4 Simple Questions with Sailboat Designer Chuck Paine

"A designer must study the essentials of what is beautiful in yachts, and work these ideals into any design he draws whether blonde or brunette, transom stern or pointed, power or sail." - Chuck Paine

This post is the first in a series I'm putting together to help give myself some new perspectives on cruising sailboats from the design pros. In the series, I'll be asking well-known yacht designers to answer 4 questions. Follow along with the series and learn a bit about what makes these designers tick and the intricacies of such things as the tradeoffs for sailboats between form and function.

Here are my questions for the designers:

1) Sum up your sailboat design philosophy in a few sentences.
2) What's one of your personal favorite sailboats that you designed and why?
3) Is there a sailboat design and/or designer that inspired your own work or career?
4) Is it more difficult to design a sailboat that looks good or sails good?

For this particular post, I'm pleased (and thankful!) to share responses to my questions from Chuck Paine. Chuck began designing sailboats professionally in 1971 as an apprentice to Dick Carter. Soon thereafter, he set up his own design company - C.W. Paine Yacht Design, Inc. Although Chuck has designed sail and power boats, he's perhaps best known to cruising sailors for his work on several very high quality sailboats from Morris Yachts such as the Frances 26 and the Annie 29. He has also designed very large sailboats such as the Morris 51 Apogee and the Bermuda Series. In recent years, Chuck has gone on to found his new company, ChuckPaine.com LLC, which focuses on small, elegant sailboats "for those who wish to simplify their leisure lives in style."

So in Chuck's words, here are his answers to my questions:

1. I really didn't have a philosophy. Since I did it to make a living, I looked at myself as an artistically talented whore. I did it for the money, and I did it whatever way my John (excuse me, my client) wanted me to do it.  But I had studied the designs of all of the famous designers and could pretty much draw an accurate copy of an Archer or a Herreshoff or an Olin Stephens or a John Alden or a Ralph Winslow without consulting any book. Remember, my firm designed almost as many powerboats as sail - you can't get any more commercial than that! Now, when I'm semi- retired, I still design boats, but I am very choosy. I have no staff anymore (we got up to 5 people in the office in the halcyon days), so I can only do boats small enough that I can do all the drawings myself before the customer croaks. And basically, because I adore his designs, I won't design anything that doesn't look like what Nat Herreshoff would design today if he were still alive.  Like this one that was just launched this summer- my interpretation of an Alerion, with a deep keel to make her a lot more stable... the centerboard Alerions were wicked tender.

Chuck's interpretation of an Alerion (Read more about it here)
 2. Personal favorite design? I absolutely love my little Paine 14. It's based upon the Herreshoff 12 1/2 but a bit smaller, and with a much higher performance fin keel and separate balanced rudder and unstayed carbon fiber mast. Sail Magazine made it their Daysailor Catgory Boat of the Year last year. It sails amazingly well, and it has engendered two more designs that I am working on now - a "Paine 15" that will be almost identical, and a "York 18” that is being tooled up now. Why do I favor this design over so many others I have done? Because, being small and easy to get going, I actually use it - a lot!  I have owned boats up to 38 feet in length, and the larger they were, the less I used them. Maybe this is why when you go by any urban marina in the world on a sunny summer weekend all you see is big, white, fiberglass boats that could be out sailing, but aren't. Size matters, and small is good for sailboats because it makes them easy to use.
Paine 14
York 18

3. Nat Herreshoff was without question my inspiration. I grew up on an island in Narragansett Bay and the two boatyards there were full of Herreshoffs. By age five I knew from seeing these beautiful objects that when I grew up I would be a yacht designer. Half of them were Herreshoff 12 1/2s. I think it is the finest boat design that was ever done anywhere, by anyone. Here's me sailing PETUNIA, built in 1937 so almost 80 years old now. I bought her in 1972 when I was working in Dick Carter's office.
Chuck Paine sailing PETUNIA
4. It is much more difficult to design one that looks good. For two reasons - what looks good is subjective. Some prefer blondes, some prefer brunettes. But ask any man whether a woman is beautiful, and he will say yea or nay despite his chosen "type" (same for you ladies, I am sure). A designer must study the essentials of what is beautiful in yachts, and work these ideals into any design he draws whether blonde or brunette, transom stern or pointed, power or sail. I made it because I could do this, and I think it is what set the other successful designers of the past apart.

Thanks again to Chuck for his willingness to candidly participate in this blog series.  Want more writing from Chuck? Get his book - My Yacht Designs and the Lessons They Taught Me.

Want more guest posts from sailboat designers? My Sailboat Reviews page has a variety of articles that were written for SailFarLiveFree by Bob Perry and Ted Brewer.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series fromm other prominent yacht designers!


  1. 57 Degrees North16 October

    Very cool! My dad and I were just talking on the phone the other night, dreaming up the "perfect" cruising boat, and it came out sounding suspiciously like Chuck Paine's Annie 2...

    1. Agree...Annie 2 is a beauty. I love how Chuck describes her: "She’s the epitome of “just enough.” Just enough headroom (if you’re less than six feet tall), just enough displacement to be reasonably comfortable in a storm at sea, just enough keel area to claw off a lee shore under short sail, just enough length to cover 150 miles in a 24-hour day, just pushed down enough in the water to put your eyes precisely at the height of the portholes, just large enough an interior for two couples to share the voyage with a bit of privacy."

  2. Interesting series! Looking forward to the next installments. Cheers - Ellen

  3. Great read. Would love to hear the same thoughts on the S&S design.

    SV Kintala


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