Project Cheers Book Review

In 1967, Dick Newick was intrigued by an idea for an unusual boat. Perhaps too unusual. The boat would be a modern “proa”, a complete reworking of the traditional Polynesian two-way sailing canoe into a modern single-handed offshore racing boat. But would it work? Could it be built? Convinced it could, he faced bigger questions. Who would sail it in a race across the Atlantic? Who would provide the funds for such an adventure?

How Dick found and convinced Tom Follet to sail and Jim Morris to act as financier is the beginning of the story. The 1968 OSTAR race was only 16 months away. If Team 68 (their temporarily adopted name) could build a modern ocean-going proa, shake it down, fix its problems and learn to sail it, they would face a still greater challenge. They would have to convince the Race Committee their craft was suitable to sail in the most dangerous sailing race on earth.

Team 68 did not have time for mistakes, but they went ahead and made them anyway, and learned and corrected, faster than most of us would take to get it wrong and leave it that way. How did they get it so right, so fast?

Fifty-three years later, I read this book in the midst of a heated debate over all things proa and over the propriety of single handed passage making. That same debate runs all through this book, but the answer is there, too. The debate is actually about all things not proa … the mistakes and misunderstandings that did not make the cut in the final design.

Cheers, the boat, and Project Cheers, the book, are all things proa … simple, elegant, economical, surprising, and above all inspiring. -John York
– – – – – –  –
 – John York was fortunate to witness the design, construction and testing of revolutionary boats from Dick Newick, Damian McLaughlin and Jerome Milgram, and to learn from and occasionally sail with OSTAR sailors in the 1970s and 80s. John currently coaches young sailors and presents hands-on programs for K-12 students on history, technology and boat building. When he is not on the water or teaching kids how to make sea salt, you can find him reading first person accounts of sailors, farmers and innovators.

John York and Russell Brown- Catoumet in 2010

My father, Jim Morris, wrote in his postscript section of PROJECT CHEERS, “I am quite confident that what the project team has experienced will, for us, not be repeated.” Dad spoke too soon, as four years later in 1972, Follett, Morris and Newick entered THREE CHEERS, a 46’ trimaran, in the OSTAR race. Tom finished in 5th place. Just like some other “sports,” participation in the OSTAR can be a very additive experience. The OSTAR has played a major role in all the lives of the Follett, Morris and Newick families. After the 1968 and 1972 races, the Follett, Morris and Newick families remained close friends. They did go on to do various other sailing related things. For Dick, numerous race contenders sought out his designs of proas and trimarans for the singlehanded races. In 1980, Phil Weld won overall first place in the OSTAR with MOXIE, a trimaran design by Dick.
Receiving the Amateur Yacht Research Society (AYRS) for the most innovative yacht design of the decade.

After the 1972 race, Tom continued to do private sailing and professional yacht deliveries. He never did another trans-ocean race. Eventually, Tom paid fifty dollars for an unlimited Panamanian Master’s license to the consul in New Orleans. When the clerk came to ‘tonnage’ on the form, he figured that since he’d already paid for an unlimited license, it wouldn’t cost any more. He had the clerk fill in the tonnage blank with “unlimited.” Tom took his newly- issued unlimited masters license and skippered a small refrigerated freighter going south from Georgia with explosives and returning with frozen orange juice concentrate from South America. He did this for a number of years. Eventually he and Priscilla decided to settle ashore in 1987, when they bought a home in Orange City, Florida. Tom died of a sudden aneurysm of an artery on February 15th, 1990. He was six days short of his 72nd birthday. Tom and Priscilla had been married for 47 years.

