James Wharram Receives Classic Boat 'Lifetime Achievement' Award

Home News James Wharram Receives Classic Boat 'Lifetime Achievement' Award
By Hanneke Boon

On 3rd April James Wharram and Hanneke Boon attended the 2018 Classic Boat Awards ceremony at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in London. Awards were given for various categories of building and restoring Classic Boats. However, this year there was a special extra award presented to James Wharram for a 'Lifetime Achievement' as Pioneer catamaran builder - sailor and multihull designer.

Rob Peake, Hanneke Boon, James Wharram
CB editor Rob Peake, Hanneke Boon and James Wharram (Photo by Classic Boat)
Classic Boat awards
The awards (Photo by Carli Summer)

James was the last to receive the award and was introduced to the audience by Rob Peak, editor of Classic Boat with these words:

"James Wharram will not need an introduction for most of us. In 1956, he made the first successful Atlantic crossing in a multihull - the 23ft 6in (7.2m) Tangaroa, which he designed and built himself for £200 and sailed with two German girls. In 1959 they were the first to cross the North Atlantic from West to East (New York to N. Wales) in a multihull, the 40ft catamaran Rongo, built in Trinidad.  Since then, he has sold more than 10,000 of his plans for cruising multihulls worldwide, and some consider him to be the father of modern multihull sailing. More than that, James has always understood that sailing is not about expenditure. He has remained firmly wedded to his 'less is more' philosophy, always looking for simpler effective ways to build and rig his designs. What should be specially noted is his simple, but highly efficient Wharram Wingsail rig.  He is 90 this year and shows no sign of stopping. He is, simply, a Living Legend."

Classic boat award
James Wharram's lifetime achievement award (Photo by Carli Summer)
James Wharram giving a speech
James giving his acceptance speech (Photo by Classic Boat)

James was emotionally stirred as he addressed the audience in his speech of thanks. Many people commented afterwards of how much they appreciated the speech and the attitudes expressed in it.

Here is James' speech:

"Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous American architect was once asked how he achieved fame. He answered: " I lived longer than the others". Maybe being close to my 90th birthday and having survived most of my design competitors, is why I am standing here today to receive this Classic Boat 'Lifetime Achievement Award'.

"So, who were my competitors? In the design of multihulls there have been three lines of development.

"Some multihull designers focussed on the narrow beam length ratio of the individual hulls to achieve 'speed', faster than the maximum speed of fixed ballast monohull yachts, due to their wave drag.

"Other designers used the raft configuration of the multihull to create comfortable floating villas, as an alternative to buying expensive coastal land for a villa by the sea.

"I belong to a third group of boat-owners and sailors, summed up in poetry, as in: "I must go down to the sea again to the lonely sea and the sky". We 'dreamers of dreams' follow an essential part of the Human psyche, either consciously or unconsciously.

"The development of Early Man has over the years been viewed from different perspectives. Until fairly recently the view was of Early Man the Great Hunter followed by women and children picking up their scraps.

"However with more studies into Human DNA and further archaeological finds, it is becoming clear that Early Woman/Man followed coast lines and rivers where fish and shell fish was abundant and easily gathered. The making of watercraft must have been one of Mankind's earliest skills. The first people to reach Australia, as early as 60,000 years ago, arrived there by some form of watercraft.

"This archaic affinity with the sea and watercraft is in the DNA of all of us, and I believe, leads us to want to own and sail our boats. Many of present day sailing people are not interested in male competitive sports, they are not interested in a sea villa, they are moved by a deep instinct of our species to be on or by the water.

"Throughout my life, beginning as a Fell walker and pioneering catamaran sailor, I have been aware of this instinct and as a designer have tried to express it in my boats. Having sold over 10,000 designs, it does seem many of my builders connect with this.

"Classic Boat is a magazine that has always expressed the beauty of traditional watercraft and the love of being on the water in a beautiful boat. Over the years, I have enjoyed every issue and still keep them all, including number 1, on my overflowing library shelves.

"I am honoured to receive this Award from a magazine I value and admire.

Thank you.

James and Hanneke at award ceremony
James and Hanneke (Photo by Carli Summer)
Guests at the award ceremony
Guests at the ceremony (Photo by Classic Boat)
Champagne reception
The champagne reception (Photo by Classic Boat)

Read more about this on the Classic Boat website.