and as a boat guy. He resigned his commission as a lieutenant in the Canadian Army in 1957 to pursue a career in boating, which he ultimately nurtured studying design via the Westlawn correspondence school.

He worked first as a broker with George Cuthberston and also with boatbuilder Dick Telford, seminal figures at what became C&C Yachts. During his time with Cuthbertson Ted was involved in 8-meter racing, and in 1960 started working with Bill Luders as an assistant designer. With Luders he was involved in important America’s Cup 12-meter campaigns, but ultimately transitioned to working independently, focusing primarily on cruising boats.

Ted was in his day a seminal cruising-boat designer who generated some important fiberglass production-boat designs, most notably perhaps the Whitby 42 ketch, of which 300 were built from 1972 to 1988. He also conceived a surprisingly large variety of boats for one-off construction in all different materials, from fiberglass to wood to aluminum to steel. This is only a small selection of samples:

The Huromic 35 was a Brewer design to be built in aluminum and pioneered Brewer’s radius-bilge construction technique for metal boats. This combined elements of hard-chine and round-bilge construction, producing fairer hulls that are much easier to weld up than perfectly round hulls. This design, which also featured a “Brewer bite” in its keel, is well proven, a veteran of more than one circumnavigation via the southern great capes


The Corten was a popular 40- or 43-foot design in steel, featuring a traditional full keel and outboard rudder. The first was built with a gaff schooner rig, but alternative versions feature cutter and ketch rigs. One variation also boasts a fin keel below the waterline, an indication of how flexible Ted could be


The 32-foot Mystic Sharpie was designed to built by amateurs or small shops in plywood, and unlike more conventional sharpies carries a good bit of ballast to enhance stability and has a high pinky stern to help cope with following seas. Brewer also designed wood boats to be built with conventional carvel planking and with strip planking


The 41-foot Vision is a fine pilothouse cutter designed to be built in glass. She features a tall cutter rig, an efficient NACA-foil fin keel, and a rudder on a full skeg. A true long-range cruiser, she has lots of tankage, 110 gallons of fuel and 180 gallons of water


I never met Ted, but did speak with him on the phone a few times while writing The Modern Cruising Sailboat. I am still a big proponent of a design performance parameter he created, the so-called comfort ratio, which seeks to quantify in objective terms the quality of a boat’s motion in a seaway. Like any such design parameter, the “Brewer Comfort Ratio” does have its limitations, but is still quite useful, and I have long urged that buyers of cruising sailboats should calculate and consider it when evaluating any boat they might buy.

Ted also created a cruising-boat design feature now universally known as the “Brewer bite,” a declivity between an otherwise full keel and a prop aperture that decreases a boat’s wetted surface area while retaining all the advantages of a traditional full keel. He was a pioneer in construction technique as well and created and promoted the radius-bilge method of fabricating boat hulls in metal.

Ted was also an author, and I personally have long been a big fan of his explanatory book for laypersons, Understanding Boat Design, now in its 4th edition, which was critical in my own education. I still recommend it to anyone seeking to understand the ins and outs of cruising sailboat design.

My sense of Ted, from our conversations and from all I’ve heard about him from others, is that he was genial man, truly considerate, and self-effacing, in spite of his considerable success as a designer.

He will be missed.


RIP: Edward S. Brewer, 1933-2021

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