Tom received two trophies for his third place in the 1968 race. The first one was from the Royal Western Yacht Club for third place in the overall race. The second was the Ida Lewis Yacht Club Trophy, for the first American yacht to finish the race. He would win this trophy again with THREE CHEERS in 1972. In addition to the race trophies for

Click to the Bulova Accutron Commercial starring Tom Follet
Click to the Bulova Accutron Commercial starring Tom Follet

CHEERS, came an honor from the Amateur Yacht Research Society (AYRS) for the most innovative yacht design of the decade. This award truly recognized how innovative and revolutionary Dick’s design of CHEERS was. For Dick this had to be one of the highest accolades for his design work.

The only commercial benefit that Tom received other than from this book, PROJECT CHEERS, was from a Bulova watch TV ad. With cameras rolling he was sprayed with water to simulate a nasty North Atlantic storm and a model of CHEERS fought her way through huge waves. There is no count of how many watches this ad sold.

Dick and Tom’s accomplishments with the proa design concept have often been overlooked by the mainstream yachting media. CHEERS finished the race in 27 days, 20 minutes. Comparing CHEERS’s overall finish time she would have still been competitive even in the 1976 race. That alone says a lot for Dick’s design work, and Tom’s seamanship.

cheers dick newick
The info that accompanied the AYRS award.

My family continued to be involved with the Follett’s and Newick’s after the 1972 race. As I got closer to graduation from high school in 1976, Mom and Dad started downsizing their lives. They sold their home in Denver, packed up their VW Superbug and headed to California in the fall of 1976. There they built a 38’ cutter monohull, named CHEERS OF DENVER. They began “living aboard” in 1977, in Oxnard California. Eventually they had the boat trucked across the country and began to cruise the east coast, out of Newport RI. After several years of living- aboard, they moved back to Denver. They moved into a small townhome that allowed them to just close the door and go traveling. Most of their travels involved ships, riverboats and the Hawaiian Islands. They enjoyed numerous freighter trips, including a trip around the world and cruises to Antarctica and Spitzbergen. Jim died on December 23, 1992 from colon/liver cancer. Tootie died July 5th, 2012 from kidney failure. The CHEERS and THREE CHEERS projects were major highlights of their very full lives.

When Tom sailed CHEERS home to St. Croix, there were no plans for her future. CHEERS was really too small and too difficult to sail as a daily charter boat or as a family cruising yacht. Eventually, CHEERS was donated to the St. Croix Historical Society. But, they really were unable to properly display or care for her. An offer from the Exeter Maritime Museum, in Exeter England to display CHEERS was accepted. Once again CHEERS crossed the Atlantic, but this time on the deck of a freighter.

Eventually, the Exeter Maritime Museum fell on hard times. All of the boats had to find new homes. A French couple was able to secure CHEERS a new home, and they had her moved to France. There is an interesting on-line video of CHEERS being overhauled and relaunched. Here is the link to the video with Dick Newick attending the relaunch and CHEERS sailing in France.

Having CHEERS still sailing is a fitting tribute to Dick, Tom and Jim.

Photos from the book-

Because the new edition of Project Cheers is not printed on gloss paper, the images lack luster. In this slide show, the images have greater clarity, (even one in color) and appear in the order they do in the book. Permission to reproduce the photos was granted by the copyright heirs, including for photos by Fritz Henle. See for more of his photographic legacy.

Plate 1:
‘Cheers’ under construction: Bernard Rhodes stands by one of the incredibly slim hulls. Photo; Newick

Plate 2:
‘Cheers’ aka being laminated. Spruce glued with resourcinal glue. Photo; Newick

Plate 3:
‘Cheers’ under construction showing the 12mm ply bulkheads bracketing the centerboard trunk, mast, and ‘aka’. Note the 6 laminations in the ‘aka’ (left) Photo; Newick

Plate 4: /
Wallford Galloway, who did most of the building. Photo;Fritz Henle

Plate 5: /
Dick Newick makes some last minute adjustments to one of the masts prior to launching. Photo: Fritz Henle

Plate 6: /
The Launch. Photo: Fritz Henle

Plate 7: /
“Cheers!” (l to r) Pat Newick, Jim Morris, Tom Follett, Dick Newick, Tootie Morris, Dick Eames. Photo Fritz Henle

