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It would be difficult for a man with two heads to be admitted as a member of some country clubs. It isn't easy, either, to enter a boat with two hulls in some sailboat races. Take the recent Los Angeles to Honolulu race which is, in a way, the apex of yachting on the Pacific Coast. There were 53 official entries this year, all handsome, deep-water keel boats that everyone knew and recognized, if not by name at least by their highly traditional and highly acceptable bearing.
Then one day not long before the race a catamaran, a strange-looking something with not one but two hulls built separately and fastened together by a kind of bridge set between them, sailed into Los Angeles; and its crew said how about them entering it in the race?
The race committee, a committee in the fine old sense, thought at first that this wouldn't do at all; and the committee spent two days ignoring the two-hulled monster, hoping it would go away. Had it been a proper catamaran, it would have gone away. Cats just don't enter ocean races. For one thing, their tricky, twin-hull construction is supposed to be unsafe for long trips across open water. The fact that this particular cat, 40 feet long and called the Waikiki Surf, had just crossed swiftly and safely from Honolulu was a point in its favor, but not one you necessarily had to accept. More important were the Cruising Club of America rules, which occupy 22 pages and govern every American ocean race that anyone cares about. The Cruising Club rules give time allowances to smaller, slower boats, and hence make all men more or less equal. But nowhere, even in fine print, does a boat with more than one hull have any status at all.
Ira Fulmor, chairman of the Transpacific race committee and skipper of the eventual winner, a fine old ketch named Staghound, brushed off the catamaran with a kind of salt logic. "Racing cats against conventional yachts," he said, "is like throwing a fashion show and then having one person enter it nude, doing handsprings." A crewman on another entry thought it would be "like entering a kangaroo at Santa Anita."
Marsupial or nude, the catamaran failed to go away; and on the third day the committee magnanimously offered her a courtesy start, i.e., a timed start and a timed finish, but no official place and no awards. Skipper Ernest Nowell, a Honolulu realtor, turned down the offer; and his regular crew, willing to settle for this half a loaf, walked off the cat for good. Nowell thereupon pulled out himself and appointed 24-year-old Richard Muirhead skipper.
Muirhead rounded up four amateurs—Buzzy Trent, 26, a Santa Monica lifeguard; John Honl, 26, a Honolulu student; Pete Brinkman, 23, a Los Angeles student, and Dave Rochlen, 30, a Santa Monica teacher—none of whom had ever had anything to do with catamarans. They accepted the courtesy start, and on July 4 headed into the Pacific an hour after the rest of the fleet.
For seven days they set a pace that would have brought them to Hawaii in eight and a half days—two days faster than the existing record and a full day ahead of this year's record-setting first finisher, the 98-foot Morning Star. During an 18-hour stretch, planing dizzily down the Pacific swells as their speed indicator spun up to 30 knots, they covered 310 nautical miles.
"At those speeds," said Brinkman, "you get punchy. You feel like you're headed for a brick wall, or you start imagining a log lying in the water ahead."
"She'd start to sing," said Trent. "If you were in your bunk you could feel the waves banging against the hull right through your mattress." But hardly anyone went to his bunk. Usually it was more restful to crouch on a cushion laid down on the hull-joining wing; and for meals they ate beans, canned stew, and, when provisions ran low, mustard sandwiches.