Reviews for G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design by Martin Black which can be purchased online at, and at the list of online and real book shops listed here.

Firstly in brief, then in detail further below:

“a tour-de-force of yachting scholarship, gorgeously designed and produced”, Cardano, Amazon UK

 “sumptuous”, Classic Boat (UK)

“richly rewarding”, Tom Cunliffe, Yachting World (UK)

“remarkable chronicle”, Roddy Forsyth, Scottish Field (UK)

“a massive work of scholarship, a fascinating read and a proper reference work”, Ewan Kennedy, scottishboating.blogspot (Scotland)

“magnificent”, Llewellyn Howland III, USA

“wonderful biography”, Ian Jack, The Guardian (UK)

“fabulous book”, K1Britannia, Cowes, England

“wonderful… magnificent…”, Robert E. Kemp, Australia

“amazing book”, Lasse Johannsen, Yacht, Germany

the sensuous and mental joys of owning this lovely volume are endless… Book of the decade…”, Ian Nicolson, Scotland

“masterpiece… in a league of its own”, W.M. Nixon, Afloat (Ireland)

“a stunning production”, Donan Raven, France

“one of the most remarkable books I have ever read”, Tony Rendell, South Africa

“a wonderful work… Thank you for the pleasure.” Hamish Ross, New Zealand

“I like it very much…”, John Rousmaniere, USA

“There is nothing like it!”, John Sandoe Books, London

“beautifully crafted”, Robert Stokes, Amazon UK

“incredibly beautiful book, absolute must have!” John Lammerts van Bueren, Holland

“an impressive and important work, Andrew Wolstenholme, Water Craft (UK)

“beautifully designed and constructed… lushly produced. Yes, it really is nice.”, WoodenBoat (USA)




“There is nothing like it!”

John Sandoe Books, Chelsea, London, November 2014.





“For a detailed and entertaining account of Watson’s advances in the field [of yacht design], there is no better source than GL Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design by Martin Black, which also has many sumptuous photographs of Watson’s creations, the best of which would draw awed crowds to the Clyde if launched today.”

“Thanks to Martin Black, this remarkable chronicle has found a new and appreciative audience. It is a splendid tribute to George Watson, the greatest yacht designer of his era and – in his own extraordinary way – a Clyde-built buccaneer.”


Roddy Forsyth, Scotland, in his article, “Setting sail: George Lennox Watson was hailed as the Macintosh of yacht design but was largely forgotten until a new book revealed his story.”

Scottish Field, October 2014.




“… a copy-book biography in the thoroughness of the research and the author’s clear enthusiasm for his subject.

“Martin Black is to be commended for this contribution to Scottish naval history. The life story of this amazing designer was long overdue and it is all the more welcome when it is so beautifully crafted.”

Robert Stokes,, May 2014.



“What a man, capacity for work second to none. The book brings to life the reality of the incredible speed at which they could design and build yachts and ships back then but at the same time keeping an eye on details. It’s amazing he lived as long as he did!

“The insight into the Americas cup was especially interesting to me, made me wonder if Herreshoff had to build boats that had to cross an ocean whether they would have beaten Watson’s boats. Shamrock II was the boat, what a beast.

Captain Steve Hammond, ‘SY’ Nahlin, April 2014.


‘SY’ Nahlin, designed by G.L. Watson & Co., built by John Brown, Clydebank, 1930. At Dartmount in 2010.
(Tim Trent)



“Having read ‘G.L.Watson’ I can truthfully say it is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read-and I have read a lot of books. It is remarkable not only for the light it sheds on a remarkable man but  for the glimpses of the political and social background of the era…

“You had better pay a visit to South Africa and we can have a yarn. We make excellent wine here.            

Tony Rendell, South Africa (who was taught to sail by Arthur Ransome). March 2014



“I have just had the pleasure of reading your book on Watson and would like to congratulate you on completing a wonderful work celebrating Watson’s life and achievements. I have a particular interest in the America’s Cup sections and was most interested in the new material you uncovered…”

“Curiously, a small partnership of which I am a member, owns a modest restored 50’ gaff cutter built by Logan Bros (who had emigrated to New Zealand with their father Robert from the Clyde) launched in November 1898 in Auckland, New Zealand, named Rainbow, and I now assume it was named for Watson’s Rainbow details of which would have been reported in New Zealand. Our Rainbow had an illustrious career becoming the first New Zealand yacht to compete offshore in an international regatta, winning the Inter-colonials in 1900 in Sydney, Australia. She returned to New Zealand and has continued to race successfully since, and is considered the Logan “masterpiece” modeled on the  Britannia form.   A little bit of (derived) Watson magic still lives at the uttermost ends of the earth.”

