Frits de Voogt, the renowned naval architect whose work characterized every Feadship for nearly four decades, passed away on December 20. He was 96 years old.
Born August 21, 1927 in Haarlem, The Netherlands, Frits de Voogt studied shipbuilding engineering at Delft University of Technology. His father, Henri de Voogt, was a naval architect, too, but their career paths didn’t overlap initially. In fact, despite Henri de Voogt designing steel pleasure boats for the founding shipyards of Feadship, young Frits intended to design big ships. “I did not want to draw boats when my father first asked me back in the early 1950s,” he said, in an interview in 2017. When his father suffered a stroke in 1958, however, he stepped in to help manage the eponymous studio. “I did manage to conclude my studies,” he said. “I’d be drawn into the Feadship world and would never escape!”
Mischievous statements like that were as characteristic of Frits de Voogt as much as humbleness. As a designer, naval architect, and director of Feadship until his retirement in 1995, he held a lot of sway. Like his father, he knew how to work with the founding shipyards of Feadship and their managerial personalities. Henk de Vries, a current Feadship director who worked with him, considered him “the glue that managed the individuals.” De Vries further said, in an interview in 2017, “the decisions he made, he made for the good of all.” In turn, the designer simply stated, “We may have been three families, but we were of one mind,” crediting his father for a strong foundation.
That foundation and Fris de Voogt’s own talents led to some of the most well-known Feadships around. For example, he flew to the United States to meet Henry Ford II in 1961 to seal the deal for Santa Maria. Furthermore, he was behind the handful of Feadships belonging to Malcolm Forbes, each bearing Highlander in the name. Even among lower-profile projects, though,, his mark was significant. He, along with the designers and naval architects in his studio, tapped technology from the Dutch merchant fleet and Navy to benefit the ever-bigger megayachts.
Despite retiring in 1995, Frits de Voogt continued attending most Feadship launches straight to modern day. He also attended other events. This past June, for example, the Feadship Heritage Fleet owners honored him during their rendezvous in Amsterdam (above). Not only was he on hand, but many owners were eager to greet and thank the man who had designed their yachts. His energy was nearly on par with theirs.
Frits de Voogt passed away in his native Haarlem. In paying tribute to him, Feadship called him “the grand master of De Voogt Naval Architects for decades.” It further added, “The designs were unique and are still the basis of today’s Feadship yachts.: