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The Late George Lennox Watson, Consulting Naval Architect to the Institution 1887-1904

IT is fifty years this year since George Lennox Watson, the yacht designer, of Glasgow, was appointed consulting naval architect to the Institution.

Looking back over these fifty years, one can say that Mr. Watson's appoint- ment was one of the outstanding events in the-development of the life-boat, and that he more than any other man, was the designer of the life-boat fleet as it is to-day.

When Mr. Watson was appointed, all but a very few of our life-boats were of the self-righting type. His appoint- ment was made shortly after the disaster on the Lancashire coast when the life-boats at Southport and St.

Anne's capsized. Both were self- righting life-boats. The Southport boat failed to right herself. What exactly happened to the St. Anne's boat is unknown, for all her crew were drowned. As a result a sub-committee of the Institution carefully examined the whole question of the design and construction of its life-boats, and among its recommendations was the appoint- ment of a consulting naval architect.

The First Watson Life-boat.

Mr. Watson's first act was to design a new sailing life-boat, 42 feet long by 13 feet 3 inches wide, and the following year this boat was stationed at South- port. She was the first of the Watson type, and her lines are given on page 351. This was the beginning of a new policy in design. It was explained by Mr. Watson himself in giving evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons ten years later: " In the case of the smaller pulling boat, certainly, and possibly even in the case of the larger pulling boats, too, it would be unwise and unsafe to abandon the self-righting principle.

With the larger sailing boats I think we can get a better boat by abandoning the self-righting principle." That has been the steady policy of the Institution ever since: To set aside the self-righting principle (which, while it enables a boat to right itself, makes her less easy to handle, and more liable to capsize) in the case of the large life-boats intended to go well out to sea, and in these boats to aim at a greater buoyancy, stability and speed than is possible in the self-righting boats.

During his seventeen years as consulting naval architect, Mr.

Watson designed many life-boats of different sizes, of which the outstanding boat was his large sailing life-boat, 43 feet by 12 feet 6 inches. When he died in 1904, there were 203 self- righting life-boats in the Institution's fleet and 82 which were not self- righting. Of these, 31 were of the Watson type.

Watson Life-boats in the Modern Fleet.

Mr. Watson lived just long enough to advise the Institution in its first experiments in 1904 with a motor life- boat. He did not live to see the success of these experiments, but the principle on which he worked, that the larger types of life-boat should not be self- righting, has become still more im- portant since motor power has given the life-boat a greatly increased range of action.

To-day, of the Institution's 138 motor life-boats, only 32 are self- righting. Of the remainder, 53 are of the Watson, or Watson cabin types, and 16 of the Barnett type, designed by Mr. J. R. Barnett, O.B.E., M.I.N.A., who was associated with Mr. Watson in the design of all his life-boats, is now the head of his firm, and succeeded him as the Institution's consulting naval architect. These 69 motor life- boats of the Watson, Watson cabin, and Barnett types, are all developments of Mr. Watson's design.

A Famous Yacht-builder.

Mr. Watson's life-boat work, important though it was, represents only a small part of what he did. He was known the world over as a designer of steam yachts and of racing yachts.

The most celebrated of the latter was the famous Britannia, the yacht of King Edward VII and King George V, designed for King Edward VII when Prince of Wales, which in her career won 360 prizes, of which 231 were first prizes.Mr. Watson was best known, however, as the designer of a number of challengers for the America Cup.

The first was the Thistle, built in 1887. She was foliowe,d by the two Valkyries, built for 'Lord Dunraven in 1893 and 1895. The last was Sir Thomas Lipton's Shamrock II, built in 1901.

Though Mr. Watson's fame rests chiefly on his yachts, he is still remembered far beyond our own shores as a designer of life-boats. In recent years the Institution has had enquiries from San Francisco, British Columbia, and North Queensland, from men who wished to know where they could get boats built to the design of the most successful of his sailing life-boats, the 43-feet Watson type..