Thursday, April 14, 2011

Design 12 - Brilliant

The schooner Brilliant was designed and built for Walter Barnum based on a notoriously rigorous design brief. Here are a couple of points from the brief:
1. Capable of being rolled over in a hurricane and coming up again with hull, and deck opening covers intact.
2. To lie to steadily in a full gale and in a heavy sea.
3. To have a rudder and steering gear as nearly unbreakable as possible including some kind of friction or spring at rudder head to take jars of seas when hove to.
4. To have lower masts stepped and stayed to stand any conceivable strain that might be placed upon them short only perhaps of a complete capsizing.
5. To be as heavily timbered, planked and decked as is reasonably possible.
6. Quality and number of fastenings to be maximum consistent with good practice.
7. Nothing left undone to eliminate possibility of rot anywhere.
8. Ventilation of bilges, lockers, etc. to be given full study to attain best and most certain possible system using natural ventilation rather than mechanical circulation.
9. Every piece of material, whether wood or metal, to be literally perfect for the use intended.
10. To be as fast and weatherly as possible, consistent with all of the above.
11. To be as handsome as possible consistent with all of above.
12. Hull and rig design to be in no way adversely affected by any accommodation requirement.

The boat was built in 1931 for a cost of $100,000 by Henry B. Nevins of City Island. Although Barnum strictly told Rod and Olin in no uncertain terms that he did not want a racing yacht, the boat has a long history of winning silver. It is well recorded that in 1933 Brilliant sailed across the Atlantic from the Nantucket Lightship to Bishop Rock in 15 days, 1 hour and 23 minutes.

Brilliant at the Time of Her Launch

The boat is now the flagship of the Mystic Seaport and used for sail training. She is well suited for the purpose and well loved. If you ever want to see a well preserved example of classic boat building I encourage you to stop and have a look at her.

Here are the plans.

Principal Dimensions
LOA 61'-5"
LWL 49'-0"
Beam 14'-8"
Draft 8'-10"
Displacement 94,080 lbs
Sail Area 2,500 sq ft (working SA) 3,750 sq ft (max SA)


  1. I am extremely interested in the opportunity to serve as Master aboard the Brilliant.
    With a long New England history and 35 years of sea experience and a 100 T pure sail USCG license I am looking forward to being contacted by those in charge.

  2. Design #12. Built in 1931. It is just astonishing when one realizes that Olin was just a kid, doubtless working alone, when he produced this design. Mr. Barnum, perhaps without realizing it, named the boat after her designer.


  3. When I sailed her in the 90s, she was as beautiful as ever and loved to bury a rail in a stiff breeze. Look forward to getting out on this amazing piece of craftsmanship again.

  4. I was her mate in the late 1970's, and can assure you that she is as close to perfect as any wooden boat can be. Her design and construction are without peer, and her sailing ability is only compromised by her gaff rig (we were often out-pointed by stays'l schooners). She was a delight to sail, and is perhaps the pinnacle of the shipwright's art. Having sailed on many classic wooden yachts, I can say that she is "Brilliant in design, Brilliant in construction".

  5. my great grandfather irving eaton was one of the first to sail this beautiful boat i believe he set that record. i have pics of him at the helm. im glad its still sailing today. shaun eaton deer isle maine

  6. Does the Mystic Seaport Museum or S&S have her original naval architect design plans? If no, Do they know who might have them or where they are??

  7. Thanks for sharing this blog its very informative and useful for us.


  8. Very informative with just the right to keep you wanting to read more, well done!!

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