Paul Whiting, that great forgotten genius of the IOR


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We tell you what happened a few days ago in the newsroom. “Who is the designer of Pendragon (the 70′ Nicola Paoleschi boat featured in the long races, 151 Miglia and TAG Heuer Vela Cup in Pisa),” someone asked. “New Zealander Laurie Davidson,” replied another.

“Did you know that Davidson was part of a ‘trio’ of young Kiwi designers who revolutionized the world of the IOR, the tonnage by which offshore races were run until 1998?” spoke director Luca Oriani. “Two are still alive, Bruce Farr and, indeed, Davidson. But some say the most brilliant was Paul Whiting, who disappeared at sea after the 1980 Sydney Hobarth on his boat.”

Paul Whiting (1952-1980)


Many of the younger editors, given this name, flashed their best questioning smiles as if to ask , “Who was this guy?” Whiting, born in 1952, was part of the new generation of “self-taught” Kiwi designers. He began designing at age 16 his first boat, the Reactor 25, which was quite successful (70 units sold). His first light displacement hull was the Stinger, a 1974 half-tonner.

Magic Bus

His most famous boat is the Magic Bus, born in late 1975. It was to be a boat following the idea of the Farr 727 that won the Quarter Ton Cup the previous year, that is, with a light displacement and typical dinghy shapes. Whiting thus designed Magic Bus, which in 1976 won the Quarter Ton Cup in Corpus Christi, Texas.

He later designed Candù, eighth at the Half Ton Cup in Trieste, and Newspaper Taxi, a moving-drift half-tonner that was the star and winner of many offshore races.

Smackwater Jack (11.95 m) is the first boat he designed for the One Tonner world: built in 1977, it is the boat on which the designer found death along with his wife Alison, John Sugden and Scott Coombes at the 1980 Hobart to Auckland in a storm… The boat went missing, and only in 2008, New Zealand newspapers write, would part of the cockpit be found along the island’s shores.

A strange boat Smackwater Jack (photo at top and left), with that very wide stern for the time (in contrast to the “V” sterns of the 1970s) that was ahead of its time and a square, unsightly deckhouse hastily made because, according to IOR regulations, it did not have sufficient height below deck.

Four revolutionary Kiwi designers: from left Ron Holland, Laurie Davidson, Bruce Farr, Paul Whiting (photo from

We posted an image on social asking for its name and designer, and you had your fun! Many went “butterfly,” some missed the answer but hit the boat type, and very few got it (Maurizio Manzoli, Domenico Boffi, Gl Priz). Those very few who know the genius of Paul Whiting, who died at age 27 in the Pacific.

Eugene Ruocco

(Images are from the beautiful blog




4 thoughts on “Paul Whiting, that great forgotten genius of the IOR”

  1. Jillian McMillan

    We owned stinger 2215 for 35years racing and cruising waitamata harbour and Auckland/gisborne races. She was not an easy boat to get her going but my husband was an ex 18ftr guy who was very experience . Stinger won a good many trophies and we had many family cruises.I loved her. Varnished kauri timber hull interior. Stewart was. 80 years old and had raced her the week before she was sold. We. were all sorry at the parting. J McMillan, Auckland New Zealand

  2. We owned and raced a whiting quarter tonner in Qld, including Moreton Bay Brisbane in the late 70’s to early 80’s. Our boat was purchased with the name “OnehungaBus” with the same hull and boat name colours as Magic Bus. The sail number was 2389. We have no history on where this boat came from, apart from the name of the Auckland Port where whiting yachts were built, but have fond memories sailing this beautiful yacht design. A credit to the Whiting family.j

  3. I have recently become the owner of a whiting 32 quarter tonner. Avaganda is a 1979 built model and is a pure racing yacht. I race her here in Perth Western Australia. My dad knew Paul and the other boys having competed himself in Sydney to Hobart in 68, 69,70 on Fidelis.
    Love the Whiting, and shes quick for a 40 something year old boat just need to get better at racing. Would love to hear from anyone else who has one….

    1. Hi John,
      I know Avaganda well, she used to be at CYC where I race Kiwi Express. Glad to hear Avaganda is still being raced. There are few still racing around Perth drop me a line some time.. Cheers Matt

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