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"Babe to me is Santana," says Solari. "Our first time out we won the Farallon Race. That was the best we ever did in an important race." Santana raced three times in the St. Francis Y.C. Perpetual or "big boat" series, and once each in the Mazatlan and the Acapulco races. "I don't remember where we finished in either of those races, but we had a marvelous time," says Solari. "I used to fish off the stern. People will usually tell you that ocean racers don't fish, but I did. And I caught some wonderful mahimahi."
"Once we did pretty well, a third or fourth, I think, during the series here on the Bay," says Babe. "Pretty good, considering we were racing against Baruna, Audacious and Kialoa II, some of the big guys. After one race Bill was talking to his wife, Marion, and he said, 'Gee, I don't know what to do. I talked to this guy, and he said, 'You got to raise the main boom up about four feet'—that was a kind of a fad at one time, to cut the sail area down they were raising the booms way up in the air—and another guy said, 'You got to go to a double head rig.' Marion said, 'Hey, Bill, who won the Mazatlan race the last year that we were in it?' He said, 'Gee, I don't remember.' She said, 'See, a year later nobody remembers.' Bill said, 'You're right;' and so he didn't do anything."
Marion Solari was famous in San Francisco circles, social and boating, for her Sunday sailing luncheons on Santana. "They were exquisite," says Liz Robinson, a writer and Babe's longtime companion. "She would invite 16 of her nearest and dearest and most intimate friends."
"We did a lot of that," says Solari. "We'd take a lunch and some friends and two or three in crew and we'd anchor in the lee of Angel Island."
Solari's most ambitious project was entering Santana in the 1968 Bermuda race, 30 years after her triumphant debut there. Babe and Liz took her from Cozumel oft" the east coast of Mexico around to New York and then up to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport, R.I. In Miami they picked up a professional cook who was on his way to New York to start a new job and who claimed he was an old sailing hand. "We were on our way out Government Cut in Miami," says Lamerdin, "and the guy said, 'Aren't you going up the inside?' When I said no, he said, 'Oh, my God, I have a heart condition,' and after that he never did a thing the whole trip. We'd say, 'Do you want something to eat?' and he'd say, 'Oh, no, I can't eat,' and he'd sneak into the galley and stuff himself."
In June, Solari's crew assembled in Newport and set off for Bermuda. Said Solari, "We performed very poorly...I zigged when everybody zagged."
Lamerdin threw his back out heaving sails just before the start of the race and was replaced by Dennis Riegler, a manufacturer of boating equipment. After the race Riegler paid a visit to an old friend, Bert Darrell, who owned a tiny boatyard in Hamilton Harbor. Riegler took along a broken spreader to be replaced. Their conversation, as related by Lamerdin, went like this:
Darrell: "You came in the race?"
Darrell: "On what?"