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During his convalescence, Jones received more than 8,000 cards and letters from his readers and other yachting friends around the world. By way of reply, he tried to visit as many of his well-wishers as possible by giving lectures and appearing at boat shows in 42 cities, from Anchorage to Amsterdam. He says, "The more people I met, the more I realized that they expected me to do a lot more than just chat and show slides. They fully expected me to be back at sea as soon as possible. And they were right. So, early in '83 I began looking for a boat that would do the job."
A steady job, that is, without the heaving, pitching decks that are hard enough to negotiate on two legs. "The first time I ever hobbled onto a sloping sidewalk," Jones explains, "it was clear that I would find a heeling vessel problematical, if not impossible, to get around on with one leg." A quick test run on a Hobie Cat confirmed his suspicions: "The only kind of vessel that would allow me to properly maintain my balance was a multihull, either a catamaran or a trimaran."
Meanwhile, back in San Diego an Australian boat designer named Leo Surtees was busily, if unknowingly, preparing to meet his synchronistic fate. Surtees, 33, had first become fascinated with multihull design in 1972. "It was a freak accident," he says. "I was on a world tour and was driving in Vancouver when I saw this weird-looking boat being built in someone's backyard." Surtees stopped and talked to the builder, an amateur, who told him he planned to sail the yacht around the world. Surtees was hooked. In 1977, after what amounted to a four-year shakedown cruise on a trimaran of his own construction, he settled in San Diego to design a new class of luxury multihulls aimed at the growing number of families who were taking up ocean voyaging.
The result of four years of development was Osprey, a 36-foot, deep-water cruiser with the emphasis on comfort, stability and safety. Among other departures from standard trimaran design, her overall beam of 26 feet was wider, her narrow V-shaped amas (a word for outriggers that comes from the Polynesian) longer and her ballasted concrete keel design absolutely unheard of. And in defiance of the old multihull maxim that says everything should be kept as light as possible, her squat U-shaped main hull was designed to accommodate a 4,000-pound payload and up to six people comfortably. "She's one of the most radically advanced cruising ladies ever," Surtees says, "a whole new concept in trimaran sailing from her keel up."
The keel was conceived as an intrinsic part of an even more innovative feature, a successful rerighting system (see illustration above). To prove it, Surtees simulated a capsize situation by launching Osprey upside down, towing her to the edge of the San Diego channel and leaving her to kick about in the chop and wake for six days, the approximate time it might take a crew to ride out a severe storm in the buoyant foam-and-fiber-glass hull.
On the seventh day, Surtees slipped back aboard through an escape hatch in Osprey's starboard ama and unscrewed two plugs inside the main hull, which caused the forward sections of the amas to begin flooding with seawater. Slowly at first, with the weighted keel and Surtees, poised on the transom with a block and tackle and two aluminum poles supporting a canvas bag filled with 500 pounds of water, providing leverage, Osprey began to rotate bows first in the water. Then she completed her final turn in an arcing 30-second roll and—kersplash!—flopped upright to the cheers of onlookers on shore.
The baptism finished to his satisfaction, Surtees pronounced himself "bloody well delighted" and put Osprey on the market for $65,000.
Enter Larry Haftl, 37, and Bob Smith, 46, both of whom had prospered handsomely as managers and major shareholders of the Tandon Corporation, an electronics firm in suburban Los Angeles that struck it rich in the booming computer software market. Haftl, an avid weekend sailor, had gotten Smith interested in the sport by taking him out in his Cal 20 and reading aloud to him from the works of his favorite author, one Tristan Jones.
Haftl says, "Tristan's writing leads you to the sea. It's unique; so human, so entertaining, so subliminally inspiring. While most people have a built-in failure mechanism and will grab at any excuse for being unable to succeed, he's one of those rare individuals who won't let anything stand between him and his goal. His message is, go for it, go for it all! And anyone who can inspire people to do that should be amply compensated, which Tristan never has been. In Japan he would be a national treasure; here he's forced to scramble and live hand-to-mouth."
Smith, who was once pronounced dead after an auto accident but survived by means of "a strong dose of hope," figured he had more than one reason to be thankful. A onetime mechanic who decided "no more black hand," he had been so successful in the managerial ranks that he felt it his moral duty "to give something back."