Plate 8: /
The team prepares ‘Cheers’ for an early sail. Photo; Fritz Henle

Plate 9:
Capsize test carried out before sponson was fitted. In calm water Cheers floated with her masts horizontal. Photo; Newick

Plate 10:
This shot of the same capsize test clearly shows how small her wetted surface is. Photo; Newick

Plate 11:
Looking a bit pensive; Tom Follett prior to setting off on his first solo excursion. Photo Fritz Henle

Plate 12:
Tom Follett leaving St. Croix on his first long solo trial. Note the absence of sponson and anti-dive plates. Photo; Newick

Plate 13:
‘Cheers’ moving along at a fair clip during early trial off St. Croix. Photo; Fritz Henle

‘Cheers’ on an early trial, showing foresail with an experimental sprit instead of a boom. Number 2 jib is set. Compare this picture with plate 19 which shows ‘Cheers’ with her sponson fitted. Photo; Newick

Plate 15:
Another shot taken during early trials, showing large light weather foresail. Photo; Fritz Henle

Plate 16:
This close-up taken during early trials, shows the cockpit layout and the netting very clearly.

Plate 17:
‘Cheers’ showing her paces during trials before the anti-dive plates and sponson were fitted. Photo; Fritz Henle

Plate 18:
Close-up of ‘Cheers’ in action during trials. Photo; Fritz Henle

Plate 19:
A close fetch at high speed during trials. Photo; Fritz Henle

Plate 20:
Sponson and anti-dive plates fitted. Photo; Newick

Plate 21:
A close-up of one of the anti-dive plates. Photo; Fritz Henle

Plate 22:
Tom Follett leaving Christiansted St Croix, Virgin Islands for England on 31st March, 1968. Photo; Fritz Henle

Plate 23:
‘Cheers’ lying alongside her tender ‘Andiamo’ at Millbay Dock, Plymouth prior to the Transatlantic Race. Photo; Peter Wier

Plate 24:
This shot shows the table opposite the berth. Photo; believed to be by Peter Wier

Plate 25:
Tom Follett’s quarters for such long voyaging were cramped, to say the least. Here you see his bunk in the windward hull. Photo; Peter Wier

Plate 26:
Home after the race. ‘Cheers’ looks just as spick and span as when she set off. Photo; Newick

Plate 27:
The contestants in the 1968 Single-Handed Transatlantic Race. (photographer unknown)

Plate 28:
‘Cheers’ racing with Newick’s third trimaran, the 36ft Trice, in some breeze. ‘Cheers’ is considerably faster under these conditions. Photo; Newick

The original cover image:

This was the original cover photo for the book Project Cheers, published in 1969. It was taken by Dick Newick in St Croix, USVI. You can see Buck Island in the back ground.


Thank you to Halsted Morris who found the Henle album and had it digitized. Locating and digitizing other photos was a challenge and many of the above are secondary scans.

Drawings of the boat can be found on “The Boat” page.

Maps can be found on “The Event” page.


Welcome to Project Cheers

Thank you for visiting Project Cheers, a website dedicated to the book of the same title.

You will find on this site, the photos from the book in better resolution than is possible in a paperback, links to videos and sites related to the book subject matter, and updated information about The Boat, The Team that created her, and The Event that continues to make history.

The new release of the book Project Cheers is now available on AMAZON.

Explore! ..and let us know what you think!

Dick Newick
Dick Newick; Multihull designer and pioneer.

The Boat

Cheers is a 40ft Proa designed by Dick Newick specifically as an entrant in the 1968 OSTAR, a single handed transatlantic race. Cheers was given an award by the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, Newport Rhode Island, for being the first U.S. yacht to finish a Transatlantic Single Handed Race and the Amateur Yacht Research Society honored the team with a special award for research.

