Cal 40s make a comeback at Transpac

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 05/05/03
By Ray Pendleton

The start of the 42nd biennial Transpacific Yacht Race is just eight weeks away.

And my guess is most boating enthusiasts here are especially looking forward to it because the cancelation of last summer's Kenwood Cup International Offshore Series left such a hole in Hawaii's sailing calendar.

Still, another group of people are anticipating Transpac even more: the owners of nine Cal 40 sloops that will be making something of a birthday party out of this year's L.A. to Honolulu race.

The first Cal 40 hull came out of the mold in 1963 and two years later the boat was making racing history in Transpac.

Six Cal 40s were entered in the 1965 race and two of them - Don Salisbury's Psyche and Hays McLellan's Hanalei - took first and second place on corrected time, respectively.

In the following Transpac of 1967, with a total of 71 entries, the Cal 40 fleet had jumped to 13, and again, one of them ran away with first place on corrected time.

An even dozen Cal 40s followed suit in the next race by taking first, third and fourth in a then record-setting fleet of 72 boats that entered the 1969 Transpac.

The large numbers of Cal 40s continued with 16 in 1971, but because of a drop in the trade winds near the back of the fleet, the famous 73-foot ketch Windward Passage was able to collect both the honors for first to finish and first on corrected time.

By 1973, the Cal 40 fleet dropped to nine boats, due in part to newer ultralight-designed boats like those by the "Wizard" of Santa Cruz, Bill Lee.

One of those, Stu Cowan's 35-foot sloop Chutzpah (sailing for Waikiki Yacht Club), finished first overall on corrected time - and then did it again in '75.

When the lighter, longer, Lee-designed, 67-foot Merlin captured both first to finish and first in fleet honors in 1977, it appeared the Cal 40's racing days were over.

Yet the boat still grabbed a few more headlines, when Transpac's first all-wahine crew sailed one in the 1979 race, and when Jim Denning's veteran Cal 40 Montgomery Street managed to squeak out one more corrected time win in 1985.

But, in general, no one expected to ever see a large fleet of Cal 40s entering Transpac again. That is until this year.

Thanks primarily to the efforts of Wendy Siegal, whose own Cal 40 Willow Wind won first place in its class in Transpac 2001, the Cal 40s will be back in force.

"Believing in positive affirmation (like in "Field of Dreams" - if you build it they will come), I felt in my heart that if I said there would be a Cal 40 fleet in the 2003 Transpac, then it would materialize," Siegal said.

Through her persistence, her dream will be realized, and it will include a Cal 40 owner who's been one of Transpac's most notable navigators, Stan Honey.

Honey's skills were perhaps most prominent aboard Roy E. Disney's Pywacket in 1999 when it set the Transpac record of seven and a half days.

I hope there'll be a large crowd on Transpac Row in July just to wish the Cal 40s a happy 40th birthday, and to congratulate Siegal on a job well done.

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