what is dart18?
The History of the Dart 18
Panthercraft was formed in 1969 by two friends, Ian Fraser and Kim Stephens, who had a lifetime’s interest in sailing; more specifically what could be described in those times (early 60’s), ‘strange’ craft. Kim sailed the International Canoe and Ian the Shearwater Cat and both had some success at National level.
When the Tornado catamaran was chosen for prospective Olympic status in 1966 Ian obtained one of the original Tornadoes from the designer, Rodney March, as a ‘demonstrator’ at Restronguet in late 1968 and persuaded 6 friends to join him in building 6 boats. John Pitt, David Stonehouse, Brian Bishop, John Cooke, Graham Parkin and Ian Fraser. They pooled their resources and in the summer of 1969 established Tornado racing on Carrick Roads.
Kim and Ian both had the desire to ‘build boats’, Kim gave up his surveyor’s job with Ronnie Prior and he, with Ian, applied for a licence from the IYRU to build Tornado catamarans – not in wood, which was the method to date, but in GRP to Rodney’s specification. By using high tech laminates and materials only used so far in the aircraft industries Panthercraft built the world’s first all ‘glass’ Tornado which Ian sailed to 3rd place in the 1970 European championships in Copenhagen. By proving the design and construction was capable of winning, orders for the boats started coming in from all over the world. With the advent of containers it was possible to build boats in the old ‘clothing factory’ at Ponsanooth (which Kim and Ian had earlier purchased), load them in the field opposite Ian’s house and ship them to Hawaii, Los Angeles and Hong Kong and establish a thriving export business.
Panthercraft boats won all the major international events and Ian won the World Championship in 1971 and the Europeans in 1972. At the peak of production the firm was building some 100 Tornados a year.
With the adoption of the Tornado for the 1976 Olympics both of the partners realised that the prospect of making a living out of just one product was numbered. There were approximately 30 licensed builders around the world chasing a very select market and to survive Panthercraft needed a more universally popular design.
Terry Pearce who had, along with Rodney March, engineered the building of the original Tornado for its ‘trials’ in 1966 joined Ian and Kim to share their experiences and produce an outline of the boat that they would wish to sail.
They were determined to ensure the boat they built would survive and pros