A Self-Taught, Self-Made Man

by Michael R. Cole

Richard C. Cole, 1909-2004

Dad was born in London England in 1909 and left to South Africa in 1935.  Dad became a Naval Architect, and started designing small wooden outboard cruisers in South Africa but saw opportunity in the US. In 1947 he and my mother came to Canada while waiting for clearance to come into the US.  It was about 1948 that as an independent designer, he designed the 5-ply speedboat hulls for Industrial Shipping in Nova Scotia Canada.

The scan at left is from a June, 1953 issue of Rudder magazine (click on it for larger view). It documents the link between Dad's hulls and their finished versions by U.S. boat manufacturers. Yellow Jacket founder Mac McDerby saw opportunity in these hulls and had train loads of them shipped to him weekly in Texas. Dad then designed the deck, transom, stringers, etc in order for McDerby to make a complete boat and the Yellow Jacket boat was born.
Dad also originally designed the spring seats in these boats but discovered another person in the company attempted to patent his idea.  Dad drove all the way from Texas to Washington DC and filed his own patent since it was his idea. I have not actually confirmed if the patent was ever issued and Dad did not remember. By 1950, fiberglass was coming rapidly into the industry and dad had started designing for Thunderbird boats in Miami FL.  Because the spring seats were not suitable for fiberglass boats, dad did not pursue the patent issue any further.
Later, in the era when Roy Rogers became a part owner in Yellow Jacket, Dad was not involved with Yellow Jacket and did not design the fins and things that evolved in the later boats.
Dad went on to invent the Cathedral Hull (Patented) in 1958 for Thunderbird Boats in North Miami Fl (seen on the original "Flipper" TV series as Ranger Rick's boat.)  Thunderbird became quite successful actually building boats on three shifts during their most prosperous times in the 60's. 

From Popular Boating Magazine, July, 1957

He also designed the "Gullwing" Cathedral hull for Evinrude boats in the 60's. In 1970 dad designed the Airslot Hull (Patented) for Wellcraft Marine and also created the very first Walkaround cuddy cabin in 1974 in the 24' Airslot. Throughout his career he designed many boats, both wood, and fiberglass in the later years.
Some of his earlier wood designs included Coronet boats out of Denmark and Regal out of Florida.  His fiberglass designs included Thunderbird, Evinrude, Wellcraft, Donzi, Nova, and many others. He designed all the way up through his 80's with his last boat being a 31' for Wellcraft Marine.
Naval Architect Richard (Dick) Cole passed away 1-20-04 from larynx cancer.
To appreciate the innovation and variety of Richard Cole's designs, please check out these patents:
- D186480 oct 1959
- D199602 nov 1964 "Boat"
- D199768 dec 1964 "Boat"
- D204522 apr 1966 "Longitudinally Stepped Cathedral Hull"
- D204523 apr 1966 "Cathedral Boat"
- D219627 dec 1970 "Hull for Planing Boat"
- 3,602,179 aug 1971 "Hydroplane Boat"
- D224275 jul 1972 "Power Boat"
- D234349 feb 1975 "Runabout Power Boat"
- D234685 apr 1975 "Fishing Cruiser" (airslot)