Just Mention Big George And Little George.. ...
and any yachtsman, anywhere, knows
you mean Cuthbertson and Cassian

Adapted from an article in McLean's Magazine
written by: MURRAY BURT of the Toronto Globe and Mail
August 1 1970


Sailors call them Cumbersome and Casual.
In a little frame house In Port Credit, Ontario, they design the yachts that win some of the world's classic races. They’re not cumbersome at the drawing board; they’re not casual about the near-$4 million sale of C & C yachts they expect this year.

SOME CRASS sportswriter once said that watching sailboats race was only a little less thrilling than watching grass grow, and he had a point. As a spectator sport, yacht racing probably ranks a notch above chess and a notch below tether tennis; and this is one reason why, when a Canadian scores an extraordinary triumph in this fiendishly competitive international sport, most of us never even hear about it.

Moreover, Canadians learn at their daddies’ knees that no sport is worth caring about if it does not feature spearing, clipping, tromping on the quarterback’s sore knee, the elbow smash to the mouth, or other deft and traditional acts of bloodletting. In view of all this, we can hardly be expected to get all worked up over the niceties of jockeying for the windward spot on the starting line, the immense tactical intricacies of the duel on the weather leg or, as they say in yachting circles, luffing somebody up. Nor are our sports pages likely to trumpet Canada's national pride in two guys named George who make their living by designing racing yachts. No matter how good they are at it. All of which may help to explain why it is that, unless you’re a nut about sailboats yourself, you have very likely never heard of George Cuthbertson and George Cassian.

Before Manitou, in 1968, there was Red Jacket. Cuthbertson and Cassian designed Red Jacket for a wealthy Toronto construction executive named Perry Connolly. Connolly gave them a pretty free hand with the 40-footer and they repaid him by designing a boat that, in her first season on Lake Ontario, earned 11 wins in 13 starts. Connolly felt pretty good about that and, in 1968, he took Red Jacket down to the subtropics for the Southern Ocean Racing Conference. It’s nice to win races on Lake Ontario, and the competition can be very hot there; but, still, if you’re talking about ocean-going sailboats, the lakes will always be a bit bush, and the Southern Ocean Racing Conference is the big league.

Losing a race can be as bad as a stock-market crash for yachting designers. Offshore racing can make or break a company. To win, you have to be ruthless. To stay at the top, you have to design boats like Red Jacket.

Cuthbertson and Cassian are currently proving themselves the hottest designers of big sailing yachts in North America, and possibly in the world. Their designs have been picking up top trophies in virtually all the offshore - racing waters of North America, and now they’re making market inroads in Britain, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean and South America. A dockmaster in Lucaya, a sailmaker in Tampa, a millionaire yachtsman in Miami, the fellow who runs the marina in San Diego . . . you mention Big George and Little George to any one of them, and he’ll know whom you’re talking about.

Moreover, in fewer than 10 years, the two Georges have, with their associaates, taken a small design and brokerage business in a rundown house in Port Credit, Ontario, and turned it into Canada’s biggest yacht - building complex, a thriving conglomerate that involves Cuthbertson and Cassian with three large pleasure-boat manufacturers in a new company called C & C Yachts Ltd. This year, C & C Yachts expects sales approaching four million dollars. That’s a lot of bread and, therefore, even for those who are no more interested in yacht races than they are in, say, korfball, Cuthbertson and Cassian are probably worth knowing about.

Cuthbertson is Big George. He’s 41, six-foot-four, and he weighs 220 pounds. He has a crewcut, his voice is deep, and he looks like a linebacker on his day off. Cassian, as you’ve most certainly guessed, is Little George. That’s because he’s only six feet tall, and weighs only 170 pounds. In his quiet, smiling, intense way, Cassian reminds you of an academic, perhaps a professor of middle-European languages. He plays guitar, wears his black hair long, and has been known to step aboard someone’s yacht in a pretty noisy pair of bell bottoms. Yachting people by tradition are a conservative bunch, and Cassian inspires a fair number of rueful remarks about “the hippy yacht designer.”

When it comes to nicknames, sailing and the yacht business may be even cuter and more prolific than, say, golf and the golf business. Cuthbertson is not only Big George, he’s also Cumbersome. Cassian is not only Little George, he’s also Casual. Get it? C & C Yachts.

Oh well, the thing to remember is that, regardless of their nicknames, the two Georges click together in an uncanny way, and this has moved their flexible little firm to the very top of one of the most ruthless manufacturing industries on the continent.

