OK history buffs, a stroll through memory lane is in order. We’ve heard from so many SetSail visitors about our multihull notes that we thought some really early stuff might be of interest, mainly triggered by a box of early photos recently discovered.
That is a 17 foot Wildcat above, one of the first two production cats on this side of the Atlantic (Tiger cats were built on the East Coast and Cougar Cats were built in the UK at the same time). We got our first ride on one in Newport Beach, CA, in 1958, and ordered number four. This photo was taken in Marina del Rey about 1962. Note the build out in the marina.
Racing in those days was primarily between the Wildcats, the 18 foot Malibu Outriggers (designed by Warren Seaman) and a few of the early Rudy Choy designed cats.
The Malibu outriggers were very quick in light airs, but in anything over ten knots of breeze the Wildcat was the victor.
One of Rudy’s earliest designs was the 24 foot long by ten foot wide Foamy class. Frank Hoykiss had the first one of these which he and Dick Sutton sailed to Acapulco alongside the official leadmine fleet. This was quite a switch for Frank and Dick as they had previously been first to finish in Transpac with the 83 foot M-boat Barlovento.
Foamy was berthed at a house we rented in Newport Beach for the summer, around 1957. We were racing a Thistle dinghy in those days. Dick Sutton was doing the NOSA 14 Mile Bank race with Foamy and needed crew. The weekend breezes looked light. Carter Pyle was our forward hand on the Thistle. He was a big guy, and we were happy to get rid of his weight when Dick asked to borrow him for the day. That was Carter’s first ride on a cat, and arguably was the genesis for his P-Cats that came along a few years later.
The 46 foot Aikane was our favorite Rudy Choy design. We liked her even better when Ken Murphy, her owner, removed the dog house. Although the asymmetric hulls Rudy drew were inherently slow, Aikane gave good account of herself, especially with Ken and Warren Seaman aboard.
Steve’s Dad, Stan, was also taken with catamarans and commissioned Rudy to design a 58 foot cruising cat, the Huka Makani . She was 20 feet wide and very heavy, so heavy in fact that she was over a foot (30cm) down on her lines at launching.
That’s the Dashew family on launch day. Tony (da Judge) is on the left, Rita (mom) next, then Stan, baby sister Lesley, and Steve on the right.
The weight debacle may account for our somewhat pathological behavior as adults toward weight and balance.
She felt fast, but reality was brought home when we raced the 66 foot Galatea from Avalon back to LA Harbor and lost to her on a reach. To make matters worse, there was an all girl crew aboard the opposition and we had wagered a case of beer on the outcome (although the pain was mitigated by an invite to share their lucre). Huka Makani had a lovely interior with a huge area in the deck house shown above.
Dan Sanderson and Roy Hickoc, the Wildcat builders, were soon engaged in a horsepower war with Carter Pyle and his P-cats.
One of the P cats is shown above surfing ashore at Malibu.
The prototype Wildcat and P cat rigs kept getting bigger, soon over 300 square feet (from 235). These over rigged boats were quick in the light, but once the breeze came up we could beat them both with our smaller rig.
We used to have great fun reaching across the Newport Harbor turning basin in our Wildcat. Occasionally Phil Edwards would be out with El Gato (initially with a Star class rig). Wildcat #4 holds the distinction of having received the first speeding ticket given to a sailboat by the Newport Harbor Patrol.
Cats started to become accepted into the establishment and by the early 1960s Rudy, Warren Seaman, and Al Kumalii were hot. Their biggest coup was selling a 58 footer, Sea Smoke (above), to TV star Jim Arness. In those days all the multihulls raced together.
We were racing in the Midwinter Regatta on our Wildcat with Sea Smoke . Somehow we found ourselves ahead at the leeward mark. Warren Seaman was driving Sea Smoke and on the reach in from the sea buoy in the process of demonstrating the advantages of a 58 footer compared to a 17 footer, sucked us down onto his topsides ahead of his main mast. Seasmoke as to leeward and not clear of our mast abeam position, and their obligation was to keep clear. The LA Yacht Club was forced to disqualify Sea Smoke . Rudy, et. al. were not pleased. We thought it was cool.
The second CSK coup was convincing actor Buddy Ebsen to develop his cruising cat ideas with them. Buddy’s Polynesian Concept was CSK’s first symmetrical hull design. We’d raced against Buddy in the Thistle fleet and when he noticed our switch to the Wildcat he became curious. We took him for his first cat ride. It was a windy day and he was hooked.
