Dick McCurdy and the History of Ockam Instruments
Dick McCurdy is the co-founder, owner, operator and developer of Ockam Instruments. He has been on a quest to develop the best sailing instrument system for more than 50 years, and continues to work on advances every day. Instrument systems have changed extensively since the 1970’s, and Ockam Instruments have evolved and improved dramatically since their inception.
Sailing World magazine reported; “The year 1974 saw the birth of what became Ockam Instruments when Richard McCurdy built the first “miniature” computer, which was used as a wind direction instrument processor for the successful 1974 Cup defender Courageous. Packed in a large aluminum suitcase and cooled by bilge water pumped through a system of internal finned pipes, the box weighed 60 pounds and needed 280 pounds of batteries to keep it running.”
Sailing by the Seat Of Your Pants
Of his earliest days in sailing, Dick McCurdy said, “I started racing in Jet 14’s and Lightnings, but because of my late start (age 16) I intellectualized the sport instead of paying attention to my butt, as most of the other kids did. My idol was Bill Cox, who was a very successful, but analytic Lightening sailor. I eventually became his crew, and pursued his analytical style.”
In 1958 Dick sailed, with his Dad, to Newport, RI for the first “modern” America’s Cup match, and that experience put him on the path which eventually led to creating sailing instrument systems which were instrumental in winning numerous America’s Cup regattas. In ’64, his sailing guru, Bill Cox, made an unsuccessful attempt at the America’s Cup with “American Eagle,” for which Dick attempted his first instrument system, trying to average the notoriously wiggly apparent wind angle displays of the time.
Education, Technology and Application
In 1970, Dick’s MIT thesis was on the design of an analog true wind computer.