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Book Cover for: Walter Reeks: Naval Architect, Yachtsman and Entrepreneur, Nicole L. Mays

Walter Reeks: Naval Architect, Yachtsman and Entrepreneur

Nicole L. Mays

This is the biography of Australia's first naval architect, Walter Reeks (1861 - 1925). A man who produced innovative, sometimes unorthodox designs across a broad range of vessels, from commercial craft to recreational yachts. Best known as the pioneer of the Sydney fleet of ferries, Reeks rose to prominence immediately after his arrival in Sydney from Liverpool in 1885. He went on to design more than 300 vessels up until his death in 1925 at the age of 64. Clients included the well-heeled to those with less resources. Craft were built throughout Australia and New Zealand, many becoming stalwarts of local, regional, state and national trading routes and industries. Others went on to win coveted yachting titles, some with Reeks at the helm. Despite these professional successes and his wide-reaching acclaim, this is also the story of sorrow and tragedy, the death at a young age of his first wife Mary in 1895, and the murder of his son Kent in 1914 casting large, grieving shadows on Reeks' family life.


Yet, this is the story of a man who not only achieved so much professionally but was a dedicated supporter and protagonist of maritime pursuits throughout Australia, as well as to engineering, education and volunteering more generally. Reeks was a member of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron for over 40 years, being made a life member in 1900, serving as vice-commodore between 1906 and 1910, and notably being its official measurer for an unsurpassed stint of 39 years. During this period, Reeks also designed many of Sydney's leading yachts and investigated the potential for an Australian challenge to the America's Cup, a dream he was still chasing some four decades later.


A life of serving, adventure, cutting-edge innovation, risk-taking and saying 'Yes!' are highlights of Reeks' journey. While his achievements, as we reflect back on his career, are immense, their collective weight and worthiness would likely not have been realised by Reeks himself. They were just the next project, the next step forward, the next outcome, the next compromise between the practical and the ideal, between his design parameters and his client's needs. It was definitely a life well lived and one worth telling.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Nicole Mays
  • Publish Date: Dec 12nd, 2023
  • Pages: 390
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 11.00in - 8.50in - 1.19in - 3.31lb
  • EAN: 9780645708622
  • Categories: HistoricalAustralia & New Zealand - GeneralWater Sports - Sailing