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J.R. (Rod) Macalpine-Downie (1934-1986)

Designer / Naval Architect , Appin, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, UK

J.R. (Rod) Macalpine-Downie gained his interest in sailing and science from his father, and offshore sailor and specialist in hypervelocity artillery shells and armor to resist his newest weapon.

Rod won the King’s Scholar Award at Eaton. He majored in biology and seriously considered a career as a concert violinist. One of his professors at Eaton said he remembered him well, because an IQ can be accurately tested to 170, but his :went off “ the scale.

While chicken farming in Scotland in 1961, he saw a Shearwater Cat and although he never designed a boat, concluded he could do a better job. The first boat was Thai MK4 which won all six races of the 1962 European, “one of a kind” regatta. He followed that with the winning of the first International Catamaran Challenge in 1963, and had seven more consecutive wins.

He was the first with the UNA rig and wing masts. A series of crossbow designs won 5 consecutive competitions. Players Fastest sailboat, Trophies at a top official speed of 41 knots, the last of which sailed in 1984, unofficially at 60+ knots. At the time of his death, a new crossbow was underway, which he believed was capable of 70+ knots.

The partnership with Dick Gibbs in 1964 put 80 boats commercial production, resulting in 15,000+ boats. When measured both as a commercial and design success, the Buccaneer was the most significant.

In the technical sense, the most successful design was a 15 foot centerboard sloop which after capsizing, would right itself unassisted and yes, with a wooden centerboard full up in the trunk! The design proved the old adage; “beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone”. No one wanted to be saved by the ugly thing.

The partnership with Gibbs began with a hand shake, and continued for twenty plus years without a formal agreement and neither ever saw or questioned an accounting for the income/expenditures the their respective half of the business world each administered.

by Dick Gibbs (from Buccaneer website)

See also

  • Alan Gurney Designer / Naval Architect (Islay, Argyll and Bute)
  • James McGruer Designer / Naval Architect (Clynder, Argyll and Bute)

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J.R. (Rod) Macalpine-Downie (1934-1986)

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