“Thank you for the pleasure.”

Hamish Ross, New Zealand, February 2014

Rainbow, 1898, designed by Robert Logan, New Zealand (John B at the WoodenBoat forum)

Rainbow, 1898, Logan Brothers, New Zealand, getting her just deserts.  Beautiful.
(John B at the WoodenBoat forum)



“… just a brief missive to say how wonderful your book on GL Watson is. I bought a copy just before Christmas, and have been devouring it during any spare moment since.  I would have completed it sooner had much of it not sparked many a daydream of me sitting at the tiller of Vril.

“Congratulations on writing such a special account of such a brilliant man.”

Joel Edington, January 2014.



“Reading this book is to take a dip in the ‘Golden Age’ of Yachting, discovering characters, boats, anecdotes and background of one of the most important and prolific periods in the history of yacht design.”

Read the full review (in Italian).

Bianca Ascenti, Giro di boa blog, Corriere della Serra, Italy, December 2013.



“This 496 [page] volume is not only a tour-de-force of yachting scholarship but it is a gorgeously designed and produced volume laden with historic and contemporary photographs of the work one of the most important Scottish yacht architects…”

Read more.

Cardano,, Aug 2013.



“By 1897, Clyde regattas were covered by no fewer than nine yachting correspondents and several specialist photographers. Four years later the town of Dumbarton turned out en fete for the launch of Sir Thomas Lipton’s Shamrock II, which the tea tycoon and self-publicist hoped would win him the America’s Cup (the second of five attempts). As Martin Black writes in his wonderful biography of Shamrock II’s designer, GL Watson, the yachting challenge “generated as much excitement and fervour” among the general public as golf’s Ryder Cup produced 100 years later.”

Read the full article.

Ian Jack, The Guardian, Friday 5 July 2013



“I have just now received what is the most wonderful book in my collection, “G. L Watson, the art and science of yacht design”. Thank you for such a magnificent book.”

Robert E. Kemp, Australia, June 2013.



“Der bedeutendste Yachtkonstukteur”

“George Lennox Watson war der berühmteste Yacht-Designer seiner Zeit, der sich mit den Konstruktionen der frühen America’s Cup Yachten einen Namen machte. Eine neue Biografie befasst sich mit dem ereignisreichen und erfolgreichen Leben des Briten.

“Man muss einen gewaltigen Hau haben, oder sich bloß vertieft für’s Metier interessieren, um zwanzig Jahre an einem Buch zu arbeiten. Die Rede ist von Martin Black, einem schottischen Segler und Juristen, der in beharrlicher Feierabendbeschäftigung eine tolle, materialreiche und schön illustrierte Biografie des Yachtkonstrukteurs George Lennox Watson (1851 – 1904) recherchiert und geschrieben hat. Zwar gibt es das 500-Seiten Werk nicht auf Deutsch. Dennoch ist es für jeden Segler, der die Sprache passabel beherrscht und sein Englisch auffrischen möchte, eine lohnende Lektüre…”

Read the full review.

Erdmann Braschos, Germany, at, February 2013.



“Martin Black’s work on G.L. Watson gives the diligent reader a great deal more than its title suggests. Watson is well-known as the designer of HMY Britannia, the 1893 cutter that broke the Big Class mould and was still racing successfully 40 years later.

“Less widely understood is that this extraordinary man was arguably the first to draft his boats on scientific principles.

“Readers will find it richly rewarding. Not only do they find the essential story they signed on for, they are treated to a panorama of the diverse background against which Watson was operating. After a ‘scene-setter’ describing the launch of Sir Thomas Lipton’s Shamrock II, with nobility, yard workers, razzmatazz and champagne, Black gets properly under way with a fascinating chapter on the rise of Glasgow as an industrial power, followed by accessible accounts of the changing rating rules.

