Jamestowner designed 'Spirit of Bermuda'
Marine architect Bill Langan, a Jamestown resident, designed the Spirit of Bermuda, a 112-foot schooner that sailed to Narragansett Bay to participate in the 2007 Tall Ship Festival. The three-masted schooner, launched just last year, was the only ship in the festival with local ties.
"The design was based on an 1831 painting, by artist John Lynn, of an early to mid-19th century Bermudian vessel called a ballyhoo schooner," Langan said. The boat was built as a school ship to teach young Bermudians about life at sea and their maritime history, Langan said.
Langan, owner of Langan Design Associates, said that the idea for the project showcasing the Bermudan rig was one of the primary goals of the two Bermudians, Malcolm Kirkland and Alan Burland, who first promoted the idea about 10 years ago. They formed a corporation called the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, a group comprised of shipbuilding experts, experienced sailors, historians and educators ,to bring the project to reality, he said.
According to the foundation Website, in the 18th and 19th centuries, Bermuda was a boatbuilding center, producing some of the most versatile small ships in the world. It was a crossroads between North America, England and the sugar colonies in the West Indies, and as a result was crawling with sailors. Kirkland and Burland wanted to build a Bermudian flagship to advertise the island's nautical heritage and the oil painting, which they saw in a book called "The Glory of Sail," fired their imaginations.
These ballyhoo schooners were fast, particularly to windward, making them good patrol boats to keep an eye out for privateers. Some even went as far afield as Africa to chase speedy Baltimore clippers that were often used in the slave trade.
After considering their needs, the Website said that the foundation approached Langan and asked him to design the ship that was in John Lynn's old painting. Langan had been one of the owners and chief designers at Sparkman & Stephens yacht builders for 20 years and
had just finished a school ship
design. Since he had previous experience drawing modern interpretations of traditional boats, they felt he was a logical choice. The problem was, Langan had little to go on. There were no known plans of this ship and nothing in the Admiralty records. Langan's challenge was clearly to make the boat pretty much the way John Lynn had painted it, but also to make sure it was seaworthy for its task as a teaching vessel.
To meet the double requirement of authenticity and seaworthiness, Langan said that he recommended a small boatyard in Maine called Rockport Marine. He said they had past experience building traditional wooden ships, including a Baltimore clipper and a replica of one of John Smith's ships that came across the Atlantic in the early 1600s. There was never any question that the boat would have a wooden hull, but Taylor Allen of Rockport Marine convinced the foundation to do a cold-molded wooden hull no less than threeinches thick to meet American Bureau of Shipping standards. This type of hull made of Douglas fir with an outer layer of mahogany would be extremely strong and need less maintenance.
From concept to fruition, the project took somewhere around 10 years, Langan said. "I was involved in the process for about seven years," he added. "The foundation had to get sponsors, and make many decisions about the requirements for the boat. From drawing the plans to launch spanned approximately three years. I was honored to be involved with such a worthwhile project, and I'm happy to see that everyone is satisfied with the results. Although the boat is a quasi replica of the original, it fulfills the needs of the foundation. It will be used to educate many young people who would never have otherwise had such an opportunity."
Bill Langan was born and raised in Greenwich, Conn. and has been sailing all his life. After graduating from the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture he went on to become chief designer and part owner of Sparkman and Stephens Yachts for 20 years.
He now owns Langan Design Associates in Newport. His firm specializes in yacht design with an emphasis on large, complex projects. Langan has been married to his wife of 27 years, Candace, who owns an interior design firm. They have two children, a son, Tom, 22, and a daughter, Annie, who is 13. The Langans have lived in Jamestown for 10 years.