The C-cat class was starting to heat up and Enterprise, above, was our first stab at it. Seymour Paul, who had drawn the Wildcat, designed our hulls, while we did the rig and structure.
The hulls were epoxy and fiberglass cloth (no core), left clear to save weight, and built in our shop in Venice. The rig and tubes were built by Mark Coholan at Sparcraft, one of his first projects after completing Kialoa for Jim Kilroy.
The rig had an elliptical tip. The mast extrusion top was cut and welded into this curved shape, a difficult process to say the least. The goal was to reduce induced drag (from tip bleed) and to promote twist for wind sheer. However, we could not control the sail cloth distortion so had twist from the mast and cloth. This was not a fast combination.
Going for the first sail here. Within two minutes we knew we’d made a big mistake (which is probably why there are no sailing photos).
We were away from the multihull scene for a couple of years tending to a growing business. Then we got a call from a friend who knew where there was a deal on a Shark catamaran. We bought it on the phone based on its designer, MacAlpine Downey, and dimensions (20 feet X 10 feet, with 300 square feet of sail). The first time we launched the boat an old P Cat competitor came by to disparage the Shark, and generally give us a bad time. We knew the boat would be quick once a decent set of sails were aboard.
At the same time we were reading an early translation of the epic poem Beowulf (in middle English no less). Beowulf, the greatest dragon slayer of his era, was at first dissed like our new boat and we thought what a perfect name for the Shark. It stuck through seven generations (six cats and our last leadmine).
The first time we raced against the P-Cats was from LA Harbor to Point Fermin and return. It was a frontal day, blowing hard with a big sea running at the breakwater opening. Only Bob Paker, t he hard man of the P Cat class, followed us out. We were so far ahead by the Point Fermin buoy we could not see the next boat. So much for P-Cats being faster than Sharks.
The photo above has major family significance. It was taken at Catalina, Labor Day weekend in 1965. This is the weekend the two of us met (it was love at first sight), and was the first of many hundreds of thousand of miles cruising and racing together.
Another milestone, this the Bob Reese designed Wildwind. She was the first big cat held together with aluminum extrusions – a simple, strong, and efficient approach to structure. She had symmetrical hulls, was 32 feet long and 16 feet wide, and carried 500 square feet of sail in her main and jib. Bob Reese sold her to Norm Riise and Harry Bourgoise who are sailing her here.
It was immediately apparent that Wildwind had breakaway speed in all conditions and was much faster than the CSK cats.This threatened the whole CSK concept of plywood boats with asymmetric hulls. Their livelihood and the value of the existing fleet was under attack, or so they thought. The result was the formation of the Ocean Racing Catamaran Organization which worked to ban interlopers like Wildwind.
Dick Gibbs talked us into a new all fiberglass Shark for the US Shark Class nationals in Charleston, South Carolina in 1966. Linda is on the wire. She was such a good crew that competitors starting asking about her background. As a joke, Steve indicated he had picked her up hitchhiking. The fact that this unmarried couple were sharing a room (to save money of course) added to the scandal. We ended up winning the regatta.
Shortly after this we decided to do another C-Cat to try and compete with Wildwind for first to finish.
Bob Noble built Beowulf lll for us from Bob Reese designed hulls. We quickly learned that the 300 square foot C-class rig would not do the job and we upped the power to over 400 square feet. If the breeze was less than ten knots we won. If it was over 12, Wildwind would power away. In between it was a cat fight
A photo of your authors in younger days (around 1968) receiving the one of five “World” Multihull Championship trophies (it was a small “world” in those days). This was the first regatta in Hobie Alter debuted his Hobie 14. The contestants had a good laugh at this funny little beach cat sans daggerboards. “It will never sell” was the consensus.
An early regatta start at Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club. There is a mix of C-cats, a few Hobies, some of the early Tornado cats, and a few strays.
Mickey Munoz’s Malia often came up from the beach at San Juan Capistrano to play.
As did Phil Edward’s El Gato. Malia and El Gato were much heavier builds than the other boats as they had to deal with the surf when launching or going ashore. Both boats also saw considerable cruising time at the offshore California islands of Catalina, San Clamente, and Santa Cruz.
We all raced on the PMA (Pacific Multihull Association) handicap which was based on Norm Riise’s VPP work. The top three boats were usually within a minute on handicap after an hour of racing. We knew we’d win if we were in phase on the shifts (up and down wind), had a good start and clean mark roundings. But one mistake and we’d get hammered.
