Illustration by Jim Ewing
John G. Alden stands as one of America’s great yacht designers and yachtsmen, with a long list of successful boats and racing accomplishments, including being the first three-time Bermuda Race winner. Between 1909 and the late ’50s, the New Englander produced a host of craft through his Boston office, from schooners and motorsailers to powerboats and one designs — some 900 boats in all — many of which are considered classics.
There are the Malabars, a series of schooners Alden built for himself (one a year) that dominated racing during the 1920s and ’30s. His 43-foot schooners — with custom rig and interior — set the standard for offshore racer/cruisers and are still admired today. One designs include the Triangle, the Indian Class/Nantucket One-Design and the Sakonnet (named for the Rhode Island town where he spent summers as a youth).
Along the way, the Alden office attracted designers who later were distinguished in their own rite: Carl Alberg, S.S. Crocker, Howard Chapelle and Aage Nielsen among them.
One of the firm’s most popular designs came off the drawing board more than a decade after Alden’s passing in 1962. The Alden 44 was designed in 1975 by Niels Helleberg, who went on to become the lead designer at Alden. The 44 was different from the old schooners, with its cutter rig, keel/centerboard and skeg-hung rudder. Yet it was perfectly in the Alden tradition of racing/cruising yachts. The boat could handle a crew of seven — enough for a Bermuda Race — and its competitive qualities were soon apparent. The Alden 44 quickly established a reputation for bluewater racing and passagemaking.
Built by Tillotson Pearson International of Warren, Rhode Island, the boat enjoyed a 20-year production run in Mk I and Mk II versions. It was marketed by Alden Yachts of Boston and remains one of the prettiest sailboats you’ll see in any harbor.
August 2014 issue