Improbable

Haji

Super Anarchist
1,328
684
Woolwich, Maine
So I'm here in Birch Bay, WA (near Blaine) for the rest of the week...starting to clean out my dad's old boat "Improbable" (that he bought in 76 from Dave Allen). Almost everything I pick up brings on a flood of memories & nostalgia, about my dad & the boat.  He was still singlehanding the boat in the San Juan Islands up to his 80th year.

For sure I'm not the only one with a lot of memories about Improbable.  Thought I'd start a thread and see who's still out there that might want to chime in with any sailing stories from the boat or anything else.   Many of those who raced the boat in her heyday are getting old, however after being berthed & sailed for years in the NW perhaps there are tales from the later era as well.

If all I get are crickets, that's ok too.  Shot below was from the last sail with the Old Man, a couple years ago....

IMG_20160811_133711455m.jpg

 

Left Shift

Super Anarchist
10,377
3,178
Seattle
So I'm here in Birch Bay, WA (near Blaine) for the rest of the week...starting to clean out my dad's old boat "Improbable" (that he bought in 76 from Dave Allen). Almost everything I pick up brings on a flood of memories & nostalgia, about my dad & the boat.  He was still singlehanding the boat in the San Juan Islands up to his 80th year.

For sure I'm not the only one with a lot of memories about Improbable.  Thought I'd start a thread and see who's still out there that might want to chime in with any sailing stories from the boat or anything else.   Many of those who raced the boat in her heyday are getting old, however after being berthed & sailed for years in the NW perhaps there are tales from the later era as well.

If all I get are crickets, that's ok too.  Shot below was from the last sail with the Old Man, a couple years ago....

View attachment 272515
I spent an afternoon off Waikiki in 1973 with Bill Lee's girlfriend (at the time) teaching a few of us how to surf a sailboat properly.  We had done the Transpac on New World, the weird, wonderful Spencer 69' ultra-light schooner.  We had knocked off some 300 mile days so we kind of knew what we were doing, but really just wanted to go sailing on Improbable.  (Or was it Impossible?   It was a long time ago!)

Anyway, her teaching method was to stand behind you and as the boat lifted on a wave to slap you hard on the butt on the side the wave was coming from and say, "Feel that - feel that pressure?"  "Now work it and find the low spot"  Most fun instruction I ever had.  The slog back up hill to Ala wai was less fun.

Bill Lee always said it was faster to go through waves than over them.  

 

P_Wop

Super Anarchist
6,406
3,318
Bay Area, CA
I remember seeing her in Cowes in the 1971 Admiral's Cup.  An extraordinary breath of fresh air!  Having raced the big heavy S&S ones (Duva etc...) Imprabable was just a radical new idea.  That gigantic tiller was an eye-opener.

Good pic of her in the latest Seahorse (issue 460) page 46, bashing down the West Solent with a number 2 and two reefs.

 

Monarch Mike

New member
7
7
Have just read about her in the Ron Holland book "All The Oceans", interesting about how she was finally built after a few potential owners dropped out.  Great read too.

 

Recidivist

Super Anarchist
Raced against Improbable in the 74 Hobart-Auckland race.  Blew like hell!  Improbable beat us (Tequila - Paul Whiting's family's boat) home because our skipper D'Arcy didn't know how to plot a great circle course, so we sailed a few extra miles.  IIRC the tiller on Improbable was 6' long! 

An iconic boat Haji, hope you can keep her in the family.  Sorry to hear of your father's passing. 

 

SloopJohnB

Super Anarchist
1,383
345
New Zealand
Raced against Improbable in the 74 Hobart-Auckland race.  Blew like hell!  Improbable beat us (Tequila - Paul Whiting's family's boat) home because our skipper D'Arcy didn't know how to plot a great circle course, so we sailed a few extra miles.  IIRC the tiller on Improbable was 6' long! 

An iconic boat Haji, hope you can keep her in the family.  Sorry to hear of your father's passing. 
Blew the paint of the bow of Inca on the return leg, bloody wet.

Rd where you on Tequila for the S2H race as I was there?

 

Recidivist

Super Anarchist
Blew the paint of the bow of Inca on the return leg, bloody wet.

Rd where you on Tequila for the S2H race as I was there?
No, I sailed down on Anaconda and jumped aboard Tequila in Hobart because D'Arcy needed someone to drink with!  We had Paul and the 2 Prior brothers, and at 23 I was the oldest but for D'Arcy.

