Los Angeles, California: The world-famous sailing yacht Merlin is set to embark on the 50th running of the classic Transpacific Race from California to Hawaii on July 13. Merlin set an elapsed time record in 1977 that stood for two decades. The boat has been recently refit and is ready for launch out of Southern California in hopes of continuing the yacht’s winning legacy.
The newly refit Merlin will be on display at the Long Beach Yacht Club on Thursday, July 11, from 6-9 p.m. for a Transpac sendoff party. The Merlin Yacht Racing crew is honored to host designer and builder Bill Lee as well as naval architect Alan Andrews and boat builder Dennis Choate, both of whom were instrumental in Merlin’s most recent refit. Friends, supporters and competitors are invited to join in the festivities and can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Kate at (813)-229-1000, EXT. 212.
Owned by Florida’s Chip Merlin, the custom Bill Lee 68 underwent an extensive refit overseen by renowned boat builder Dennis Choate and his team at Diversified Composites. By installing a carbon fiber mast and boom with lightweight carbon rigging, the boat achieved a significant weight savings aloft. Merlin returns to the water with better steering, reduced drag and an improved weight balance fore and aft after moving the rudder, new diesel engine and steering station forward. Merlin Yacht Racing also benefitted from an updated inventory of North Sails and sail-handling systems thanks to Program Manager Brian Malone.
“[The 50th Transpac], it’s such a special event and we’re getting to do it on Merlin,” said Chip Merlin, owner and skipper. “I wanted to give the boat the best chance that we can for success. We asked Bill Lee what he would do to make the boat better. Once he gave us his list of the top ten things he would do to make the boat faster, we consulted with Alan Andrews for design work and then had Dennis Choate and his guys do the work. The end result is just amazing, and she moves through the water unbelievably well.”
The Merlin Yacht Racing crew participated in a week of practice, sail testing, and boat preparation work. Sailing out of Alamitos Bay Marina, Merlin made it through a full range of conditions to over 20 knots of wind and tested her full suite of North sails.
“We have a lot of returning crew members. The new crew members are experienced as well, which is why they are here. Everyone is learning their positions, learning the moves. We’ve been able to figure things out quickly. Everyone’s been pitching in to help Brian and I get the boat ready and it’s really appreciated,” said bowman James Clappier.
Owner Chip Merlin of Tampa, Florida will be competing in his first Pacific Ocean race, as will much of the highly experienced Florida-based crew. Program Manager Brian Malone, owner of North Sails Gulf Coast, brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the program and is also sailing his first Transpac. Bowman James Clappier, a professional sailor from Richmond, California, is an experienced Transpac racer and provides extensive rigging and systems knowledge. Watch captain Mike Pentecost of Los Angeles has been racing 70’ sleds to Hawaii since the class inception and adds great depth to the watch roster. Mastman and lead grinder Keahi Ho of Maui as well as mainsail trimmer Chris Watts of Monterey and pit man Mackenzie Cook of Santa Cruz all sailed with the Merlin team during the 2017 Transpac alongside the yacht’s designer and builder Bill Lee. Midbowman Kathleen Robinson-Malone, a Ph.D. college professor and experienced one-design racer, is participating in her first Transpac race. Trimmer Jeff Linton is a multi-time small boat and dinghy world champion and Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, though he is sailing in his first Transpac. Last but not least, one of the world’s top offshore racing navigators, Adrienne Cahalan, a lawyer and a meteorologist from Sydney, Australia, will be joining the team shortly before the race start.
“Sailing on the Merlin is a bucket list [item] in my life. And the way she’s configured now, we’re bringing our A-game. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people with how fast and how competitive she still is. I think Chip has put a good crew together and I’m looking forward to it,” said Watch Captain Mike Pentecost of Los Angeles.
Despite being the fastest-rated vessel in the impressive nine-boat ‘Sled’ fleet this year, Merlin still faces stiff competition for its goal of claiming a victory in Division 2. With a storied pedigree that includes the famous 1977 race record of 8 days, 11 hours and 1 minute, Chip Merlin and his crew are hoping to be able to sail faster than the original record time and again be at the front of their competitive division, which could likely place them very high in the overall standings.
About Merlin Yacht Racing: Merlin Yacht Racing was established in 2017 after Tampa-based property insurance attorney Chip Merlin acquired the historic vessel from Bill Lee. Merlin Yacht Racing strives to bring innovation and nostalgia to the sport of sailboat racing. Its marquee boat represents the boundless enthusiasm of the seventies and the mystique of the unconquered waters of today.