This history was compiled from a variety of sources on the Internet, including Wikipedia, marinesource.com and Good Old Boat magazine.
Clinton Pearson, the founder of Bristol Yachts, was a pioneer in fiberglass sailboats.
He and his cousin, Everett Pearson, built fiberglass dinghies in a Massachusetts garage in the mid-1950s before starting Pearson Yachts. The company was one of the first successful builders of mass production fiberglass sailboats.
But financial complications and corporate infighting prompted Clinton to leave his namesake company in 1964, when he bought a struggling sailboat manufacturer called Sailstar in West Warwick, R.I., and transformed it into Bristol Yachts in 1966.
Located in Bristol, R.I., the company had the famed Carl Alberg design its first original boat, the Bristol 27, to add to its production of the Sailstar, also known as the Bristol 24.
The first generation of Bristols was aimed at the mass market. They were moderately priced and heavily built, with designs from some of the top names of the day. In addition to Alberg, they included Halsey Herreshoff, John Alden and Paul Coble.
Rather than racing, the boats were designed with cruising and comfort in mind, although many owners of today’s floating condos probably wouldn’t agree. Suffice it to say that Bristols were roomy for their era.
They had wine glass-shaped hulls, full keels with cutaway forefoots and attached rudders, characteristics that gave the boats an easy motion at sea — much more comfortable than many of today’s racer-cruisers.
The next generation of Bristols came largely from the drawing board of well-known designer Ted Hood — with contributions from Herreshoff — and were noted by having a deciminal point in their names – the 27.7, 29.9, 31,1, 33.3, 35.5, 38.8, 41.1, 43.3, 47.7 and 51.1.
Many of them were centerboarders, and Wikipedia says this about them:
“The hull designs were a development of Ted Hood’s ‘whale bottom’ delta hull form, with a steep deadrise allowing the ballast to be placed low in the hull (compensating for the lack of ballast in the centreboard), and improving interior space. This hull design is known for its comfortable motion in a seaway.”
The second generation of Bristols also were more luxurious, eschewing the Spartan philosophy of sailboats in the 1960s and 1970s, with a finer fit and finish that enhanced Bristol’s reputation as a quality builder.
Eventually, as the mass market for new sailboats dwindled, largely because there were so many good used sailboats on the market, Bristol transformed itself into a semi-custom yacht builder in the early 1990s before finally shutting down production in 1997 after manufacturing 4,400 boats.