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An Interview with the Designer of the Ontario 28
The following article is based on a telephone interview in November of 1999, with Henry Adriaanse, the designer of the Ontario 28.
By Michael McGoldrick
Henry Adriaanse easily remembers his first sail on an Ontario 28. It was on a cold blustery day in March off Halifax, Nova Scotia. He said it was much too cold for a test sail on Lake Ontario, but that a dealer in Halifax was ready to take delivery of the first Ontario 28 ever built. So they headed off to Nova Scotia to see how the boat would sail. Mr. Adriaanse indicates that they were very happy with the results. The boat floated on her lines and performed very well under sail, so they came back to Ontario Yachts in Oakville and gave the Okay to start production. He said as a designer, this kind of news always gives you a good feeling.
Henry Adriaanse designed the Ontario 28 in the late 1970’s, a process which took about 4 to 5 months to complete. He said that Ontario Yachts was looking for a good cruising boat with credible performance for club racing. They also wanted something that was marketable, competitively priced, and not overly complicated to build.
He explained that at the time, manufacturers had to stake out their place in the market through a number of factors, including price, pedigree, and quality of construction. Although Ontario Yachts was known for their high quality products, they still wanted to
make sure the price of their new boat would not be too expensive.
According to Mr. Adriaanse, he usually worked with a fairly “narrow envelope” when it came to designing a boat that would meet the needs of the manufacturer. The situation was no different with the Ontario 28, and designing the boat was a fairly straight forward proposition. He said that while it was not quite as simple as cranking up a recipe, you basically started with what you knew, and tried something new.
When asked about the Ontario 28‘s relatively short waterline of 22 feet, he said this was fairly normal for that time. People expected to see what are, by today’s standards, fairly
long overhangs. He also pointed out that an advantage of this design feature is that the boat would not change its “looks” as it floated lower on its waterline as it becomes heavier with supplies and provisions for cruising. But he admits that the design trends for overhangs and waterlines have changed in recent years. He joked that “today’s 28 foot boat might have a waterline of 29 feet”.
The Ontario 28‘s moulded-in bulwarks are rare on production boats under 30 feet in length. But Mr. Adriaanse says they make sense from a design point of view. Placing the bolts for the hull/deck joint on top of the bulwarks means they will not end up sitting in a puddle of water, which, in turn, means there’s less chance of water seeping around the fasteners and into the boat. He emphasized the importance of this by explaining that a boat is fundamentally a shell which you want to keep water out of. He also noted that while bulwarks are a little more expensive to build, they make the boat stronger.
It is interesting that Mr. Adriaanse says that the Ontario 28s tended to come out of the factory a little lighter than their designed 6800 lbs displacement. He gives the builder high marks for this. Based on his experience, manufacturers often find it difficult to keep their boats within the designed displacement once they add in all the components and interior
furnishings. He gives Ontario Yachts credit for knowing how to build boats, and keep them within weight.
Henry Adriaanse considers the term racer/cruiser to be a “misnomer”, but he says an effort was made to ensure that the Ontario 28 would have a credible performance for club
racing. He has since heard on numerous occasions that “the Ontario 28 was more than adequate on the local course”. Because of this, and the Ontario 28‘s demeanor as a cruising boat, he suggests that it is a little like “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
Originally from Holland, Mr. Adriaanse got his start in the business by working for Europan designers. In Canada, he started working with C&C in the late 1960’s and stayed with the company until 1976, when he left to start his own design firm. He officially got out of the boat design business in the early 1990’s.
He said that the Ontario 28 was one of the first few boats he designed after leaving C&C, a fact which may help explain why it shares certain similarities with some of the classic
C&C designs. For example, the transom of the Ontario 28 and the earlier C&C 27 are almost identical. Mr. Adriaanse states that this is no coincidence. He explained that George Cuthbertson of C&C would do the overall design for a boat, but that many of the details were left up to designers such as himself. As it turned out, he was the one who was responsible for the transom design which found its way on many of the C&C models that
were produced in the1970’s. He said that his idea of what a transom should look like was based on his experience in Europe.
The Nautilus 36 and Nautilus 40 are other examples of Mr. Adriaanse’s designs after he left C&C, but he worked on a wide variety of projects ranging from one-off racing designs to
lifeboat plans for the federal government. However, he is clearly proud of his involvement with the design of “Canada One” for the America’s Cup challenge in the 1980’s. He said he knew Bruce Kirby and that he became the “designer on the job” for Canada One. This means that he was the designer who was actually present on the construction site when Canada One was being built in Perry Sound. Although not nearly as involved, he was also associated with the early stages of design work for “True North”.
It’s always reassuring to learn that the designer of your boat also happens to be an enthusiastic sailor. Fortunately, this is the case with Henry Adriaanse. He had a 27 footer for a number of years, but when given the chance to buy one of his designs, a Nautilus 40, at a very good price, he jumped at the opportunity. He says he can now be found sailing
his Nautilus 40 all over Lake Ontario, and that he often heads over for a cruise in the 1000 Islands.
Mr. Adriaanse still lives in the Niagara region of Ontario and he is currently working with a company that is involved in producing special composite materials for industrial (non-boating) applications. He figures he will probably retire pretty soon and that he’ll be able to devote a lot more time to sailing. He adds it’s the reason he got started in the design
business in the first place.
© Michael McGoldrick, 1999.