Doug Peterson, yacht designer who helped U.S. and New Zealand win the America’s Cup, dies at 71

Doug Peterson, shown in the early 1980s, died Monday in a San Diego hospital.
(San Diego Yacht Club)

On the same day the United States lost the America’s Cup to New Zealand, the man who designed Cup-winning boats for both countries died after a long bout with cancer.

Doug Peterson, a longtime Point Loma resident and San Diego Yacht Club member, was 71. His friend Chris Calkins said Peterson died Monday in a San Diego hospital. Terry Anglin, general manager of the San Diego Yacht Club, confirmed Peterson had died.

Peterson was one of the world’s top yacht designers in the 1970s and early ’80s, then revived his career in the 1990s. He was voted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame this year; the induction ceremony is scheduled in October at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.

In the mid-1970s, Peterson’s designs, often in partnership with Dennis Conner, dominated offshore racing contests.


New Zealand's Black Magic competes in the America's Cup in 1995.
(Jack Smith / Associated Press)

In 1992, he joined with Bill Koch’s group and helped design America3, which defended the Cup in San Diego.

Three years later, when he was not hired for the defense, he joined Team New Zealand as one of its lead designers and helped the Kiwis’ Black Magic win the Cup over Conner’s Stars and Stripes.

“A whole generation of yacht designers worked at some point for him and went on to be the principle designers during the past 30 years,” said Calkins. “He had a passion for the traditions of design and yachting.”


Peterson is survived by his children, Mark, Jamie, Laura and Julia.

Posner writes for the San Diego Union Tribune