“Infamous incidents such as the cutting down of Watson’s Valkyrie II by the gigantic cutter Satanita are analysed using photographs never before seen, while larger-than-life characters are given full value.”

Tom Cunliffe, Yachting World, January 2013.



“The genius of George Lennox Watson comes to light within the beautifully designed and constructed pages of this 500 page lushly produced book. Yes, it really is nice.

“You may be familiar with MADGE, his design which we’ve offered half-model plans for many years, or perhaps you read about PEGGY BAWN, the 1894 cutter featured in WB 202 , or you may already be aware of his history with the America’s Cup boats. You’ll find a treasure trove of information and photos. And when you’re turning pages of this book, you might even notice the publishing company in Ireland is named Peggy Bawn Press.

“We’re importing this book from Ireland, and don’t know how long supplies will last, so don’t dilly-dally.”

WoodenBoat magazine, The WoodenboatStore.



“The art and science of GL Watson live on in the beautiful boats he designed. This sumptuous 495 page tome showcases never before seen photos and images, charting the life of possibly Britain’s greatest ever  yacht designer.”

Classic Boat Magazine, “Christmas Crackers”, December 2012.



“The name of G L Watson will be familiar to many as one of the great designers of the golden age of yachting in the late 1800s but few may be aware of the significant role he played in the development of yacht design. Martin Black’s book, exhaustively researched and beautifully written and presented, documents George Lennox Watson’s remarkable career from his apprenticeship at age 16 in 1867 in the drawing office of Napier’s Shipyard, and then establishing his own business at the age of 21, to his untimely death in 1904 at just 53 years of age. With his small team he designed over 400 racing, cruising and steam yachts, including four challengers for the America’s Cup and the Prince of Wales’ Britannia which is regarded as the most successful racing yacht ever. Olin Stephens regarded Watson as the greatest yacht designer of all time.

“Watson’s career started at a time of great growth in the leisure yachting scene and he was able to capitalise on the new wealthy industrialists indulging in large yachts. At the time, yachts would be commissioned directly from the shipyard where they were designed in-house, more with an eye to tradition than by the application of science but Watson could see that there was a better way. He combined his instinctive design flair with the application of the insights of the early hydrodynamicists and the new science of tank testing, always questioning the accepted way of doing things and being consistently innovative in his thinking. His is thought to be the first independent yacht design office to be established in Europe with only Herreshoff in America designing in a similar way.

“Much of the Watson archive was lost to bombing during the war and subsequently to flooding in the 60s and 70s but Martin Black has left no stone unturned in his quest to document Watson’s life and work. His research has taken him around the UK, to the USA and around Europe including Russia. The resulting book is lavishly illustrated with stunning photographs and the story is interspersed with contemporary accounts of races, launchings and other events making it a compelling read.

“This volume contains no drawings and successfully relies on the marvellous photographs but a projected companion volume devoted to the drawings promises to be breathtaking. This is an impressive and important work of almost 500 pages and is a ‘must have’ for anyone with an interest in yacht design or simply in beautiful yachts.”

Andrew Wolstenholme, Water Craft magazine (UK) #94, July/August 2012.



Beröe, 1887 (Trev)

(Trev Lansley)

“Having now read it cover to cover and planning to read it again, I have to… praise you on producing an informed, unbiased account of the Great man’s work and life. Reading the race commentaries had me enthralled and surprisingly egging his boats on.

“It has been long awaited for his story to be told in one publication and I praise you for you years toil in compiling this record of importance. I hope this goes some way to improving his profile which I feel has been in the shadow of Fife etc.”

Trev Lansley, owner of 1887 G.L. Watson design no. 140,  Beröe, 2012.



“… a stunning production, exhaustively documented with many rare and beautifully enlarged photographs.”

Donan Raven, Donan Raven’s Yachting Trivia, France, 2012.



“I’m about half way through the book, which I’m reviewing for WoodenBoat, and I like it very much…

“I have a strong sense these days of Watson’s presence. In a recent New York YC magazine I wrote a short article about the transition from the dangerous New York skimming dish that was in some part stimulated by Madge’s successful visit in 1881, which triggered a new length and sail area rating rule.

“A week or two ago, I had the pleasure of looking at a model of May while attending a meeting in the club’s Commodore’s Room.

