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Colin Archer

Portrait of Colin Archer, 1893 or earlier

Colin Archer (22 July 1832 – 8 February 1921) was a Scottish naval architect and shipbuilder from Larvik, Norway. His parents had immigrated to Norway from Scotland in 1825. He was known for building safe and durable ships including the Fram used in both Fridtjof Nansen's and Roald Amundsen's polar expeditions.


  • Life and work 1
  • Legacy 2
  • Honors 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Life and work

Prior to his career as a naval architect in Norway, he spent time in Queensland, Australia, with several of his brothers, including Thomas. While there, he sailed with a cargo up the Fitzroy River, Queensland "when it was almost if not quite unknown".

He and his shipyard were known for building durable and safe ships. The most notable single ship built by Colin Archer was the Fram, which participated in Fridtjof Nansen's expeditions to the North Pole and, later, in Roald Amundsen's historic first expedition to the South Pole; Fram is now preserved in the Fram Museum on Bygdøy, Oslo, Norway. Archer also designed a sturdy sailing vessel class for the Redningsselskapet (Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue), which was used for many years and now is referred to as a Colin Archer; the prototype rescue lifeboat, "Colin Archer RS 1", is still afloat and in use as a floating museum. Several other original vessels belonging to Redningsselskapet are still sailing including the Frithjof Wiese RS40.

Archer spent much time calculating how an efficient hull should be designed. To this day, people consult his work when designing new ships. He is credited with the design of more than two hundred vessels, including Fram.


Archer's designs were adapted to pleasure sailing in the twentieth century. In 1904, he built a boat for the writer Robert Erskine Childers named the Asgard; the boat is now in a museum and considered the "most important yacht in the history of Ireland".[1] In 1928, William Atkin scaled down Archer's 47-foot (14 m) Regis Voyager, a pilot boat, to make the 32-foot (9.8 m) Eric [3], and in 1934 the 38-foot (12 m) Ingrid [4]. The Eric went on to become very influential in ocean sailing, with boats such as Vito Dumas's Lehg II and Robin Knox-Johnston's Suhaili making notable circumnavigations, the latter becoming the first boat to be sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world. In the 1970s, the design was adapted to glass-reinforced plastic by William Crealock, and became the Westsail 32; this famous cruising boat has, in turn, inspired many imitations, so that the "Archer double-ender" style of boat continues to be popular to the present day.


Two rescue ships were named after Archer: the Colin Archer of 1893 and a later Colin Archer lifeboat. The Colin Archer Peninsula, Devon Island, Nunavut, is named in his honor.

The Colin Archer Memorial Race sailing race, too, is named in honour of the boatbuilder. The biennial race starts in Lauwersoog, the Netherlands, and finishes near Larvik, in Norway. The distance covered is about 365 nautical miles (676 km); depending upon weather and the type of ship, the sailing time generally is three, four, or five days.


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External links

  • Commercial boat builder with excellent picture of Colin Archer's first rescue boat, still preserved
  • Home page (Norwegian) of RS1, first Colin Archer rescue boat
  • The Fram Museum
  • Sail-Cutter Club Colin Archer (SCCA)
  • Colin Archer Memorial Race
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