Richard Cole
1909-2004

Dick Cole invented the original "Cathedral" tri-hull for Thunderbird boats of Miami Fl. in 1958. Cole designed the 1969 23' Thunderbird Iroquois used as the Ranger Boat on the TV series "Flipper". He later did boats for Wellcraft Marine where he designed the "Airslot" and the first walkaround. He also designed the original 25' Nova.

Dick Cole was born London England in 1909. He worked for Bentley motor cars for a time and then got a job with Watermota Corp. which produced an outboard motor. This engine was raced by the company owner's son Colin Fair who won some major races in a small hydro with this engine. Cole also raced this engine and later took a 700 mile trip in a 15' wooden boat powered by a 11hp Watermota outboard from England to France and eventually to Paris. This was one of the first English Channel crossings in a motorboat and occurred in 1929. He made several other similar trips between 1929-1931 from England to France in small outboard powered boats. One hull he raced was a Hickman Seasled, a twin hull configuration which was the stimulus when originating the Cathedral Hull (later called "Gull Wing" by OMC). The book "Power Boat: Speed" by Kevin Desmond details some of this information including his exploits during this time. He came to the US from from England in 1947 and designed boats in South Africa, Canada, US, and for individuals in New Zealand. In 1973 he received the Ole Evinrude Award for his contribution to the boating industry.

Mike had the following remarks on the (fallen) popularity of tri-hull boats (8/98);

I couldn't help but read with great interest some of the other people's comments on the OMC boats and the idea that the Cathedral Hull had fallen out of favor. Yes, it's true for the most part and I'll tell you the history here since I am probably most familiar with this. When my dad invented this hull in it's original form all three sections were equal in depth. This made a very stable boat but the shortcomings were evident when encountering rough seas as the hull would pound quite roughly. Dad realized this and the hull designed was modified over the years from it's inception in 1958 to the last variation he designed in the 70's for Wellcraft Marine which was the Airslot. This modification consisted of raising the outside sponsons and making the central V deeper which gave the boat better sea keeping ability in rough seas without sacrificing stability. About this same time the deep V hull [originated by C. Raymond Hunt, who was involved in the design of the Boston Whaler, which was also inspired by the Hickman SeaSled] was being developed and was being used in off-shore ocean racing. The most common hulls of this design were the early Bertrams and Thunderbird Formula's. The deep V design performed better in rough seas and there were a lot of other Cathedral hull boats being made by other manufacturers that were not designed properly and added to the poor reputation. The Wellcraft Airslot performed quite well, even in rough water, but by this time people were convinced, for the most part, that the deep V was the wave of the future and therefore most companies dropped the Cathedral design in favor of some form of V design. But history often comes back in similar form and now you see the Catamaran design catching on. It really is not far from the Cathedral concept and certainly is not new. The early deep V hulls were often wet and lacked spray control and stability. Dad also realized this and actually designed some later V hulls with stability and spray control but they were never produced by anyone. One boat he did design and later produced by Galaxy boats was a 21' walkaround. It was a good hull but the production quality was very poor and they went out of business. Development in boat design historically has been very slow and continues that way today. The latest deep V hulls are extending the chines (something Dad did a long time ago) to add stability and spray control but it has taken a long time to evolve. What actually has happened is the deep V hull now incorporates some of the original Cathedral hull features in moderation which has made it a better hull. Boston Whaler also used a Cathedral Hull design but Dad had a patent on the idea by the time Whaler came up with theirs. Some people believe Whaler came up with the idea first, but this is not true and Dad has the US Patents to prove it.

The Cathedral Hull is not dead however, and it continues to show up in various forms for deck boats and other types. In fact I recently saw a new boat being produced by Donzi which I think is using a Cathedral type hull. So like many ideas, it had it pros and cons and everyone can make up their own minds. I know a friend in Miami that has a 21' Wellcraft Airslot and he tells me he had rode in many boats but none ride a well as this boat or are as dry as this boat. Also, Wellcraft Marine did an article once on two boats that they took on a trip to Bimini from Miami. One boat was the Wellcraft Airslot 24' and the other was the 25' Nova (both designed by my father). The Airslot was a Cathedral type design and the Nova was a traditional deep V. The article praised the ride and dryness of the Airslot compared to the Nova but I guess nobody was listening. I have another theory on the demise of this design and it is styling. Although I liked the Cathedral Hull design and am aware of it's advantages, I prefer the look of a V design boat from a style point of view. I think a lot of people could never get used to the look of a Cathedral hull boat which added to it's disfavor. My prediction is the same will happen to the Cat's and after a while they too will fall out of favor because of their odd look. History will tell.

Mike Cole

Mike Cole informed me that his father died January 20, 2004 at the age of 94 from larynx cancer.


Patents received by Dick Cole for his designs include:

D186,480 - oct 1959 "Boat" (with John A. Woodson)

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TIFF

TIFF

D199,602 - nov 1964 "Boat"

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TIFF

TIFF

D199,768 - dec 1964 "Boat"

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TIFF

TIFF

D204,522 - apr 1966 "Longitudinally Stepped Cathedral Hull"

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TIFF

TIFF

D204,523 - apr 1966 "Cathedral Boat"

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TIFF

TIFF

D219,627 - dec 1970 "Hull for Planing Boat"

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TIFF

TIFF

3,602,179 - aug 1971 "Hydroplane Boat"

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TIFF

TIFF

TIFF

TIFF

TIFF

D224,275 - jul 1972 "Power Boat"

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TIFF

TIFF

D234,349 - feb 1975 "Runabout Power Boat"

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TIFF

TIFF

D234,685 - apr 1975 "Fishing Cruiser"

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TIFF

Other companies Cole designed for:


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