“Recently I took a friend up to the New York YC’s model room balcony to look at the Dora model and review the story that Olin Stephens loved to tell. As we talked I came to the realization that for a period of some 75 years, until about 1965, the ideal racing yacht was widely considered to be one form or another of the Watson shape of around 1890, and the two major rating rules – CCA and RORC – were largely written to bring that about. You are right in the book to stress the importance of rating rules in yacht design. (Didn’t Watson call it ‘the question of tonnage’?)

“Myself, I would not name one ‘greatest yacht designer’. The history is too long and the field is too large and talented for that. When I was yachting editor for the Oxford Encyclopedia if Maritime History a few years ago, I contributed biographies of three designers who, it seemed to me, have had the greatest influence. They are Watson, Herreshoff, Stephens, and Bruce Farr, who developed the first successful light displacement boats of many sizes in the 1970s. I put them in the upper reaches of the pantheon, each strong in his own way.”

John Rousmaniere, yachting historian and author, March 2012.



“This remarkable book is a result of well over 25 years of research by Martin Black, a [Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht] club member. The two clubs which joined together to form the RNCYC have between them more than 44 mentions. Some of the numerous photographs have been dug out of family collections and archives which have lain untouched for decades and have never before been published.

“The many references, handily grouped at the end of each chapter, are so extensive that yachting historians will use this book as the basis for future works. It is undeniable that there has not been a book to equal this one for many years not least because it covers so many aspects of the joys and griefs of going afloat. The America’s Cup, the ups and deep downs of the rating rules, the families involved, the feuds and triumphs ae all detailed and backed up with some sensational pictures.

“George Watson was a remarkable man. He started his company we he was just 21 and for the first two years he had a lean time. Then he designed successful racing yachts and thereafter his career took off so that he became an international figure, consorting with kings and nobles, millionaires and professional racing skippers who were prepared to sail over sandbanks to win. His output was prodigious, but he was lucky to live in at a time when electronic gadgets did not intrude so often and so annoyingly. This very exceptional man is described in profuse and fascinating detail in a very remarkable book, which also celebrates the successes of our club. What makes his career all the more astonishing is that he supervised the construction of so many yachts, came so near to winning the America’s Cup (frustrated by indifferent crewing, baggy sails and pure bad luck), and was an innovator ahead of his time and other yacht designers.

Ian Nicolson with GLWTAOYD at Cove & Kilcreggan Book Festival November2014 (Rona Grierson / Lochside Press)

Ian Nicolson with GL Watson at Cove & Kilcreggan Book Festival, November 2014.
(Rona Grierson / Lochside Press)

“Of course the price of this lovely-to handle book is somewhat above that of some rubbishy paperback sold in a super-market. But the pleasure of owning a thick 495 page volume which will give hours of interest to successive generations makes it worth paying out. After all the purchase price is only one quarter the cost of a new inflatable dinghy, which will start leaking in a few years. In contrast the sensuous and mental joys of owning this lovely volume are endless.”


Ian Nicolson, yacht designer and author, Royal Northern & Clyde YC Yearbook 2012.



“The gap between the publication of truly great yachting books is roughly twenty years. Thanks be, the recent long waiting period is over and this delightful book has come out to please us all. Martin Black is that rarest of authors, someone who is prepared to leave an excellent job and throw himself with energy into writing a memorable book. He has spent decades doing the research and it has been worth all the travelling to Russia, Germany, the United States and all over Britain and Ireland. He has delved into yacht club archives, found data in aged newspapers, talked to creakies, and consulted well over forty individuals and organisations, including a founder member of the OCC [Ocean Cruising Club].

“Looking back over the spectrum of memorable yachting books, one thinks of the Dixon Kemp tomes, and those six deliciously eccentric Uffa Fox volumes which have been a guide to so many yacht designers, builders and owners. Then there is John Illingworth’s Offshore, and those complex but so valuable technical books by CA Marchaj including Seaworthiness, The Forgotten Factor. One must also mention Adlard Coles’s Heavy Weather Sailing, which has been regularly updated. This new book tops them all in several respects. In it we have…”

Read the full review [PDF pg 88].

Ian Nicolson, yacht designer, author and founder member in 1954 of the Ocean Cruising Club, in their journal, Fying Fish, vol 2, 2012.



