The Start of Bertram

On a windy July morning in Newport, RI, in 1958, Richard Bertram stood in awe of what he had just witnessed. A 23-footer holding its own in a rough ocean caught this avid boater’s eye. This chance encounter helped change the boating industry forever. While in Rhode Island on July 16, 1958, Bertram, who was in charge of the foredeck crew on a 12-meter Vim in that year’s America’s Cup contest, noticed a 23′ runabout gently whisking around the 6- to 8-foot seas and 20-knot winds at the start of the Newport trials.

Bertram recounted the event in his book, “The  Deep-Vee Story.” “This little 23-footer stopped every sailor in the fleet in his tracks. No one had ever seen a powerboat performance to approach it…I made a mental note to corner Ray after the race and get to the bottom of this amazing exhibition,” he wrote.

Thoroughly intrigued, Bertram sought out the designer of this remarkable little craft—C. Raymond Hunt. An innovative designer who doodled on an envelope the famous Boston Whaler hull (for which he was later credited), Hunt had designed this 23′ Hunter as a tender to the 12-meter Easterner. The 1958 America’s Cup contender also was his design.

Hunt’s high-deadrise, “deep-V” hull bottom (a variation of a 1903 deep-V design attributed to American engineer E.W. Graef) extended the length of the boat rather than flattening it out near midship. It also featured longitudinal “strakes” to help provide lift and throw spray away from the boat, keeping the deck dry. Bertram figured this deep-V hull design just might be the answer to a faster, smoother, more efficient pleasure-boat hull. So he contacted Hunt after the races and commissioned a set of plans for a boat of his own. In 1960, using Hunt’s plans, Bertram built a 30′ wooden deep-V-bottom boat as a utility boat, which he named Moppie, after his wife Pauline, who got the nickname as a child.

After Bertram won the 1960 Miami-Nassau race, enormous press coverage and fanfare churned an outpouring of interest in his 30-footer boat, a business opportunity Bertram just couldn’t ignore. He later remarked, “There were so damn many yachtsmen waving checkbooks at me that I had to go into business.". With this great oppertunity Bertram decided to build a production facility across the street from his yacht brokerage offices on the site where the Bertram manufacturing facility still operates today. Interestingly, the main building was also designed to operate as a food-processing warehouse in case things did not work out.