Speaking of mistakes, a favorite photo of our good friend and ardent competitor, Chuck Tobias. Chuck bought Wildwind from Norm and Harry (who continued to race with him) and he hated to loose. In those days Long Beach Yacht Club held a race to Newport on Saturday and then back Sunday, with a party in between. On the return leg we were neck and neck with Wildwind until about five miles from the finish when she disappeared into the fog waterlining us in the building sea breeze. When we arrived to an empty LBYC dock we assumed Chuck had elected to sail back to Marina del Rey where he was based. We were eating lunch when Wildwind sailed in. They had missed the finish line in the fog and erred many miles north before discovering their mistake. Chuck was not pleased.
We’ve previously shown you photos of Beowulf lV sailing. This was taken of her end in Lake Michigan after a pitchpole. We eventually lost the rig, ending up essentially with a garage full of bits which lead to Beowulf V.
This Yachting One-Of-A-Kind regatta sticks in our memory for several other reasons. It was the first major exposure in the national press for Hobie and his little daysailor. In the race which followed our pitchpole only Wildwind and Hobie finished. Hobie survived with extraordinary seamanship (the conditions were terrible). He was rewarded with a full page photo in Life Magazine with his Hobie 14 totally airborne. That was the start of the Hobie Cat era.
Now lets back up. The 38 foot A-scow was known as the hottest boat afloat. It had conquered all comers over the years and was considered the fastest thing on unfrozen water. Most competitors were on hand a few days before to get a feel for local conditions. Sunday night, just before racing was to start on Monday, in comes the A-scow on its trailer. It was huge, formidable looking, and we were all intimidated. The crew proceeded to launch, step the mast, and retire to the bar. They seemed like they had just come to pick up their trophy.
During the first race, in lighter conditions than when we had our little problem, we had the A-scow on our hip on a leeward end favored start line (we were both reaching for the pin). Slap slap was all we heard off their bow and we worried they’d roll us after the gun once the fleet went hard on the wind. Two minutes into the race we realized we could no longer hear them. They finished fifth in that race, behind us, Wildwind, a Tornado cat, and a svelte trimaran built by Meade and Jan Gougeon. It did not get any better for them.
We’ve previously talked about Beowulf V . She has just celebrated her 40th birthday and Peter O’Driscoll, her owner, has recently finished a four year upgrade.
Beowulf V now sports a fat head mainsail, small permanent jib, and a prod for a big reacher.
She still has deck sealing mainsail, now with a batten (our original rig had a wishbone boom with a strut and was unwieldy). Peter reports the decks and mast are carbon fiber, so she has probably maintained or lowered her 702 pound displacement.
Peter and Beowulf V at play above. Makes us both yearn for the good old days of wooden ships and iron men.
Peter and crew demonstrate the advantage of going fast. It helps to keep your foul weather gear clean.
What amazes us about Beowulf V is the 3/16″ thick (4.5mm) tortured plywood hulls are still here! The plywood was custom made from aircraft grade Sitka spruce for us by a company called Gordon Plywood. Good stuff.
Since we are talking about boat construction perhaps a few blurry images of Beowulf VI are in order. Our goal was light and strong, with the ability to withstand water incursion from damage without catastrophic failure. What we are looking at above is the stern of an upturned hull. We started with a plywood box which represented the hull from the load waterline to the deck. The deck, mid height girder, and bottom were identical in shape. Topsides were vertical. All from 1/4″ plywood.
The bottom was cut from four inch thick sheets of foam and glued on to the plywood base. Mickey Munoz then faired the foam.
This photo is of the daggerboard trunk insert.
The two hulls are turned right side up here. The triangular timber girder shown forward of the daggerboard trunk is to take bow toe in loading. There were watertight bulkheads at two foot (60cm) centers. The entire exterior was covered in six ounce fiberglass cloth, two layers over the bottom and one on the topsides. All very low tech except for some early G-10-like epoxy and S glass laminate we used as a spar in the daggerboards and rudders.
We think this approach still makes sense. Those 38 foot hulls weighed just 375 pounds each when new.
The final photograph of our catting around days. This is the 1976 Ensenada race in day sailing trim, with new owners on board. As ORCA had kicked us out, and the new owners did not want to deal with the politics, they decided to have a nice cruise to Mexico. We were, of course, first to finish (unofficial though it may have been).
Note on photo credits: Mickey Munoz sent us the photos of the P-cat, Malia, and El Gato. Peter O”Driscoll sent the later Beowulf V photos (Thanks guys).