Boatbuilder Clinton Pearson passed away on April 4. He was 91.
Clint and his cousin Everett, both Brown University alumni and Navy veterans, started experimenting with fiberglass construction in the family garage in Rhode Island in the mid-1950s. The two went on to found Pearson Yachts a few years later, and by 1959 produced their first ‘big’ boat, the Carl Alberg-designed 28-ft Triton. After it debuted at the New York Boat Show that year, they got deposits for 17 of them. In its nine-year production run, 712 Tritons were built — and many are still sailing today.
When Grumman bought controlling interest in the company in the early ’60s, Clinton struck out on his own. He bought out a troubled boatbuilder named Sailstar, and, a couple of years later, renamed the firm Bristol Yachts. The first production boat to wear the name was the Bristol 27, another Alberg design that is almost indistinguishable from the Triton except for the sail logo. Halsey Herreshoff — son of L. Francis, grandson of Nathaniel — designed the next one, the Bristol 29, as well as a slew of additional models. Ted Hood’s design shop did most of the later design work for the ‘decimal models’ (29.9, 31.1, 35.5, etc.). By the time Bristol Yachts closed its doors in 1997, more than 4,400 boats ranging from 22 to 72 feet had rolled out the doors. All told, Clinton Pearson is said to have been involved in the building of some 20,000 yachts.
Clinton’s spirit of sportsmanship and the value of hard work lives on in two-time Volvo Ocean Race skipper Charlie Enright, his grandson. In a 2015 Cruising World piece, Charlie remembers one of his first exposures to sailing was at age 3 when Grampa Clint put him in a little boat, pushed him out and ‘steered’ with lines from shore.