February 19th 2013
One of the more pleasant aspects of our work is when we discover a boat which really works, a boat which looks different from the usual, a boat with real character.
Tara is one such – see Sailing Yachts on our web site – and her history opens a window on yachting across the Atlantic.
The following account sent to us by her owner makes interesting reading.
‘Wink’ Warner ??
It’s not often that in spotting the details of a yacht for sale on the south coast of England, an ‘unknown’ designer’s name is seen attached to such a handsome boat. ‘Wink’ Warner? Who on earth is ‘Wink’ Warner and what is a Warner 33?
And so a little investigation seemed called for, which unearthed a fascinating history of both the yacht ‘Tara,’ a Warner 33 and her designer.
Wink’ or to give him his full name, Winthrop Loring Warner is not ‘unknown’ at all and proves to have been a very distinguished American Naval Architect. Apparently extremely shy, he actively avoided seeking the notoriety his designs warranted. Born in 1900 in Middletown, Connecticut, Warner went on to study Naval Architecture for four years at MIT and then worked with John G Alden, and Phillip Rhodes – at one stage replacing Olin Stephens…so there is nothing lacking in his CV!
‘Wink’ or to give him his full name, Winthrop Loring Warner is not ‘unknown’ at all and proves to have been a very distinguished American Naval Architect. Apparently extremely shy, he actively avoided seeking the notoriety his designs warranted. Born in 1900 in Middletown, Connecticut, Warner went on to study Naval Architecture for four years at MIT and then worked with John G Alden, and Phillip Rhodes – at one stage replacing Olin Stephens…so there is nothing lacking in his CV!
In 1929 he set up his own naval architects office in Middletown and his first commission was for a 53’ ketch to replace a smaller yacht which Alden had designed for the owner. Stepping into his mentor’s shoes like this must have been in at the deep end for the young designer. However, the risk was worth it because more commissions followed and the practice grew, taking on more staff although Warner never shared the actual design work. One of his team later remembered that “we produced very good looking boats, they were comfortable cruising boats, not racing yachts and Wink was known for getting a lot into a little space”
This point is amply demonstrated by Tara who is described by her broker as being like Tardis. She also has a typical look of a Warner design. Looking at several designs published in a 10 page feature article on Warner in Wooden Boat magazine of 1987 it is obvious that he had an eye for producing very good looking boats which are handsome rather than pretty. They all have a very purposeful look about them. Between 1931 and 1961 no fewer than 60 of his new designs and builds were featured in both ‘The Rudder’ and ‘Yachting’ magazines with many more being featured in ‘Wooden Boat’. In addition, there were many accounts of long distance voyages in his yachts…16,000 miles in one year in the Pacific clocked up by Blue Sea 111, and a 25,000 mile Pacific cruise by ‘Tere’ were two which showed that Warner designed for the oceans of the world, not just the Eastern Sea Board.
The tally of his designs is even more remarkable given that during the Second World War, Warner was drafted to work for Wilcox Crittendon who made, and still make, naval equipment. Tara still has her original Wilcox Crittendon heads (but in the owner’s garage as a heritage piece! The current owner describes it as a work of mechanical genius but not something to be tackled by the faint hearted. So Tara now sports a more streamlined modern heads).
After the war, Warner turned his attention to designing wooden boats for a new era where raw material and labour costs started to soar. Perhaps with the same mind set as David Hillyard he designed a yacht of which many could be built and where the design tried to minimise those aspects of the building process which were the most expensive, such as long drawn out ends. The challenge he set himself was to produce a high quality 33’ wooden yacht for $20,000. Hence the Warner 33 was born. This design was very successful and around 14 were built in wood before a mould was taken off and the design became the first American GRP production cruising yacht.
Building to a price point did not mean skimping on material quality or builder. Tara for example, built in 1953, has a mahogany hull of which the planks still look like new timber. Other timbers used are unusual in British built boats such as Canadian Rock Elm and American White Oak, and Cedar for the floors. Nearly all the metal work throughout the boat including fastenings and knees is very solid bronze all of which reflect the build quality. The owner reports that when the bronze fastenings are drawn they come out looking like they were only screwed in yesterday. Tara was built at Graves Yard in Marblehead, Maine, a yard which had a very long and extremely distinguished pedigree in the ‘yacht capital’ of the USA. 60 years later their workmanship is still plain to see.
On his death in the late 1980’s all Warner’s designs were taken over by the NationalMaritimeMuseum in Mystic Seaport. The current owner reports that all the work done to Tara during his ownership has been done using the Warner’s original drawings which were supplied by the museum. The collection holds 150 drawings for the Warner 33 showing how Warner used a meticulous design process to control the production cost.
So with such a strong American East Coast provenance what is Tara doing in Plymouth, England?
Tara was owned for over thirty years by Sir Kenelm Guinness. He had forsaken the family brewing company for a career at the World Bank in Washington. Reportedly he had a number of homes up and down the eastern seaboard of the States from Florida up to Maine. Each home had its own dock and Tara, along with the rest of the family, migrated up and down the coast with the seasons! It was he who changed the boat’s build name of Lara to Tara reflecting his Irish heritage, Tara being the ancient historical seat of Irish Kings as well as being a Guinness family name. The current owner has a letter and photographs from Sir Kenelm outlining how much pleasure his family derived from Tara.
During this period it is understood that Tara sailed the Eastern Atlantic seaboard from Venezuela to Newfoundland. Eventually Tara was taken over by a professional yachtsman who knew her well. He crossed the Atlantic with just himself and his young daughter aboard. Once on this side of the Atlantic, she cruised round Ireland and down to Spain.
In 1996 her current owner set off from his Hillyard in Sutton Harbour in Plymouth to buy a pint of milk. It was many hours before he returned to his family waiting with cold tea, having seen Tara, newly arrived in the harbour, and fallen instantly in love with her. Tara became part of their family and has been cherished ever since. She was the subject of a major upgrade by John Moody and Traditional Sail in Salcombe in time for her 50th birthday in 2003 so she now boasts all mod cons within a very handsome classic yacht.
Tara’s design is very practical for UK waters a long shallow keel with a draft of 4’10” meaning that creek crawling (especially with her legs) adds great fun for family exploring. For all her owners she has been very much a family boat on which all the families’ children have all developed a deep love of sailing. Getting both her huge cockpit and very generous accommodation into a 33’ boat is like an optical illusion.
Although beamy for boats of her era she has an extremely sharp waterline entry which then flares out to the deck making her not only very dry but in the words of her broker with a grin from ear to ear as Tara whistled across Plymouth Sound “ She sails like a witch!”….yes, she’s rather fast too.
So well done Wink Warner.
Much of the historical information above is drawn from an article in April 1987 in Wooden Boat Magazine.