I remember seeing Inca come into Auckland missing great patches of paint!  Those beautiful, latest and greatest S&S 45' alloy yachts were beaten by 2 wooden warhorses!

 

sleddog

Member
352
295
Raced against Improbable in the 74 Hobart-Auckland race.  Blew like hell!  Improbable beat us (Tequila - Paul Whiting's family's boat) home because our skipper D'Arcy didn't know how to plot a great circle course, so we sailed a few extra miles.  IIRC the tiller on Improbable was 6' long!
Actually, IMPROBABLE's tiller was 7', laminated of Kauri like the rest of her hull.  In breeze-on conditions under spinny, it took 2, even 3 drivers pushing and pulling on opposite sides of the tiller. In the '71 Fastnet, running back from the Rock in a SW gale, we were the only boat to carry a spinnaker the whole way,  Ron Holland, Commodore Tompkins, Dave Wahle and myself power assisting each other at the Red Rocket's helm.  No roundups,  the only Admirals's Cup boat we couldn't catch was the well sailed RAGAMUFFIN,  overall Fastnet winner.

We had some sterling racing Down Under in '73-'74 against the likes of INCA, APOLLO, RAGS, LOVE&WAR, QUICKSILVER, PROSPECT of WHITBY, RUNAWAY, et.all.  But the really good stuff was against D'arcy's 45 foot TEQUILA, which was the same speed as IMPROBABLE and well sailed by the entire Whiting family and long time crew.

As IMPROBABLE's skipper I had a front row seat to D'arcy Whiting's bottomless supply of practical jokes, many on himself.  The first was the day TEQUILA arrived in Sydney after a Trans-Tasman delivery, her entire cabin floor stacked 3 high with cases of beer for the anticipated Aussie Christmas beer strike before the S2H.

D'arcy brought TEQUILA into the CCA docks under a good head of steam, throwing her into reverse at the last moment.  Only there was no reverse.  We watched in astonishment as TEQUILA rode up and over the dock like an ice-breaker.  No problem. D'arcy and crew got TEQUILA backed off the splinters in time to host the entire yacht division of the uniformed Sydney customs crew of 8 for a little piss up in TEQUILA's cockpit. They were expecting TEQUILA's arrival with great anticipation!

A few weeks later, after the 1973 S2H, TEQUILA and IMPROBABLE faced off in the Hobart-Auckland Race, D'arcy and crew were set on breaking KIALOA II's record of 8 day's 2 hours.

TEQUILA and IMPROBABLE had a ding-dong battle out the Derwent, running side by side under spinnaker. Then we saw it ahead, the mean looking, low clouds of an incipient Southerly Buster moving quickly our way.

Even though running in a pleasant NW breeze, we let TEQUILA escape ahead while double reefing and changing to the #5 jib on IMPROBABLE.  As the Southerly Buster hit, we could just see TEQUILA a mile ahead pirouette under spinnaker, and take off downwind, in the wrong direction, up the Derwent, bow wave foaming.

IMPROBABLE and TEQUILA passed going in opposite directions, about 5 boat lengths apart .....I could clearly see D'arcy frozen at the wheel, struggling to control TEQUILA while her crew figured out what to do to get the spinnaker down and the boat turned around.

That was the last we saw of TEQUILA. In typical rugged Tasman conditions, IMPROBABLE set a new, unofficial record from Hobart to Cape Reinga of 7 days, and finished off Auckland Harbor's  Orakei Wharf at sunrise.  There was a welcoming crowd of thousands, and we were live on the radio.  I'd never seen anything like it.

In answer to some of the above questions, IMPROBABLE's transom rudder, built by New Zealand surfboard shaper Rodney Davidson, was scrapped after her win in the '73 Jamaica Race.  We were headed to England as a 1 boat Admiral's Cup Team representing New Zealand, and the new IOR rule did not treat the transom rudder with any favor.

IMPROBABLE was impounded in CUBA by Fidel's troops when her trans-Atlantic delivery skipper, Ron Holland, cut the western tip and got into local waters for a better view.  Fortunately, Ron's wife, Laurel, had a supply of Playboys for just such an eventuality, a bribe ensued, and IMPROBABLE and crew got the hell out of there.

NEW WORLD, George Kiskaddon's 68 foot John Spencer designed ultra light schooner, was lost on a reef in Micronesia sometime in the late 70's under new ownership.

 
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