Holland grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, where, he recalls, every family had a boat – the majority of them built right at home – to sail Harukai Gulf and the Firth of Themes.
By 15, he was crewing on yachts, and competing in races and regattas, and made the 1,000-mile journey from Auckland to Sydney, Australia aboard at 236-foot ketch. He became an apprentice boat builder.
In 1966 – at the age of 18 – he received his first design commission, which led to more, and he traveled to San Francisco as a Trainee Naval Architect, under celebrated yacht designer Gary Mull.
Holland arrived in St. Petersburg in 1972, accepting a job with Charley Morgan, whose Morgan Yachts was one of the most successful design and construction companies in the States. He became a well-known figure out the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, and in his memoir he recalls the organization “was primarily a social club but they also had a good racing organization … I spent most weekends racing around the magnificent Tampa Bay and Gulf of Mexico aboard a variety of yachts.”
It was here that Holland designed the first of his legendary vessels – a 24-foot racing boat called a “quarter tonner.” Called Eygthene, the scrappy little yacht was built for approximately $6,000.
From All the Oceans: “I drew a deep breath and approached senior members of the yacht club committee with a proposal that they organize an event that would showcase the Quarter-Ton class on Tampa Bay: a level-rating event, a true test of the relative merits of the yachts. Considering I was not even a member of the club – and a New Zealander to boot – was probably asking a bit much.