The ruthlessness is simple. It derives not from the character of the people who design and build these powerfully graceful and sometimes incredibly expensive craft but, rather, from the nature of the whole game itself. If you build racing yachts and they do not win very many races, then you won’t be building racing yachts very long. To a big-time yacht designer, such concerns as labor trouble, the international bank rate, the stock-market index, or the price of gold in Switzerland may all turn out to be far less important than what’s happening way out on the turquoise seas at some finish line off the Bahamas. Cuthbertson and Cassian’s share of North America’s billion-dollar pleasure-craft market rests almost entirely on the offshore performance of boats they’ve designed in the last half dozen years.

At the moment, if your average Canadian sports fan has heard of any C & C yacht at all, she is probably the Manitou. Last September, in the very pricey competition for the ancient Canada’s Cup, Manitou knocked out the American yacht Niagara in three consecutive races. Both yachts had been designed specifically for the Canada’s Cup series and, in view of the competition, Cuthbertson and Cassian might be forgiven if Manitou’s unequivocal triumph gave them a few sweet moments of gloating. Niagara had come from the drawing board of Olin Stephens, of Sparkman and Stephens Inc. of New York. Stephens has designed all but one winner of yachting's most famous trophy, the America’s Cup, since World War II. Three of them. He’s a kind of mortal God of yacht design. True, Manitou’s Canadian crew did sail the boat brilliantly. True, Cuthbertson did say, Oh shucks, there’s no one in the business as good as Olin Stephens. Or something like that. Yet George and George had designed a boat that beat Olin Stephens’ latest, and she’d beaten her three straight. And there could scarcely have been one well-heeled deep-sea racing devotee in the whole world who did not hear about it.

Each year, there are hundreds of offshore-racing contests, among boats that are handicapped by computergagging formulae, to prove which boat is the fastest and the best-sailed over a given course. These are the races that make, and sometimes break, an outfit such as Cuthbertson and : Cassian. Like stockbreeders, C & C watch the fortunes of the boats they’ve designed, in races off both long coasts. A Newport 27 wins in California. A Redline 41 wins in Florida. A Crusader or a Red wing wins on the Great Lakes. A Northwind is home first off Halifax. Cuthbertson and Cassian now have 18 production designs for boatbuilding firms in Canada, the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany and Argentina, and every time one of them wins it’s one more victory for the company. But the big one was Red Jacket’s performance at the Southern Ocean Racing Conference.

There are series of offshore-racing events in Long Island Sound, there’s the celebrated Bermuda race, there are campaigns off British Columbia, there’s the transpacific from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and there are at least a dozen other important offshore conferences. But, each year, the first one to grab the attention of the industry, and of the fans with the sort of scratch actually to buy one of these craft, is the Southern Ocean Racing Conference. This is where all the previous months’ drawing-board sweating over prismatic coefficients, wetted surfaces, ratios of sail plans, and overlap, either pays off or flops in a horrible way. The SORC is the ultimate tropical test tank for designers, sailors, owners, riggers and sailmakers. For the pros.

It’s a series of six races around the coast of Florida, and it starts each January and runs into March, winding up in Nassau. You cannot win the SORC without beating anywhere from 60 to 90 of the costliest, bestdesigned, best-sailed offshore-racing yachts in North America. And that is i exactly what Red Jacket did. She’s the only boat from outside the United States ever to win the SORC.

So far as their personal lives are concerned, Cuthbertson and Cassian have found there are certain mild disadvantages to quick fame. Like most sports that are almost exclusively participatory — no one ever goes out of his way to see a yacht race unless he’s another yachtsman in another yacht — sailboat racing is a tight, intimate, gossipy, excessively chummy community. You’ve probably never heard of either George but if you owned a yacht, or you crewed for one, or even if you are thinking of buying one, and then you happened to see one of the Georges at, say, a cocktail party . . . why, it would be as though you were a golf fanatic, and one night Arnold Palmer politely asked himself over for dinner. You’d nip right over there and start to bug George because George would surely know how to make your boat foot a little faster than she does now, and maybe he’d even like to crew for you next Sunday afternoon.

Actually, George wouldn’t. George Cassian is going to knock around the house on Sunday afternoon. He’s going to play a little Spanish guitar for his wife, his two kids, and their German Shepherd bitch. He’s going to play a little tennis or squash. He’s going to take his gleaming new, red, knee - high Formula Ford out for a few laps at Mosport, or somewhere. But one thing he is not going to do on Sunday afternoon is get out in a sailboat with you, a perfect stranger. If he does sail, it will be as “one of the boys” on a particular boat that’s being campaigned all season. Last year, after choice as cup defender, that was Manitou.

