• Merlin At 40

    Merlin At 40

    Over the weekend, 200 plus friends and family, SC locals and sailing types, young and old descended upon Santa Cruz Small Boat Harbor to celebrate the recommisioning of Bill Lee's Merlin.
    Born in the Chicken Coop a few miles east in the Soquel Hills, Merlin was launched in 1977 and became world famous later that summer by annihilating Windward Passage's 1971 record of 9d:08hr:06m:48s, reducing the new standard to 08:11:01:45.

    The record would stand for 20 years before Roy Disney's turboed 70's sled, Pyewacket in 7d:15hr:24:40. Merlin would go onto set course records in SD to Manzanillo and Victoria to Maui in 78, the Pacific Cup in 1980 and the windjammer in 1983.

    Merlin went through a series of owners from 1982 through 2015, 18 of those years under the leadership of Don Campion, who chartered her to multiple individuals and syndicates, Merlin delivering the hardware in multiple Transpacs and Pac Cups along the way. For the1997 Transpac, a canting keel was installed for the Alliance Syndicate, hoping the new technology would give the now 20 year old steed fresh legs in an overly competitive fleet of modern race machines. The results were mixed, she was 2nd to finish the 1998 Pac Cup but the time penalty slid her way down the division and fleet results. In 2000 She change hands for the 3rd time, Owner Al Micallef, who had her deck redone and painted her hull blue, and changed the name to Merlin's Reata, and sailed her in the 2001 Transpac, finishing 4th in divsion and 13th in fleet.

    Donated to Orange Coast College in 2002, she languished for two years before Trisha Steele acquired her in 2004 and sailed her last Transpac in 2005, finishing 10th in class and 27th in fleet. Don Campion took her reigns back in 2007 but relinquished then in 2008 when she was acquired by Jere Sullivan and relocated to the Great Lakes for 5 summers.

    Bill ran into her while attending a conference in Wisconsin in 2014, resting in a warehouse and ready to come home. After a year of negotiating, Merlin was reloaded onto a trailer and brought back to her original stable where she underwent an immediate canting keel removal and fixed keel surgery. "We knew going in, it was going to be a big job, doable but a chore" Bill notes. The original fixed keel weight remained the same, but the profile went from an 8.5' blade to a 10' fin and bulb, adding addition stability Merlin had not enjoyed in her original configuration.

    Now 40 years old, Merlin's still got legs and that magical ability to turn heads and attract sailors faster than a freshly cracked casket of Pussers rum.
    On Sunday, the stream of humanity to D dock where she currently sits, was incredible. A virtual who's who of Norcal sailors old and young alike. Rubbing shoulders with some of the original "Fast is Fun" pioneers and the legions that followed suit, brought together in a family reunion atmosphere, where folks that have not seen each other in decades reengaged with love and joy. Yarns were exchanged, memories rehashed and free flowing wine and beer enjoyed as bodies shifted to and fro as the dock strained to keep the mass of humanity afloat.

    Phil Vandenberg

    Jack Halterman

    Bob Larsen

    Don Snyder, Phil Vandenberg, Bill Lee, Dave Wahle, Jack Halterman and Bob Larson

    In the midst of the late afternoon celebration, adorned in flower leis, as they should be, were 6 of the original 8 surviving members from Merlin's glorious 1977 Transpac; Bill Lee, Don Snyder, Bob Larson, Dave Wahle, Phil Vandenberg, and Jack Halterman. A proper lei placing and the bow and recommisioning speech by the wizard himself conjured up memories of years gone by before the celebration continue above at the harbor pavilion, with delectable pu-pu's followed with some tales of days gone by with alumni of Merlin's past concluded the day!

    Of the original 8, only Bill Lee and Jack Halterman are scheduled to race aboard Merlin on the 40th anniversary of her record run to Hawaii, but Santa Cruz will be well represented with plenty of local
    talent filling in the slots for the trailblazers and trendsetters from the 1977 record run. And as always, Fast is still Fun!

    Shimone van Colie's 1995 Merlin Article

    Videos from the recommission celebration:

    Skip Allen describes the day that Merlin needed to pass a motor hull speed inspection to qualify for the Transpac and the harbor was shoaled in!

    Jane Larson recalls the day her son Morgan, then 5-6 years of age,
    went missing on Merlin

    Phil Vandenberg waxes poetically on the "Cosmic Flush" aboard Merlin during 1977 Transpac

    Bill Lee speaks at Merlin's Recommissioning Party Sunday Feb 27 in Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor. Bill relives the epic battle between Merlin and Drifter during the 1977 Transpac
    This article was originally published in forum thread: 40 Years Hence, The Magic Contines started by Photoboy View original post