Home > Jims Column > 2001 > A Happy New Year to our Wharram Builders and Sailors

A Happy New Year to our Wharram Builders and Sailors

By James Wharram

As I write this, the first snow for ten years is falling outside the office windows. (An unusual occurrence here in Cornwall) It seems so recent when at this time of year we left Christmas Island and Indonesia behind us and were sailing aboard GAIA to Sri Lanka, from there to Oman, then non stop up the Red Sea to Egypt; eventually leaving GAIA in her new home base, Gouvia Marina in Corfu.

The year 2000 has been a year with the least sailing for the last 8 years. Well, I did steer a Viking Ship in Roskilde, Denmark, I/we sailed the Tahiti Wayfarer at the Brest/Douarnenez Classic Boat Festival and we sailed in the waters off Greece and Corfu on GAIA.

In November, we set in motion the re-printing of my book ‘Two Girls, Two Catamarans’.

The first two ‘Islander’ projects are creaking into being.

Sadly, not with the speed I had hoped for. The last few months of the year 2000 were overshadowed with defending my Ideas, Copyright, Intellectual Property, Old Age Insurance, call it what you will, from being exploited by others.

What I have found in my life, that what at the time seems deep adversity, is in fact the breaking out into a new creative phase of my life. I will not speculate at the moment at a possible future, but just endure (like being in a hard gale – do your best and endure).

I have learnt a lot in the last few months, and if this Wharram Web page seems a little introspective, well two days ago, a leading French yacht magazine asked me whether they could write an in-depth article on Wharram and his Life Work. It set me thinking about my sailing life and designing in general, particularly relating to the last three months.

One thing I have learnt or defined in the last three months is that there are now two public approaches to Wharram Designs.

Recently I wrote in the Epilogue to ‘Two Girls, Two Catamarans’: "with the publication of my first major commercial designs in 1965 I realized for the first time that through my ‘Design’ ideas I had an unspoken communication with many, many people". If in the early years of my design career you did not share these ideas, then you would not build or sail a Wharram Boat, because they were too way-out in appearance and sailing design ideas for the general (multihull) yachting public of that time.

However, by the mid 1980s, the practical sailing abilities and seaworthiness of the Wharram Designs were being demonstrated all over the world, the quality of the self built Wharrams was increasingly getting better (due to Hanneke’s more detailed Plans), and yachting editors began to report favourably, with boat tests and owners’ articles, on their sailing qualities.

The setting up of our Boat Building Firm ‘Wharram Built’ in 1987 showed the beauty that could be achieved in ply/epoxy construction.

To use Market Jargon, Wharram Catamarans became a Brand name and got a favourable niche in the world’s Commercial Boat Market.

For myself, after the years of being contemptuously referred to as a designer of ‘Hippy Boats’, or a ‘Guru’ who brainwashed people into building his designs, recognition of the sailing abilities of my designs has been a matter of pride and pleasure.

This public recognition started to draw a different clientele, the Boat Buyer.

We have been slow at developing the commercial Ready Built Boat Market; there are two reasons for this:

  • I want commercially built Wharram Boats to be built to the standard we set with the ‘Wharram Built’ firm of the late 1980s, early 90s. It is not easy to get the quality we want in epoxy work.
  • I/we are still sailors. Our inspiration comes from sailing, being at sea and from meeting other sailors - not from inside a Computer (which I agree is a useful TOOL). This does take time.

The year 2001 has to be the year when we will develop the Commercially Built Wharrams, to make happy the sailors, who want a Ready-built beautiful sailing boat that sails well.

On the other hand, the people whom I communicate Philosophical Ideas to through Design have to be cherished and remembered as the foundation of the Commercial Boat Ventures.

Reconciling these two aspects of Wharram Design is work for the future. With goodwill and interest of Wharram builders and buyers, we can do as we do in design, combining the best of the Old with the best of the New.

Again, a Happy New Year to you all.

- James Wharram