And George Cuthbertson is unlikely to be going sailing with you, either, although he does acknowledge a limited obligation to sail with some customers. About five years ago, Cuthbertson really began to feel the difficulties involved in building a career on the refinement of other men’s pleasures. He and his wife lived in a two-room apartment over the house in Port Credit, which they had converted into a drafting and business office. The house had a Cuthbertson-and-Cassian shingle outside, and this lured rafts of very chatty, very yachty strangers to their door.

Cuthbertson took down the shingle and, not long after that, the Cuthbertsons moved to an 800-square-foot, two-room bungalow near the Credit River and, now, one of the things he does when he’s not going sailing with strangers is putter around the house in an extremely inspired way. The place has blossomed into a 3,000-square-foot House Beautiful.

It’s been some time since either George felt he had to go sailing with a prospective client. It’s not that they don’t like sailing; it’s just that the whole sport becomes less than a sport when you wrestle with it as part of your livelihood. Now, they crew only with men they know and like and if, as frequently happens, these men are also sailing a gleaming new C & C yacht, well that’s okay, too. Both men have been hooked on sailboat racing since their teens and it is always pleasant to meet men who’ve turned a recreational passion into an extraordinarily successful business.

Cuthbertson was drawing warships and dreamboats, to scale, by the time he was 10 and, shortly after that, he won a junior design award from Boating magazine. At 14, he was winning races in Brutal Beasts, the junior training boat for Toronto’s Royal Canadian Yacht Club. He remembers the Brutal Beasts as “15 feet long, very heavy, very slow, shaped like a box pointed at one end.” The sort of boat that could not help but inspire thoughts of better design. Anyway, in the years that followed, Cuthbertson graduated from the University of Toronto as a mechanical engineer, and then he tried working as a sales engineer for a ball-bearing company, but he could never seem to get very far away from sailboats.

He went into partnership with a friend in a yacht-brokerage and improvement business. They produced about 50 sporty little boats called Water Rats and, in the meantime, one of the boats Cuthbertson was cranking up into winning form was an elderly eight metre named Venture II. The eight metres were long, sleek, beautifully slender — the rich last cream of the big wooden racing classes on Lake Ontario. This one was owned by Norman Walsh, of Toronto, and — with David Howard, the current commodore of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club at the helm, and Big George among the crew — she beat the Americans at Rochester in 1954 to return the Canada’s Cup to the RCYC for the first time in half a century. By then, Cuthbertson had had a taste of deep-sea sailing. In 1953, he’d helped to deliver the 78-foot auxiliary ketch Mir from Stockholm to Toronto.

He had proved he could tune and remodel racing yachts. Now, he needed the chance to design a boat that would win races and reputations. Norman Walsh, owner of Venture II, gave it to him. He asked Cuthbertson to design for him a 54-foot yawl. The design work started in the fall of 1955, and it involved 40 drawings. The construction contract was let early in 1957 and the boat herself, Inishfree, was delivered in midsummer of 1958. During construction, Cuthbertson and Walsh would visit the builder every Thursday.

A dozen years ago, a week’s progress in yacht construction meant that perhaps four or five meticulously shaped planks had been fastened to the gaping timbers of the hull. Today, in the new time of the fiber - glass production boat, one of the yachtbuilding firms associated with C & C Yachts Ltd. turns out six finished boats every week.

Cassian grew up near the western Toronto lakeshore and, as a teen-ager, began to knock about in an old 14foot dinghy at the Toronto Sailing And Canoe Club. Later, he competed in most of the hotter one-design classes — Lightnings, Dragons, 5.5s — and he slowly came to be regarded as one of those with whatever special touch it takes to make one sailboat go faster than another. Cassian graduated from Toronto’s Central Technical High School and, since the future looked bright in aircraft design, he went to work on the Avro Arrow project. When that collapsed or, rather, when the government collapsed it, Cassian became one of thousands of highly skilled refugees from Avro in the job market. His interest in the sophistication of mechanical things had deepened but, for a while, he had to commute to Detroit to sell his skills. Then, in 1959, he joined George Cuthbertson.

They seemed to get along, their skills were mutually complementary, they both knew the mysterious language of sailing people, and in 1961 they incorporated as a partnership. It was a good idea and — off whatever shore the great, lyrical, gliding and white-winged beauties of deep-water racing happen to be gathering — it looks better all the time. ?