This Was The Cutting Edge in 1986

“Twelve Meter Design: State of the Art in 1986”

Author:  Rik van Hemmen

Published:  April 1986

Presented to the New York Metropolitan Section of SNAME and published in October 1986 issue of Marine Technology


Rik van Hemmen prepared this paper to summarize his experience as the Chief Engineer for the EAGLE Syndicate on the 1987 America’s Cup campaign. The paper catalogs the innovations that occurred in the middle 1980’s and actually describes a design tipping point in yacht (and ship) design. The middle 1980’s introduced concepts that have since matured and improved but are still used today. While much of the technology described now appears rather primitive, it is interesting to note that the underlying principles and methodologies have barely changed.

However, the increase in complexities of today’s technologies and programs has resulted in a peculiar trend. While CAD programs have become much less expensive, most specialized technical programs such as hydrostatics programs and finite element analysis programs have become more expensive due to a market shakeout. In 1987 anybody could buy a decent hydrostatics program for about $1000. Today there are only very fancy hydrostatics programs, but those cost about $20,000. What this country needs is a good $300 hydrostatics program.

Also, 1987 was the last year for the 12 M Class in America’s Cup competition. Since that time the much more expensive ACC Class has come and gone, and the present high performance catamarans are even more expensive.

However, it does not appear it has made America’s Cup competition any better and, while the boats designed for the later classes are scrapped (or turned into art displays, the 12 M Class is more popular than ever.


Some things are too big, some are too small and some are just right, and for engineers that is one of the most difficult things to figure out.

To download the full paper click this link:  12_Meter_Design _State_of_the_Art_in_1986