Charles Eugene "Charley" Morgan Jr.

November 17, 1929 - January 6, 2023

Chicago, Illinois

There are many words to describe Charles E. Morgan, Jr. — enthusiastic, inquisitive, industrious, and friendly are a few that come to mind. Charley, as he was known around the waterfronts of the world, enjoyed a long career making sails, flying airplanes, designing and building boats, racing for the America’s Cup, creating artwork, making exhibits for Disney World, and working as an expert on handicap rating rules.

After attending the University of Tampa, he worked at Johnson Sailmakers for a brief time before starting his own loft in 1952 at the age of 23, Morgan Racing Sails. He focused on small one-design yachts like Stars, Thistles, and Snipes. To help sell his sails he competed at a high level. Charley Morgan won the Star Class North American Championship and many other regattas.  He was a sought-after crew on larger boats and became fascinated with finding ways to improve boat speed.  In 1955 he teamed up with Charlie Hunt to design and build a 32-foot hard-chine yawl. The hull was coated with a new material called fiberglass. The boat won several races, and they built more boats. In 1960, Morgan had a breakthrough when he was commissioned by Jack Powell to build a 40-foot, centerboard yawl named “Paper Tiger.”  The boat won the Southern Ocean Racing Conference in 1961 and again in 1962. Capitalizing on the success of his racing boats, Morgan founded the Morgan Yacht Corporation with partner Bruce Bidwell. The company’s order book was filled with racing and cruising yachts ranging from 24 to 54 feet in overall length.  Many of the 1,000+ Morgan Out Island series cruising yachts are still on the water today.

Morgan sold his company to Beatrice Foods in 1968 and used the funds to mount an America’s Cup campaign.  He designed, built, made the sails, managed, and skippered Heritage in the 1970 America’s Cup Defense Trials.  The 12 Meter boat was too large to put on a trailer to transport it over the road to Newport, R.I. so Morgan and his crew sailed the boat from Florida to Rhode Island. The boat was built out of wood and coated in varnish.  Heritage was a beautiful yacht but did not make the cut losing to Intrepid.  Critics wrote that Charley Morgan had tried to manage too many tasks to be successful.  Still, he was a popular character that Cup summer.

Morgan built several watercraft for Disney World including Mark Twain’s river boat and the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea submarine. In his later years he studied art by traveling to Europe to study master works. He took courses and lessons on how to be a better artist.  In 2018 a large sculpture of the frames of a sailboat hull was placed along the Riverwalk in Tampa. The title of the work is “Paying Homage to Charley.”

Gary Jobson

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