Deceased , Modern

Britton

Chance Jr.

Britt

19402012

Over the course of his lifetime, Britt Chance, Jr. designed boats ranging from rowing shells to meter boats to multihulls, fast cruisers to offshore racers, and just about everything in between. Britt became seriously interested in yacht design at age 15 when he took the Westlawn home-study design course. Largely self-taught, Britt had the necessary mathematical skills to take a scientific approach to sailboat design, and worked at the Stevens Institute of Technology towing tank in the summer during his college years. He then worked for Ray Hunt and Ted Hood, supervising all the tank tests on Nefertiti, the 12-Meter designed for the 1962 America’s Cup. Britt completed his first commissioned design, a 5.5 Meter, at age 22. His next design was a 40-foot trimaran that was cat-rigged, had a fully battened main, a rotating mast, hydraulically activated roller-furling/reefing gear, and had hulls made of epoxy resins, using unidirectional materials that were very advanced for that time. Britt began solo 12-Meter work in 1965.

Britt had a particular passion for America’s Cup design, and was a lead designer in 1970 when he redesigned Intrepid, which went on to win against the Australian challenger, 4-1. He was co-designer for Dennis Conner’s Stars and Stripes campaigns in 1987 and 1988, resulting in reclaiming the Americas Cup for the US in 1987 with a monohull, and then creatively beating the defending 90’ New Zealand monohull with the Stars and Stripes catamaran in 1988.

Britt was extremely innovative, pushing the technical envelope and accepting risks as an implicit part of improving his designs. He experimented with polymers in the 1960s, improving the laminar flow along the bottom of the boat. His efforts resulted in RRS 53 SKIN FRICTION outlawing this very idea. Even his most notoriously unsuccessful design, Mariner, was a daring, innovative effort. A pioneer in his field, he started using computers to design in 1968, using velocity prediction programs and computerized hull performance simulations. He designed the 1987 Stars and Stripes using the Cray X-MP/48 super computer, and worked with scientists from NASA, Boeing, and Grumman, as well as private aerodynamic and hydrodynamic consultants, to achieve a superior result. He used Tandy 2000 computers with yacht design software and shaved as much as a month off the time required for taking a boat from initial concept to finished product. Britt collaborated with Apple in the development of CAD Naval Design software (MacSurf, now MAXSURF) that ran on what was then the revolutionary Macintosh computer. This software used computing power and the intuitive Apple user interface to easily mathematically define the hull surface, saving hours of manual calculations. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OltXwsSFNGw&sns=em). In 1991, Britt also collaborated with the Harken brothers and others to design the hull of the 65’ Amoco Procyon, a futuristic boat whose goal was to modernize sailboats and revitalize a slumping industry. The Procyon had an ultra-light displacement hull with a wide beam made mostly of fiberglass, but had foam cores and carbon fiber reinforcement around the keel and structural areas – all new technology at that time. (http://www.nytimes.com/1991/05/19/sports/yachting-a-new-craft-for-a-sunken-market.html). Procyon is a showcase of ideas with unconventional design, unconventional materials and assuredly unconventional handling, all of which raised eyebrows as well as interest.

Britt’s designs enjoyed significant successes in many different sailboat racing venues, including the Admiral’s Cup, SORC, Transpac, Marseilles, Keil, and the Semaine de Geneve. His boats held course records for Ft. Lauderdale, Vineyard, Key West, and Capetown-Rio races. Britt designed boats for royalty and aristocracy in Norway, Greece, Italy, and even the Agha Khan family in Pakistan, as well as many US sailing greats.

Britt played a leading role in the technical aspects of sailing (and rowing) design, including the formation of the International America’s Cup Class (IACC) and its rules, and the Joint PACT/Boeing appendage research project for all America’s Cup syndicates. He served as technical advisor to the IYRU Keelboat Committee, consulted for the USOC Sports Science and Technology Committee regarding rowing technique/biomechanics, and designed for the shell supplier to both US and Canadian National Rowing Teams and reported on this work at Joy of Sculling Conferences.

Later in his life, Britt taught courses in engineering and naval architecture at Yale University as well as Wesleyan and Trinity Colleges, and taught Computer-Aided Naval Architecture at the Center for Creative Imaging. He presented numerous papers about his work to the Society of Naval Architects, the AIAA, and the American Philosophical Society. His papers are now maintained at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT

A lifelong sailor with extensive dinghy (Penguin, E-Scow), IOR, IMS and 5.5, and 12-Meter experience, Britt was alternate helmsman in the 1964 Olympics for the 5.5 Meter and Dragon Classes. He crewed and/or skippered in major events including the America’s Cup Trials, One Ton Cup, Admiral’s Cup, 5.5 Meter Worlds, and offshore in the Bermuda, Fastnet, Middle Sea, and SORC Races.

Britt’s custom designs achieved success well beyond the America’s Cup. His boats won the 5.5 Meter World Championship in 1967, 1969, 1971, 1984, 1985, and 1987, and won the 5.5 Meter Gold Cup in 1969 – 1971 and 1984. In the 1968 5.5 Meter US Olympic Trials, 12 of 17 of the entries were Chance designs. Canada and the US selected his 5.5 Meter designs for the 1964 and 1968 Olympics, respectively. Huey Long’s Ondine IV was First-to-Finish, 1st Class A in the Sydney-Hobart Race in 1974; First-to-Finish in the Bermuda Race in 1974; First-to-Finish, 1st Class A, New Course Record in the Capetown to Rio in 1976; and First-to-Finish, 2nd Class A in the St. Pete-Ft. Lauderdale in 1977. Resolute Salmon, built in 1976, won the 1976 World One Ton Cup and was radical in that she was the opposite of Farr designs, and was one of the first ocean racers to have a dinghy-style daggerboard with stability obtained through internal ballast in a deep hull. Britt’s IORC boat, 68’ Equation, is famous for its 1971 picture planing upwind and was one of the first ULDB hulls that raced successfully in the SORC, setting a number of course records including the Annapolis-Newport Race. Chip Loomis’ one-tonner, Boo, won the NYYC Astor Cup in 1971 and his Uhuru won the NYYC Una Cup in 1973.

Britt also designed many production boats: 1968 – 1970 PT30 (Plas Trend); 1971– Chance 30-30 (Allied); 1971– Chance 37 one tonner (Wauquiez) (95 built); 1972– Chance 32/28 (Paceship); ; 1972–Chance 32; 1972–Chance 24; 1973–Chance 29/25 (Paceship) (26 built); 1973–PT-32 (Plas Trend;1974 (40 built)–JoeMarin 29; 1976–Offshore One; 1981–Golden Wave 48; 1985–Tartan Pride 270 (18 built); 1986–Essex 14 (one-design dinghy) (40 built).

Britt was inducted into the Barnegat Bay (N.J.) Sailing Hall of Fame in 2012, six days before he passed away.

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