OCEAN RACING: Back in the day

Published on March 8th, 2013

“IT WAS MAGIC. I DON’T KNOW WHY”
By Kimball Livingston, Blue Planet Times –
Once upon a time ocean racing was going gangbusters. Every new boat seemed important, and the new boats kept on coming. In the 1970s, the racing yacht Imp was born in a sketch on a napkin at the bar at The San Francisco Yacht Club. No one could have imagined what was coming.

Even the paint job was shocking for the day, and the crew looked more like a rock band than yachties, but hey, we’re talking San Francisco, and in their 1977 world tour they rocked that world and won most of their races. That would include SORC and then the Fastnet, as the top boat in the “world championship” of ocean racing, the Admiral’s Cup.

RIP, Admiral’s Cup.

RIP, SORC.

RIP, IOR. Jimi, Janet . . .

That whole scene is gone.

But it came back, briefly, on Wednesday evening (March 6) when Storm Trysail Club Commodore John Fisher presented the Seamanship Award to the crew of Imp, and many an old tale surfaced. Some of them may even have been true. Fisher made the presentation in SFYC’s Cove House, just steps from where Imp’s napkin sketch played out in the long ago.

Bill Barton read from the 1979 Fastnet storm chapter of his book, ‘The Legend of Imp’ recalling dark hour after dark hour with the odometer pegged at 60 and the wind blowing the top fifteen feet off the waves and every move a struggle when “struggle” can’t really tell the story. Finally, dawn broke, and after weeks of gray skies, Skip Stevely recalled, “The sky was clear. It was the prettiest weather I’ve ever seen in England.”

Salt water mountains notwithstanding.

Storm Trysail’s Seamanship Award is unique in recognizing all of the crewmembers. It was first awarded to the crew of Tenacious, Ted Turner’s ’79 Fastnet Race winner, and then to the crew of George Coumantaros’ Boomerang, in 1996 the first boat ever to finish a Newport-Bermuda in a long weekend. Boomerang was designed and rigged to not have to reef below 40 knots true, and she found her weather.

I once compared Imp and crew to ensemble players in a theater that, strangely, catch fire and become more than players, their vehicle more than a play. Skip Allan gets that. “It was magic,” he said. “I don’t know why.” – Great photos here

THE BOOK: From the website for the ‘The Legend of Imp’: “The 40-foot boat designed by Kiwi Ron Holland for David Allen of Belvedere, California took the yacht-racing world by storm from her launch in January 1977. She has had a magical life through seven different owners over a 33-year life span and is still winning races today. She spawned a large family of clones and pseudo clones, all seeking a piece of her magic. None could recapture it.” More here



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