The Starling class yacht was conceived and the design commissioned by John Peet in the late 1960s. At the time there were no single-handed boats available to teenagers for bridging the gap between the P class and the adult Finn, OK, Cherokee and Zephyr classes. Many young sailors were leaving the sport because the step to the adult classes was too great. A stepping stone class was required. In consultation with parents of current P class sailors a set of criteria was formulated for the proposed class: -
· The boat should cater for teenagers not able to cope with adult monotypes.
· Crew weight of approximately 50 – 70 kgs.
· The boat should be easily handled in fresh conditions, plane readily and have good windward performance.
· The appearance of the boat to be of high priority.
· Buoyancy to be of P class standard.
· Cockpit space for two teenagers or one adult.
· Construction to be simple.
· Very close restrictions so that all boats to have equal performance. e.g. masts from standard aluminium extrusion, sails from the same material and same loft.
Des Townson, the designer of the successful Zephyr, Mistral and Dart yachts of the period was approached to design the boat and he completed this in June 1969. To confirm the simplicity of the construction concept, teenager David Peet built the prototype as his first boat-building project. The Starling was launched at Westhaven, Auckland on Anzac weekend 1970. Extensive testing of the prototype was completed over the following months by dozens of P class sailors. Feedback was very supportive and encouraging, with a great deal of enthusiasm expressed for the concept and the finished prototype.
The feedback from sailors was considered and as a consequence, a slight modification to the hull and a minor construction change were incorporated in the second and final design of the boat. The sail area was increased slightly and the fully battened sail was replaced with the profile currently in use. Des Townson then gifted the design to the Glendowie Boating Club and club members built six more Starlings. The new Glendowie fleet visited many Auckland yacht clubs and boats were made available for local sailors to trial. A mini building boom followed and by 1973 the class was granted national status by the Yachting Federation of New Zealand.
In the early 1970s plans were sold for $4, sails $32 and it was possible to launch a home built Starling for $150.