Naval architect Warwick Hood AO passed away at Erina on the NSW Central Coast early in July, shortly before his 83rd birthday. To the general public and the yachting scene in particular he was well recognised and highly respected as the designer of Australia’s second America’s Cup challenger, the International 12-Metre class yacht Dame Pattie. This design was very significant in its own right, but was a part of Hood’s long career in naval architecture that was also filled with remarkably varied work that reflects wide interests along with an ability to manage diverse marine projects.
Warwick Hood was born in Westmead in July 1932, and attended school at Wentworth Public School then Parramatta High School, inland from Sydney Harbour where his later life was centred. It was during a family holiday to Pearl Beach on the Central Coast of New South Wales that he became interested in sailing. He built his first boat, a wooden VJ class, in the back yard of his Wentworthville home and began racing it in 1945, when he was 13 years old.
Leaving school he had considered joining the merchant navy but chose instead to pursue a career in shipbuilding. He gained an apprenticeship at Cockatoo Island which included the diploma course in Naval Architecture at Sydney Technical College and he graduated in 1954. During his time at Cockatoo Island he was involved with various rewarding naval shipbuilding projects including HMAS Tobruk and the two Daring class destroyers, HMAS Voyager and HMAS Vampire – the latter is now a floating exhibit at the Australian National Maritime Museum. He worked alongside Alan Payne, who also became one of Australia’s leading yacht designers. Hood formed an association and friendship with Payne that became a significant influence on the direction of his career.
In late 1956 Payne invited Hood to join his own naval architecture practice, which had a number of yacht design projects under way. With his wife Julie’s support, Hood left the security of the public service job and began a pathway that led to a life of challenging and diverse projects. Hood was able to work in the arena of the highest level of yacht design and racing, as well as creating some of the first Australian-designed yachts to be built using aluminium, or production in fibreglass. He created a paddle steamer for the Murray River, but had also worked on designs for an innovative project for fast ships to carry bulk freight across Bass Strait. As a consultant he prepared a number of transport plans for developing countries.
He remains best known for his work in the first of these – the high-tension field of designing yachts for the America’s Cup, the pinnacle for yacht racing then and now. At Alan Payne’s practice he became a key member of the team that developed the design for Gretel, Australia’s first challenger for the America’s Cup in 1962.
Payne closed his business soon after and went into other areas of engineering for a brief period, but Hood was determined to continue a career in naval architecture and took the bold decision to set up his own practice, seeking commercial design as a significant source of work. His first design was an aluminium catamaran, followed by Yampyl, the first aluminium ocean racer built in Australia.
Victorian interests then asked Hood to be their designer for the 1967 Australian challenge for the America’s Cup – and here the experience of the 1962 project became a strong foundation for an even more demanding task that was set for the 1967 series. The American defenders had used their discretion to allow Australia access to tank testing facilities and materials from US sources for critical work during the 1962 design and construction of Gretel. Perhaps they underestimated Australia’s abilities, as the subsequent racing was much closer than they anticipated. For 1967 they were much more rigid about the Deed of Gift requirement for the yacht to be ‘designed and built’ in the country of origin. This meant that Hood’s design and construction for Dame Pattie was 100 per cent Australian and they had to develop and manufacture to the highest standard for racing many things that had previously been sourced from overseas as stock items.
The yacht was superbly built by Bill Barnett in Berrys Bay, and optimised around a light to moderate wind range which studies showed were the typical conditions for the event. Unfortunately it was a series sailed in much stronger winds, and the US defender Intrepid was able to handle these better, winning 4–0, a score that did not reflect the standard of Dame Pattie’s preparation by its team of designers, builders and sailors.
Hood moved on from the America’s Cup with further yacht designs, but had already ventured into production craft with the Hood Boat Company in 1966, which built the first Australian-designed fibreglass production yachts. Three models were made, the 20, 23 and 27, reflecting their length in feet. They were multi-chine, raised deck craft that were easy to sail and made the sport accessible to many more people. The classes were popular and raced in various states.
Hood was also very proud of his support to Sir Francis Chichester’s record of becoming the first man to sail around the world solo with his yawl Gipsy Moth IV in 1966/67. During the Sydney stop-over, Hood reconfigured the keel and other details to make the yacht manageable and Chichester completed the voyage safely.
Commercial work included an intriguing project with Gordon Barton who managed IPEC freight services. Barton obtained support for a project to use fast ships to carry bulk freight across Bass Strait in competition with planes. Based around fast, narrow ships with basic staffing, the plan involved coordination of the vehicles, containers and handling at both ends to make the operation economic. Hood developed the design of the vessels and worked on the manning requirements. The intention was to operate two ships in tandem crossing over mid strait, and Hood worked out a staffing arrangement of three deck officers and two engineers, all with watch certificates so that the bridge was constantly staffed by qualified crew. Unfortunately the project was abandoned when the Tasmanian Government withdrew their funding support and other backers would not proceed alone.
In complete contrast, his 1980s design for the Murray River paddle steamer Emmy Lou has a 1908 Marshall and Sons steam engine, and was staffed traditionally with engineers holding steam qualifications. Two further sister ships were built from this design.
As a consultant one of Hood’s primary sources of work was preparing maritime-related transport plans for developing countries. The final detailed reports came with advice on appropriate vessel designs and the infrastructure needed. The first one was for Guyana in South America, but he also prepared plans for Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and other Pacific nations. The World Bank was instrumental in supporting this work.
As with many other principal designers, his own practice was a starting point for others who went on to have their own successful consultancies. Hood employed many who later became well-known names in the marine field, including John Bertrand, Jan Faustmann, Alf Lean, Don McGeechie, Peter Gosher, Tony Hearder and Glen Davis .In later years he was also a mentor to students in the Naval Architecture degree course.
Warwick Hood was made an Officer of Australia (AO) in 1994 for his services to the maritime industry as a naval architect.
Many of his Hood class designs remain sailing around Australia. Emmy Lou is currently operating out of Echuca as a charter vessel, while the legendary Dame Pattie became a cruising yacht and is now moored at a marina in Monaco on the Mediterranean. Warwick Hood is survived by his partner Jennifer Dakers, former wife Julie Hood (Mazlin), daughters Carly and Alison, four grandsons, a brother and a sister.
A memorial service is to be held at
the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron on July 16 at 2.30pm