Just out from the Omaha boat ramp sits Alia, a 32-foot teak cutter built from a traditional 1930’s design.
Alia is the longest love of Jacques De Kervor’s life. He designed and built her in Hong Kong, when he was just 25-years-old. These days he works at the cutting edge of sailing innovation at Core Composites in Warkworth.
The Core team has built all of Oracle’s Americas Cup boats beginning in 2001 when they first established in Ventura California. Since moving to Warkworth in 2009 they have supplied many parts and tools for other teams, and components for all of the pre-race AC 45 boats.
For Jacques, Oracle’s loss and Team New Zealand’s win is bitter sweet. “I was in the parade dressed as a pirate celebrating New Zealand’s win in ’95, I still have the sword from that costume,” Jacques says, with a laugh.
“We have a great team here at Core that create fantastic things. Sure we are a little disappointed, but I think the one design elements we see in the AC 50 has created a much more even playing field with more participants. I hope the AC 50 is retained and that that we continue to build parts for other teams, here in Warkworth.”
Jacques is a self-taught designer and boat builder. He was almost 50 before finally working with local master craftsman and boat builder, John Rae. He attributes some of his success to forensic observations of what works and what doesn’t.
Jacques grew up in America; his dad was a clay modeller, bringing to life the iconic Ford Thunderbird and innovative designs for the pioneer of underwater exploration, Jacques Cousteau. “Any skills I got from my father must’ve come from blood rather than instruction because I hardly ever saw him.”
At 18 Jacques landed a job at aircraft engineers Pratt and Whitney, working on the Supersonic Transport programme. But his real passion was sailing and he studied carpentry and boat building. Over the years he has repaired numerous boats, built spars, staircases, wharves, picture frames and even his own house in Matakana.
“Traditional boat builders are spatial thinkers. They have an intimate knowledge of how everything will come together before they even start construction. Most boat builders today are a small part of a big process. I lament the demise of being hands on, from go to whoa.”