By Jan Fogt
The early history of the Hatterascal exists mostly in the memories of those who ran Hatteras Yachts in the 1960s and '70s. Dave Parker, the former CEO who took over in 1965 when Willis Slane died, offers the most comprehensive account.
"I'm not sure exactly when the first Hatterascal was built, but I know it was around 1963 or '64," says Parker. "Back then, we didn't launch a new factory sport-fishing boat every year because the sport boats sold themselves. In those days we were trying to launch the motoryacht line with the Laurie, a motoryacht demonstrator run by Capt. Frank Rohan."
A perfectionist, Rohan fit the cruising world like a silk glove but lacked the fishing skills necessary for the Hatterascal. Thus during the on-again, off-again years when Slane and Parker launched a Hatterascal, a company mechanic by the name of Rocky Hardison could usually be found behind the wheel in the Carolina tournaments where it was fished.
"In those says," says the retired CEO, "we didn't campaign the Hatterascal like they do today. We used to ship it to the boat shows, and we'd fish the Hatteras Marlin Club Tournament with it, but beyond that, it didn't travel."
A request from a company friend who happened to be a member of the New York Yacht Club changed the course of history for the Hatterascal. "He wanted to know if we could provide a tender for the match races leading up to the America's Cup in Newport. We sent a boat, and it remained there for the entire series. That was 1970," Parker says. Rohan ran the Hatterascal that year, but during the next Cup series several years later, a newcomer by the name of Jimmy O'Neill was tapped for service.
O'Neill grew up haunting Miami's legendary Pier 5 docks, where captains such as Bill Hatch and Tommy Gifford showed him the ropes. Still in his 30s, he'd built his own boat and a successful charter-fishing business on Key Biscayne where he fished high-profile clients like Nixon confidant Bebe Robozo. During the off-season, he often took freelance jobs. That's how O'Neill came to be hired by Jim McQueen, president of Trojan Yachts, who later recommended him to Parker. In 1977, O'Neill ran the 53-foot Hatterascal for the America's Cup races at Newport, Rhode Island, and in 1980 he was hired as the Hatterascal's first full-time captain.