Where is Cheers today? Here is one video from Victor Laurent.

Cheers profile drawing
Profile drawing of Cheers by Dick Newick

The book, Project Cheers, details the concept, construction,

testing, and subsequent voyages from 1967 to 1968. There are three story tellers, three parts of the book; Jim Morris, Dick Newick, and Tom Follett, each detailing their specific points of responsibility and experiences during the project.
Proa Cheers maneuver diagram by Dick Newick
Cheers early drawings by Dick Newick
Tom Follett’s shakedown cruise on Cheers.

See more photos from the book.

more to come…
This photo spent years on Dick Newick’s wall. It was totally washed out to sepia tone. It has been recolored digitally.

This was the original cover photo for the book Project Cheers, published in 1969. It was taken by Dick Newick in St Croix, USVI. You can see Buck Island in the back ground.

The Team

The core team of Project Cheers in 1968, was Jim Morris, Dick Newick, and Tom Follett. The book adds details on the contributions of many others. morris-newick-follett

Jim Morris, Dick Newick, Tom Follet as photographed in 1968 by Fritz Henle in St. Croix, USVI.

About Jim Morris: A Postscript authored by Halsted Morris, one of Jim and Tootie’s two children can be seen HERE:
Jim Morris portrait by Fritz Henle

About Dick Newick

Additional commentary/anecdotal contributions from friends and family will eventually be added to this website. There is presently a good page created by Joseph Oster, that is full of links and info on Dick Newick’s work. You can link to ‘dicknewickboats’ here.
Portrait of Dick Newick by Fritz Henle 1968

About Tom Follett
Portrait of Tom Follett by Fritz Henle



More on the team soon…

The Event

It was called then, the  Observer’s Single-handed Trans Atlantic Race, or OSTAR of 1968; This was the event and year that Cheers was designed and built for and raced in. For sailors and spectators alike, this event, under various names, remains an exciting event. This page contains related links and if you find more, please let me know!

Official OSTAR website of the Royal Western Yacht Club – The U.K. side of the race, @020 is the 60th anniversary of the race and it starts in MAY! Follow the OSTAR and the TWOSTAR also on Facebook.

Newport Yacht Club – the U.S. side of the race.

WIKIPEDIA overview of individual OSTAR races

TRANSAT– the latest website of the race, once called the OSTAR

Video links

The captains of the 1968 OSTAR. Tom Follett of Cheers is seen standing 4th from left. Photographer unknown.
Proa Cheers and Tom Follett’s journey from St. Croix to Gosport.
1968 OSTAR and proa Cheer’s track including back to St. Croix from Newport.

Cheers Poster!

The book

Project Cheers is a story of brilliant organization and endeavour

by three men dedicated to an idea which many thought crazy. That idea was a fantastically fast twin hulled craft called Cheers, designed specifically by Dick Newick to win the Single Handed Transatlantic Race in 1968. In the hands of Tom Follett, one of the most capable (and modest) small boat sailors in the world, who endured great discomfort and danger, she put up an astounding performance in the race, sometimes reaching quite hair raising speeds, to finish a very close third. The fact that she did not win can only be attributed to bad luck. —quote from the original book jacket of “Project Cheers”, first published in 1969.

Read a book review of Project Cheers HERE

This was the original cover photo for the book Project Cheers, published in 1969. It was taken by Dick Newick in St Croix, USVI. You can see Buck Island in the back ground.

Buy a soft cover copy of the new edition of Project Cheers, by Jim Morris, Dick Newick, and Tom Follett. Available NOW. You can also pick up a copy at the NW Maritime Center Chandlery in Port Townsend,  and get one while visiting Small Craft Advisor Magazine, or Port Townsend Watercraft.

A hard cover copy of the new edition of Project Cheers, by Jim Morris, Dick Newick, and Tom Follett is being considered if there is adequate interest. You can contact ptwatercraft @ to express interest. (no spaces in email address)