All About The Twister Class

Picture of By Craig Ranson
By Craig Ranson

Managing Director – Bridge Classic Cars

Sources: Peter from and Suffolk Yacht Harbour and Classic Boat

The Original Twister

Conceived by ‘Kim’ Holman in 1963 the original Twister of Mersea was designed to optimise the rating rules of the time. Based on his experience with the Stella Kim designed the Twister to have more draft, carry more sail and yet ‘rate’ the same …. and he got it right!

In her first season Twister of Mersea virtually carried all before her, an achievement she was to repeat for the next few years. It was not long before other owners commissioned Twisters in order to get a slice of the action.

Kim Holman

In February 1967, right here in Ipswich, Suffolk Yacht Harbour Limited was founded by a team of local businessmen. Founding members Michael Spear, Charles Stennett and local boatbuilder Eric Wright were supported by Chris Jonas (chartered surveyor and engineer), Kim Holman (naval architect), John Adams (architect), and Geoff Hubbard (financial advisor).

Read all about the life and designs of Kim Holman at Classic Boat

Early Twisters

In all about 30 wooden Twisters were built by a variety of builders. GRP was then in it’s early days and it soon became apparent that there would be a market for series production of the Twister as a GRP Cruiser/Racer.

The design was modified slightly to suit the moulding process. The length was increased by 6”, the draft reduced by 3” and the bow section was made slightly fuller.

The first composite GRP Twister hulls.

The first GRP hull was moulded in 1964. The Hull and Deck were GRP mouldings by Tyler’s whilst the cockpit and coachroof were of traditional timber construction.

This was a very attractive combination though obviously labour intensive and the debut of the first all GRP version in 1969 was inevitable. For a while both versions were available but it was not long before the Composite was dropped in favour of the cheaper to build all GRP version.

Tylers produce GRP moulded Twisters

Whilst the majority of Twisters were built in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s Tyler’s continued to produce mouldings through into the late ‘90’s when the business ceased trading.

The moulds were by then in a poor state of repair and beyond further use. In the early days Uphams completed nearly all the boats but in later years other builders fitted out many and a significant number of mouldings were sold for amateur completion.

Traditional design that can still outperform more modern ones

All Holman’s designs were good looking and the Twister is arguably the prettiest. By today’s standards she is a heavy yacht with a large wetted area and a relatively small sail area. One you might expect only to go well in a blow.

Surprisingly the Twister still outperforms many much lighter ‘modern’ designs in light airs too and always with impeccable manners and a ‘finger-light’ helm.

When asked ‘why does the Twister sail so well?’ Kim’s reply of ‘I don’t know …. I just got it right’, surely sums up his modest genius better than a page of explanations. If you have a Twister you will know exactly what we mean. If you haven’t and you are thinking of buying one of these true modern classics you won’t be disappointed!

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