William Hand

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For other people named William Hand, see William Hand (disambiguation).

William H. Hand, Jr. (1875–1946) was an American yacht designer. Hand has been described as one of the most prolific yacht designers of the 20th century with an exceptionally good eye for handsome boats.[1] Hand’s career began around 1900 with the design of small sailboats, but he soon shifted to V-bottomed powerboats. These latter were his specialty until after World War I, when he directed his talent to seakindly schooners including the famous examples Bowdoin and S.S.S. Lotus. Later during the 1930s, motorsailers became his passion; examples still sailing include the Guildive (a ketch). Hand’s office was in Fairhaven, Massachusetts (but advertisements in The Rudder and Motorboat magazines indicate he did business in New Bedford, MA prior to Fairhaven.)

The New England Hurricane of 1938 and accompanying tidal surge damaged or destroyed a good deal of Hand’s design work and records. Hand’s surviving drawings are at the Hart Nautical Collections, MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This from Kurt Hasselbalch, curator of the Hart Collection at MIT:

Born in Portland, Maine, the son of Captain William H. Hand, a former naval officer in the Civil War, Mr. Hand first began designing boats upon graduation from Brown University.

Mr. Hand came to the New Bedford area before the turn of the century and his name soon became nationally and internationally known as the owner of the Buzzards Bay Yacht Agency. 
Among the vessels he designed, perhaps the most famous was the schooner Bowdoin, the flagship of Cmdr. Donald MacMillan's Arctic expeditions. 
He also designed two other Arctic vessels, the Ariel, and the Zodiac. 
His best known work is perhaps the development of the Hand V-bottom boats. The Hand-designed Countess, a V-bottom express cruiser he built and sailed, set a new record in the New York Yacht Club's annual classic from Whortelberry Island to Block Island in 1916. The Countess covered 100 nautical miles in a little better than four hours. 
From his offices he furnished boat designs which saw their way to such distant points as South America and New Zealand, and is believed to be the first to introduce a modified version of the Cape Cod catboat to New Zealand waters. 
During World War I he helped get a New England shipbuilding program underway for the region and later served as naval architect at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia where he designed sea planes for the war effort. 
A member of the New Bedford Yacht Club, he served as commodore of the group in 1929. He was also a member of the Wamsutta Club and numerous organizations connected with yachting and yacht design. 
When he died in March, 1946, he was in Maine working on a boat under construction in East Boothbay. 

Existing Examples[edit]


A two-part article on William Hand, published in Woodenboat Nos. 28 and 29 (May/June and July/August 1979) covers the designer’s career. Additional material is in Waldo Howland’s book Life in Boats: The Years Before the War, published by Mystic Seaport in 1984. For a rundown on Hand’s drawings, refer to Kurt Hasselbalch’s Guide to Davis-Hand Collection by MIT in 1998.

Tasmanian One-Design[edit]


  1. ^ Bray, Anne and Maynard (2000). Designs to Inspire: From The Rudder 1897-1942, WoodenBoat Publications. ISBN 0-937822-63-9, p. 178.

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