One of the most well-known and well-respected naval architects in yachting and U.S. Navy ship design has died. Donald L. Blount, who established Donald L. Blount and Associates in 1988, died on July 14. He was 87 years old.
Born in Roanoke, Virginia, Blount was fascinated by steam locomotives at an early age. Not coincidentally, Roanoke was where the historic Norfolk & Western Railway steam trains saw construction. His fascination therefore led him to pursue a design degree, specifically mechanical engineering. Initially, Blount enrolled at Virginia Tech in 1954 for these studies. However, Norfolk & Western began transitioning from steam engines to diesel engines in the mid- to late 1950s. This more modern technology convinced him a career change was in order.
An internship at the David Taylor Model Basin in Potomac, Maryland helped further change his mind—and change the course of his life. Today one of the largest ship-model test basins in the world, the facility fascinated him. Blount therefore left school to work full time there as a technician in 1956. Three years later, he earned a naval-architecture job, and soon enrolled at George Washington University to complete his formal degree. Blount obtained a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from the school in 1963.
While yacht owners, shipyards, and fellow designers know Blount for his extraordinary recreational marine work, he spent decades working with the U.S. Navy prior to hanging his own shingle. Initially he spent 15 years, starting in 1969, researching and overseeing engineering programs for cutting-edge hydrodynamic technologies. Specifically, these technologies were for high-speed craft, at the David Taylor Model Basin. Following this, Blount switched to designing, engineering, and testing U.S. Navy combatant small craft. He worked his way up to heading the department in 1981, leaving in 1990.
Two years prior to departing, however, Blount established Donald L. Blount and Associates. Naval architecture and marine engineering were the focus. Naturally, he applied his knowledge for high-speed, special-purpose military, commercial, and recreational vessels. In yachting, Donald L. Blount and Associates is responsible for four of the world’s 15 fastest megayachts. Arguably, the 222-foot (67.7-meter) Destriero from Fincantieri was the most famous. She established the fastest eastbound transatlantic crossing at a blistering 53.09 knots in 1991. Also notably, the gas-turbine-powered, 136-foot (41.5-meter) Fortuna, for King Juan Carlos of Spain, hit 68 knots during sea trials.
Of course, super-fast superyachts weren’t the only craft to come from Donald L. Blount & Associates. Blount’s passion for performance helped the studio land sportfishing projects as well as seemingly sedate yachts like Burger’s Tò-Kalòn.
Additionally authoring more than 50 technical publications during his long career, Blount earned international regard as the authority on high-performance vessel design and hydrodynamics. The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers awarded him a medal for his achievements in 2015, too.
That same year, Gibbs & Cox acquired his studio. Going by the name DLBA currently, it remains focused on a variety of high-speed craft.