Bruce Kirby (yachts)

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Bruce Robert William Kirby, CM (born 2 February 1929 in Ottawa)[1] is a Canadian-born sailboat designer, dinghy and offshore racer and journalist. His designs span in size from the single-handed Laser dinghy, by far the most successful one design boat in history, to the 12-meter class Louis Vuitton Cup yacht, Canada One. He continues his design work in his American company, Bruce Kirby Marine.


A Canadian newspaperman and former editor of Yacht Racing (predecessor to Sailing World), Bruce Kirby is best known for designing the Laser. Kirby started as a reporter in Montreal before editing Yacht Racing and, in his spare time, taking up yacht design and drawing the Laser.

In 1970 Kirby became editor of Yacht Racing, the premier racing publication of its time, where he stayed until 1975. Juggling editorial duties and his passion for the sea, Kirby still found time to continue designing boats. Sensing the need for a car-toppable, singlehanded dinghy, Kirby drew the Laser in 1969. Now an Olympic class, nearly 200,000 boats have been built through 2004.

While the Laser is Kirby's most successful design, his career began with the International 14 class, a developmental skiff with relatively few rules. Kirby designed several International 14s, winning the world championships in 1958 and 1961.[2] Kirby also represented Canada at the Olympic regattas in 1956 and 1964, sailing Finns, and in a Star in 1968.

Since the 1970s Kirby has designed two America's Cup 12-Meters, Canada One and Canada II, the Apollo, Sonar, San Juan 24, Kirby 23, Kirby 25, and Kirby 30, Ideal 18, and the Pixel, a doublehanded trainer that has replaced the Blue Jay on Long Island Sound. The San Juan 24 was extremely successful, with over a thousand built since its debut. Designed to the IOR rating, it was the basis for many of Kirby's later offshore designs. Kirby also served as both designer and skipper on Runaway, Canada's entry in the 1981 Admiral's Cup.

Bruce Kirby also designed Norwalk Islands Sharpies, a line of high powered, shallow draft sailboats from 18 ft. to 41 ft. The designs use modern plywood, fiberglass and epoxy construction that are popular with home builders.

The Sonar is the largest of three classes used in Paralympic sailing.

Kirby was also part of the international committee elected to create the new IACC boats (International America's Cup Class) used in the America's Cup beginning in 1992 in San Diego.

The International 14 which won the two championships is now owned by the Dubiel family of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

He was in the first induction of the Lisgar Collegiate Institute Athletic Wall of Fame, as part of the 160th Anniversary celebrations. [3]

Kirby lives in Rowayton, CT. He is a member of the Noroton Yacht Club.

Order of Canada[edit]

On December 6, 2017 Kirby was invested into the Order of Canada for his contributions to the sport of sailing. Besides representing Canada three times at the Olympics, Kirby's biggest contribution to the sport of sailing is the design of the popular Laser dinghy. The award was presented personally to Kirby by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, in September 2018 at a ceremony at Rideau Hall.[4][5]


  1. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill. "Bruce Kirby". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
  2. ^ "International 14 past World Championships". Retrieved 31 Aug 2015. Year: 1958, Venue: Cowes, UK (GBR, CAN, NZL), Team Worlds Winners: CAN. Year: 1961, Venue: Toronto (CAN, GBR, USA, BER), Team Worlds Winners: CAN
  3. ^ Alere Flammam, Lisgar Alumni Association Newsletter, Fall 2004
  4. ^ "Bruce Kirby given Order of Canada". Canadian Yachting / CBC. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  5. ^ "Order of Canada: Bruce Kirby, C.M." Governor General of Canada. 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2018.

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