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Ted Irwin Story

Ted Irwin was seven years old when his family moved to the Tampa Bay area of Florida. That move began a lifetime of commitment to the sailing, designing and building of sailing yachts.

At fifteen, Ted started building boats of his own design in his backyard. From this self-taught experience came the knowledge that was to later enable him to design a “moth”. In that boat he won the North American and the world championships in its class.

After several years of formal education, painting, and backyard boat building, Ted landed a job as a draftsman, illustrator and part-time builder with Charlie Morgan. Ted was twenty-one. By 1963, Ted had served a stint in the Coast Guard, done some more studying and decided that it was time to go out on his own.

Ted rented a small Quonset hut on St. Petersburg Beach for $75 a month. There he built his first commercial sailboat. It took an arduous six months to build his first 31 footer, but it was an effort well spent. That boat, named Voodoo, was to launch Ted’s career by logging an astounding racing record.

Voodoo raced for two years in the Florida Ocean Racing Association, 1964 to 1966, and swept all honors. Ted, sailing Voodoo, won twenty-four out of twenty-eight races during that period. Voodoo and her crew did so well that a sailing editor said, “All the other boats were racing only for second place”. Other successes followed. Some of his famous racing yachts with names known the world over include: Voodoo, Black Magic, La Pantera, Razzle Dazzle and R2D2.

Ted successfully used the knowledge he gained in building high tech racing boats to build high performance cruising yachts. At any time, Ted, a prolific designer, has had as many as 15 models in production.

Ted incorporated as Irwin Yacht & Marine Corporation and in 1966 moved to the new site of the Irwin factory. The original factory had only 12,500 square feet. It grew to over 75,000 square feet and over two hundred employees.

Ted’s innovative designs blend luxurious accommodations and easy sail handling in a fast hull. The Irwin philosophy was simply to build a good boat for the money - make her stylish and fast - stable and comfortable. Irwin Yachts was the only major yacht manufacturer whose Research and Development Program used international yacht racing to test new designs and construction techniques.

Ted was still fiercely competitive on the racecourse, however pipe berths gave way to air-conditioning and generators. His Irwin 68, Distant Drummer, boasts a full set of racing sails, a 3-speed coffee grinder and an on-deck Jacuzzi. Below deck is the epitome of elegance and convenience with accommodations for 10, yet the yacht can be sailed by 2.

Irwin was proud to have built more cruising sailboats over 50’ than any other boat builder in the world. Over 6,000 yachts have been built. Over 300 Irwin 52, 54, 65, and 68s are sailing around the globe.

Charter Yachting Hall of Fame
December 2016

This year for the first time, we honour a yacht designer and builder with membership in the Charter Yachting Hall of Fame. Active as a designer and builder from 1966 to 1991, with hulls laid for over 6000 sailing yachts, Ted Irwin was still cruising in the Florida Keys aboard his own 68 footer, Distant Drummer, into his 70s. And it is for the yachts such as Distant Drummer that the Charter Yacht Brokers Association has chosen to honour Ted Irwin today. His designs for the Irwin 65 and 68 ketches revolutionized the charter fleet in the Caribbean.

Ted’s family moved to Florida when he was 7, and with that began a lifelong commitment to sailing and yacht building. His innovative designs blended luxurious accommodations and easy sail handling in a comfortable hull. The Irwin philosophy was simply to build a good boat for the money.

While Ted was fiercely competitive on the race course, pipe berths soon gave way to air-conditioning and generators. His Irwin 68s often boasted coffee grinder winches and an on-deck Jacuzzi. Below deck they were (and are) the epitome of elegance and convenience with accommodations for up to 8 guests plus crew, yet the yacht can be sailed by 2, though Ted provided for a variety of layouts. Built from 1981 to 1991, there were 50 of the Irwin 65s and 68s launched.

As the late CYBA member Verna Ruan noted, “The Irwins were among the first to have four equal size guest cabins aft and each with its own private head and shower”. Just as we saw the catamaran revolution take over the charter fleet several years ago, in the early 1980s, so too were Ted’s 65s and 68s revolutionary. As many as 4 equal queen suites lead to the term “floating condos”, but these were fine production yachts that elbowed aside less commodious designs often overcrowded with narrow upper and lower single berths and several guest cabins and crew sharing one or two heads. They were in their time floating luxury. It’s for this reason that today we honour Ted Irwin with membership in the Charter Yachting Hall of Fame.

Today, Ted Irwin 65 and 68 foot designs still actively chartering include Drumbeat 1, Three Moons, Stargazer, Sandcastle, and Sublime, as well as several Irwin 52s. Sadly, Ted Irwin passed away not quite 2 years ago at age 74. Regards, Dick Schoonover CharterPort BVI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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