Des Townson – A Sailing Legacy
Des Townson was a yacht designer and boatbuilder responsible for a unique body of work which filled a special niche in New Zealand’s rich boating history.
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Des was born into the pre-World War Two New Zealand where the style of life was completely different to the rhythms of daily existence in more recent times. The commercial closedown over weekends, five day working weeks, import restrictions, material shortages and modest income streams for the majority resulted in a widespread ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos. If you wanted a boat, you built it yourself in your spare time. If you wanted a boat a little different from the norm you designed it yourself.
From the mid 1950’s and for the following three decades Des Townson was a formidable player in the burgeoning Auckland marine scene. During this time he created 74 individual designs ranging from sailing models, racing centre-boarders, a wide variety of keelboats and powered boats – a combination resulting in over 3700 vessels. The majority are still in use and two classes, the Zephyrs and Starlings are stronger than at any time in their combined 100 years of continuous use.
Townson boats are some of the most eye-catching, easily handled and well performing maritime craft to ever grace New Zealand waters. The fact Des Townson was self-taught and worked almost his entire career alone only intensifies the achievements of this remarkable man.
– Brian Peet
Brian Peet is a fourth-generation Auckland yachting devotee, inheriting the passion from his parents John and Dawn. He built his first boat, a Starling, while at high school and won the class national championship the following year. To pay the bills he carved out a career in aviation, starting as an apprentice engineer and retired 44 years later as a pilot. He has written and published one previous book, The Seuffert Legacy, a biography of New Zealand’s most famous colonial cabinet-maker, Anton Seuffert. Brian grew up knowing Des Townson as a family friend and has spent much of his time afloat racing and recreationally sailing Townson yachts.