Shortly after World War II, Gordon K, "Sandy" Douglass was designing one design, planing sailboats suitable for family day sailing and racing in the lower Great Lakes area. After his successful Thistle Class sailboat, he felt a need to design a larger boat that was more stable when sailing open water as well as being fast and comfortable.
In June, 1950, the plans for the Highlander were published in Yachting Magazine and in the Fall of 1951, Highlander #1 was launched. The boat was everything that Douglass had hoped for; a fast, stable boat that was easy to sail with room for an entire family. By the end of that year, 12 Highlanders had been sold
The Highlander was exhibited at the New York Boat Show in 1952 and the response was overwhelming. More boats were sold and an International Class Association was established with a board of directors elected by Highlander owners.
Fleets were chartered in New England and all along the east coast, throughout the south and Texas, and in the Great Lakes region and Canada. Highlanders were represented in nearly every one design regatta in these regions. The first National Championship Regatta was held in 1953 at Mentor Harbor Yachting Club on Lake Erie.
Production of the Highlander remained steady until 1959 when a devastating fire at Douglass and McLeod, the Highlander's only builder at the time, destroyed the molds for the molded mahogany plywood boats. The first fiberglass boats began production in 1960, though new molds were built so that production of the wood hulls could resume.
Throughout the years, Highlander sailors have been among the best one design sailors in the country competing successfully in events such as US Sailing's Championship of Champions and the earlier One-Of-A-Kind Regattas. US Sailing has chosen the Highlander for events like the C of C's and Malory Cup Finals.
As with many long established one design classes, the Highlander has undergone many refinements. Wood hulls and decks are now constructed of Fiberglass. Aluminum masts and booms have replaced wood. Nylon, dacron and other synthetic woven fabrics have replaced cotton for sails.
But the Highlander Class' commitment to a quality one design boat with emphasis on long lasting boats built for racing and day sailing has remained strong. And the Highlander Class has maintained a strong commitment to its one design values.