Who was Norman L. Skene, an MIT graduate born 1878 and lived till 1932 and proved himself as nothing but a genius of many different disciplines; i.e., a mathematician, a man of oceanographic physics, aerodynamics, designer, artist, builder, engineer; a writer? A colleague and friend of L. Francis Herreshoff, who lived between 1890 to 1972 and was considered as an individual understanding the utilization of some very graceful lines and subject matter. What makes these two gentleman, and W. Starling Burgess, as well, cohesively join forces in one of the world’s greatest industries since the Dutch began in the 1600’s? What is it that makes these men unique? What about Fredrik Henrik af Chapman, a Swedish scientist of sorts who lived between 1721-1808? What in the world did these men have in common? And how exactly are the Dutch involved?
“Jaght” which is derived from the Dutch word “jagen,” and the English translation for us is “yacht,” and, these Dutch folks began as having nautical complications with smugglers of their days around the 1600’s. They necessitated smaller, shoal draft, bluff bowed vessels that were able to apprehend these pirates…but after some time had passed, certain government officials as well as lay people began to discover this was something one could do leisurely, sail and cruise aboard these infamous and beautifully designed watercraft vessels.
Thus, there became a gradual shift within the ship building industry for naval architects, which is what Chapman was - a first in the wonderful world of naval architecture and the understanding of the science and mathematics integrated with natural marine drafting by implementing certain variable equations to determine the fairing and beautifully exquisite hull shapes, displacements, calculations to obtain coefficients of form, volumetric displacement as well as overall weight displacement, stability & design, propulsion and design.
Norman L. Skene was one of the early greats at composing specifications that were ascetically pleasing to the eye as well as gliding over the ocean like a beauty in graceful motion. I will not indulge as much as I would like at his earlier life but will say he was a graduate from MIT in Naval Architecture. Skene clearly was a genius who coalesced his natural ingenuity and experience; and tapped into the imagination of the mind to create some of the most popular of all time small watercraft for specific intended purposes.
His well defined and sensitive intuition led him to design some very beautiful yachts and I believe one of his greatest attributes to the world of yachting was that of designing and sailing racers and racing cruisers. He clearly understood what is called the “design spiral,” and would complete his designs by focusing on the form lastly so as to have a pleasing effect on the imagination.
In a very short summary of Norman L Skene, his primary focus to yacht design was to find or create, an intended purpose for each vessel, thus, satisfying the consumer’s need and demand; a closely calculated distribution of volumetric and long tonnage weights, above decks and below, and, a balanced and perfect harmony of everything working closely together, through experience, and testing, may very well become a master of one who is called a “Naval Architect.”