“I must confess that when I received this lavishly illustrated work, I had no knowledge of Watson or his renown. Gary MacMahon (see my AK Ilen posts) was a member of the production team for this sumptuous book through the work of his design firm Copper Reed Studio in Limerick, Ireland and was kind enough to send me a copy. The publisher, Peggy Bawn Press, is named after the small cruising/racing yacht, recently restored and pictured above. Below is a synopsis of this beautifully designed and exhaustively researched volume found on the publisher’s website. I’m including this as it is far more succinct than I would be…

“While this is not an inexpensive book, it is one that deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in yacht design and/or the America’s Cup. Have a look!”

Read the full review.

Thomas Armstrong, 70.8% Blog, April 2012.



“I am jumping up and down for joy having the book, if only you knew how excited I am.

“It’s been the life work of Martin Black who devoted the past 25-30 years of his life researching and collecting anything on G.L. Watson, to my mind was the greatest naval architect of the 19th Century and early 20th Century.

“The result is a really incredibly beautiful book with lots of magic pictures that will keep anyone of us of the streets for a while.

“I am sure you won’t regret a penny spent if you order your copy today, an absolute must have!”


John Lammerts van Bueren, Holland, International 8-Metre (8mR) Class Secretary, 2012.



“The book of the decade… in fact, nothing has been produced like this in the past 20 years.”

Ian Nicolson, Scotland, yacht designer and author, 2012.



“THE BOOK has arrived, and it is magnificent. My congratulation to all of you (though especially to Martin, who alone knows what it is like to work on the biography of a yacht designer for half a lifetime).”

Llewellyn Howland III (USA), antiquarian book dealer and author of the forthcoming biography of American yacht designer Starling Burgess, 2012.



“Not all Elementary, My Dear Watson”

“If weight, breadth, height and thickness are your primary concerns in evaluating a new book, then this is for you writes WM Nixon. If very high production values, with quality printing, impressive layouts, and the visionary use of a wide range of historic photos are high on your priorities, then this will get your approval. If an inspired text, elucidating many formerly tangled matters of interest in sailing and design history, and all set in a clearly in a comprehensive context which provides a superb socio-economic historical analysis of an important part of Scotland at the height of its maritime, engineering, scientific and industrial glory, then you’ll delight in this. But if one of your special pleasures is browsing through a comparative display of properly presented sets of yacht designs, then you’ll be disappointed – the few drawings shown in this otherwise magnificent book are little more than sketches used to illustrate changing design trends.

“It may well be that the team involved in producing this masterpiece plan to bring out a book of Watson designs in due course – ideally, it might be of broader scope, taking in the designs of all the main Scottish yacht designers. Certainly if the large and varied selection of the more significant designs created by Watson himself, or together with his team as head of a busy drawing office, were included in this volume, then we’d have to think of having neat mini forklift trucks and strong lecterns available for all readers. As it is, it’s a bonny baby, chiming in at a smidgin under 3 kilos, or 6lbs 8 ozs if you’re in a maternity ward, and it’s to the credit of those involved that they’ve kept it down to this weight, which permits an attractive posting and package service anywhere in the world.

“So wherever you are, go for it. This book is right up there with the legendary Royal Cork history in terms of breadth and quality, and in terms of information in many arcane but relevant topics, it’s in a league of its own. George Lennox Watson was a multi-talented individual who was the personal expression of Scottish creative and practical genius at its fullest flower. Anyone who thinks only of Glasgow as the place where they invented the deep fried Mars bar will find this work by Martin Black a surprise and a delight, and a cause for admiration of the huge technological and educational advances made by the people of southwest Scotland in the 19th and early 20th Centuries…”

Read the full review.

W.M. “Winkie” Nixon, Afloat magazine, Ireland, March 2012.



“I was fortunate to be shown your impressive new G L Watson book last weekend by my friend William Nixon…”

The late and much missed, Mike Balmforth, Scotland, yachting scribe, pilot book editor and publisher February 2012.



“Martin Black’s masterpiece ‘G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design’ arrived here recently and has put paid to all work around the house for the time being…

“I am truly impressed with the bio, which is a massive work of scholarship, a fascinating read and a proper reference work as well as a tribute to one of our great Glasgow men.”

Ewan Kennedy, Scottish Boating Blog, February 2012.




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