At age twelve when his father, Edward Burgess fell to typhoid fever, there was little doubt that W. Starling Burgess would one day rival his father’s genius. He had inherited his father’s analytical thought and uncommon sense of form. It hardly came as a surprise when the 22 year old Starling withdrew from Harvard in his senior year to open his own design firm.
With legends such as Edward Burgess, Nathanael Herreshoff, George Lawley, Jr. and Arthur Binney for mentors, his success in yacht design seemed assured. Armed with his inherited talents, lessons from the masters of yacht design and an intelligence that kept him at the head of his class at Harvard, Burgess set out on his quest for speed and grace in yacht design.
He found the embodiment of what he sought in design. ENTERPRISE, with her aluminum spars and Tru-Loc fittings proved her worth in a duel with SHAMROCK V in 1930. RAINBOW, another W. Starling Burgess design, gave the New York Yacht Club as good a scare as they would get, dropping two races to ENDEAVOUR before coming back to win the next four straight.
In 1937, Starling took a rising young naval architect named Olin Stephens into his quest for grace and speed in America’s Cup design. The result was the J-class masterpiece, RANGER. She was without equal. The fastest of the J boats, she crossed the line 17 minutes ahead of ENDEAVOUR II in their first race. RANGER never let her get closer than three and a half minutes as she took the series in four races. Those who saw RANGER called her the most beautiful, most powerful, and most destined to win.
Starling Burgess’ quest for design superiority drove him to success outside of the America’s Cup arena as well. He was the first American to design twelve-meter class yachts. Of all his schooners, cutters, yawls and one designs, his favorite was the staysail schooner NINA. Today NINA has the distinction of having one of the best records in ocean racing history. He is also known for his airplane manufacturing company, which flew the first airplane in New England, and as the author of “The Eternal Laughter and Other Poems.”