Tributes have been paid to America's Cup yacht designer Doug Peterson, who is known for designing the 1992 winner America3 and the 1995 NZL 32 Black Magic

On the same day Emirates Team New Zealand tasted victory over ORACLE TEAM USA in the 35th America’s Cup, Doug Peterson, who designed Cup-winning boats for both countries, died.

The 71-year-old, who was a member of the San Diego Yacht Club, had undergone a long battle with cancer.

In March, Peterson was voted in as an inductee into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.

Considered by many as a legend in his own lifetime, Doug Peterson was one of the top yacht designers in the 1970s and early 1980s.

A self taught naval architect, his designs dominated offshore racing events, with a string of winning high-profile IOR boats such as Gumboots, Kindred Spirit, Great Pumpkin and Stinger.

Naval architect Doug Peterson who designed America's Cup boats for New Zealand and USA

As a young designer in the 1970s. Credit: Sgpnz/Wikimedia Commons

He often worked in partnership with four-time America’s Cup winner Dennis Conner.

He was also responsible for designing one of the most sought after dual purpose cruiser-race yachts in the 1970s-80s  – the Contessa 35, and the pioneering performance cruiser – the Peterson 44.

Designed by Doug Peterson for Jack Kelly Yachts, the 44 was launched in 1976 and was specifically marketed as a cruiser that could sail well in any wind. It proved immensely popular.

In 1992, he joined Bill Koch’s America’s Cup team, helping to design the winning boat America3.

But it was his work as lead designer of Team New Zealand’s Black Magic (NZL-32)  – owned by legendary yachtsman Sir Peter Blake – which really showcased his talents.

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As the The Herreshoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame states on its website: “Peterson’s talent is best exemplified by his work as a lead designer of Team New Zealand’s Black Magic (NZL-32), one of the most dominant yachts in America’s Cup history.”

“Black Magic’s boat-speed, estimated to be about three and half minutes faster on the Cup course than the American defender, helped Team New Zealand deliver a 5-0 victory in the 1995 match. Including the match, Team New Zealand achieved an incredible 42-1 record with an average margin of victory of 3:06.”

The black hull of the America's Cup winning boat Black Magic, designed by Doug Peterson

Black Magic on display at the National Maritime Museum, New Zealand in Auckland. Credit: Kiwimedia/Wikimedia Commons

“Black Magic’s advantage in speed was due in part to Peterson’s decision to design her with a narrow beam and a mast positioned further aft than her conventional counterparts, establishing a new paradigm in America’s Cup Class yacht design.”

“Peterson further attributed the success of the boat to using a total approach to design: “We started on a path with the hull, but then interconnected other components like mast and sails, always looking at it as a whole. That is our strength.”

Doug Peterson was also a member of the design team on Luna Rossa’s Prada Challenge in 2000 – the year they won – and 2003.

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One of Doug Peterson’s former colleagues, David Egan, told the The Herreshoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame: “He has a huge talent for designing a boat that can go through waves—any kind of waves. Plus, his knowledge of yachting is second to none”.

Peterson himself said: “I started putting boats down on paper when I was 10, and have never wanted to do anything else.”

Speaking to the San Diego Union Tribune following his death, Peterson’s friend, Chris Calkins said: “A whole generation of yacht designers worked at some point for him and went on to be the principle designers during the past 30 years. He had a passion for the traditions of design and yachting.”

Doug Peterson is survived by his children, Mark, Jamie, Laura and Julia.