Major biography about legendary New Zealand yacht designer and boatbuilder Des Townson


Des Townson: A  Sailing Legacy by Brian Peet, published in hardback by Mary Egan Publishing, 18 September 2019, RRP: $80.00

‘(Des Townson: A Sailing Legacy) is, without doubt, the most intimate and accurate portrayal that we will ever see of Des Townson and his yachts, but it also provides an insight into that vibrant network of highly skilled people – yachtsmen and yachtswomen, yacht designers and yacht builders – who have made the last 75 years of the sport in New Zealand so amazingly successful at home, and on the world stage.’ – Harold Kidd, Marine Historian

Imbuing the spirit of the ‘number eight wire,’ New Zealander Des Townson was a self-taught yacht designer and boat builder. Throughout his 50-year design career he produced some of the most striking and spirited boats to ever grace our waters.

Des Townson: A Sailing Legacy which Mary Egan Publishing are proud to publish in September 2019, chronicles the remarkable life and design work of a Kiwi legend. His remarkable story is told by family friend, fellow yachtie and author Brian Peet, through Townson’s own recollections and those of his family, close friends and associates. Peet also draws on his own observations of Townson over many years, revealing fresh insights into his personality and influence.

Peet grew up knowing Des Townson and has spent much of his sailing time racing and recreationally sailing Townson yachts. In his book, Peet includes fresh material about the legend that is Des Townson, as well as scores of photographs, boat plans and press reports, and chronicles the impact Townson had on the New Zealand sailing scene, so that it is preserved for future generations.

‘Des Townson was a yacht designer and boatbuilder responsible for a unique body of work, which filled a special niche in New Zealand’s rich boating history. As an accomplished racing yachtsman, a teenage Tanner Cup winner and Mistral class champion, Des brought a once-in-a-generation set of skills to his creative art. He possessed an intuitive feel for a boat, an analytical mind, a phenomenal memory, a dogged drive and a wonderful eye for the visual balance of a yacht,’ says Peet.

Townson was a purist, a perfectionist and a genius. He had a spartan approach to design and exacting standards. The result: outstandingly beautiful yachts with great race potential. Des Townson’s impact on the New Zealand sailing community was huge and his legacy lives on in the thousands of yachts bearing his name and which continue to sail the Waitemata, and beyond.

BRIAN PEET is a fourth-generation Auckland yachting devotee. He built his first boat, a Starling, while still at high school and won the class national championship the following year. He was a New Zealand representative in the international Tornado class. To pay the bills he carved out a career in aviation, starting as an apprentice engineer and retiring 44 years later as a 767 captain. He has written and published one previous book, The Seuffert Legacy, a biography of New Zealand’s most famous colonial cabinet-maker, Anton Seuffert.

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