4 January 2023

Sorcery (Mull Maxi)

Sorcery seen here during the 1984 Clipper Cup (photo Phil Uhl)
Sorcery was designed in the early 1980s by Gary Mull for US yachtsman Jake Wood. She was a long Maxi yacht for that time at 82ft 4in, where Maxis were typically around 80ft, and this was expected to provide higher speed potential off the wind. The initial design work for Sorcery involved analysing the existing Maxi designs, and Mull’s design comments at the time noted, based on that analysis, that the hull design was not only longer than her competitors but was also targeted to produce slightly better sail area/wetted surface and sail area/displacement ratios than those of the existing Maxi fleet. 
Sail plan and hull profile drawings of Sorcery as published in NZ Yachting magazine
Sorcery was a conventional looking yacht, while featuring Mull’s trademarks of the era (as much as these could be differentiated from typical IOR yachts at that time) of a typically steeply angled stem married to a shallow forefoot, with a pronounced bustle around her after girth station. This lead to a long counter with an angled transom with a near vertical cut-off at the stern end. Sorcery was a big and heavy yacht, although her displacement of 79,000lbs was not extreme at this size range.
Sorcery under construction at Republic Yachts, circa 1983
Sorcery’s righting moment was moderately high, and partially derived from greater beam than the existing Maxi fleet (19ft 9in, as compared with Kialoa IV at 18.5ft, for example). Initially her ‘I’ measurement was to have been 98.5ft, but this was adjusted to 101ft through other changes to the design while remaining within the 70.0ft IOR Maxi rating limit. The keel was unremarkable in plan form and section, and weighed some 47,000lbs, with a draft of 12ft 6in. The elliptical planform rudder was unusual, but one that Mull claimed as the most efficient known in terms of lift/drag ratio where overall span is not limited. With a nod to a favourable measurement under the Engine Propellor Factor component of the IOR, her feathering propellor was some 43in in diameter, and exited the upper trailing edge of the keel, powered by a 200hp engine.
The deck arrangement for Sorcery (as viewed in 2009)
Some 13 deck designs were drawn by Mull, which were then reviewed by Wood before the final decision was made for the deck layout that was eventually adopted.
Launch day, 23 December 1983 at Marina del Rey
Wood had founded Republic Fastener Manufacturing Company in California which supplied fasteners to the aerospace industry and he established Republic Yachts where Sorcery was built, from aluminium plate on longitudinal frames supported by transverse web frames. She was launched in December 1983 before transiting the Panama Canal to compete in the 1984 SORC. She had a difficult start to the series but improved strongly in the final two races to finish in fifth place in the 10-boat Class A fleet (with race results of 4/DF/10/5/2/1), and was 49th overall. Notably, Sorcery took overall fleet honours in the final race of the series, the Nassau Cup, just beating Brooke Ann, the Class B winner, by 10 seconds on corrected time.
Sorcery seen here (above and below) in light airs during the 1984 SORC (photo Larry Moran)
Later that year Sorcery competed in the 1984 Clipper Cup. In the first race, Boomerang and Condor had some difficulties at the start of the Maxi division, allowing Nirvana and Sorcery to lead the fleet to the weather mark off Diamond Head. The new and impressive Frers-design Boomerang began to play catch-up, out-footing and out-pointing the other Maxis as she drove to windward. Nirvana had rounded the mark half a length ahead but Sorcery found her legs and slipped by on the first offwind leg as the wind shifted east 20 degrees and abated slightly. Before long the reaching leg became nearly a square run, and a long run at that. A 27.5 mile triangular course had been laid, but the wing mark came loose and drifted nearly 3 miles before a mark boat reached it and took its place. Sorcery led the way to the new mark while the fleet hoisted bloopers in her wake. Sorcery held the lead at the leeward pin, followed by Nirvana and Kialoa IV. Boomerang had caught three of her Maxi competitors by then and began to make more time on the final beat, before blowing out her no.4 genoa.
Sorcery during the 1984 Clipper Cup (photo Phil Uhl)
In the second race a more conservative start by Boomerang lead to a great boat-for-boat race with Sorcery. Sorcery lead at the weather mark, but was overhauled by Boomerang the next time around. It was expected by the Maxi crews that Boomerang’s design and configuration would be vulnerable dead downwind, and Sorcery seemed to confirm this by taking the lead at the final leeward mark. However, on the last upwind leg Boomerang sailed higher and faster and moved back into the lead, until her no.4 let go again. While she maintained the lead while changing sails she missed the finish line, sailing between the committee boat and the weather mark. Realising their mistake, the skipper of Boomerang turned the Maxi around and headed for the line, but Sorcery managed to cross ahead by 17 seconds. Unfortunately, during one of the downwind legs Sorcery’s spinnaker had brushed the spreaders of the Frers 40 Flasher and her resulting percentage penalty set her back three places, effectively handing Boomerang the race victory.

The next race, the 150-mile Kalua Koi Molokai Race, counted for double points. Sorcery found herself in a tight battle in the early stages with Boomerang, Condor and Kialoa IV, playing the shifts off Maunalua Bay, separating briefly and then coming back together as they tacked out of the depression on Oahu’s southern shore. By Koko Head and the start of the Molokai Channel, Boomerang had a lead that she would not relinquish. The return trip from Kalaupapa Peninsula was a tight reach until clear of Molokai, then a spinnaker run back to Diamond Head and the finish. Both Kialoa and Sorcery closed in on Boomerang, but Boomerang’s lead was too great and she held onto her lead comfortably. Kialoa and Sorcery crossed the line overlapped with Kialoa’s bow just ahead - the record shows that Sorcery edged out Kialoa on corrected time (although the reason for that is unclear as Kialoa's rating for the series was lower than Sorcery's). Notably the Maxis were able to save their time on the fleet and took the top placings.
Sorcery during the 1984 Clipper Cup (photo Sharon Green | Ultimate Sailing)
Light winds greeted the fleet for the fourth race, which was of some concern to the Sorcery crew who lamented their vulnerability in such conditions. In the words of crew boss Rex Banks (reported in Yacht Racing and Cruising magazine), “When the wind gets light we die a thousand deaths”. Boomerang proved her speed and romped home in first place, taking overall fleet honours, while Sorcery finished 13th.

For the triple-weighted Round the State Race, the fleet initially encountered light, fluky wind, but Sorcery moved into the fore as the leaders fetched Makapuu and the Maxis flew no.1 genoas and set jib tops, although Sorcery had destroyed her no.2 on a spreader prior to the start and had to live with a large gap in her inventory for the duration of the race. After some fast reaching, Ragamuffin (ex-Bumblebee IV) lead the fleet into a dead zone off Niihau, with Sorcery and Nirvana astern. These three were the first to slip free of the windless void in the late afternoon before starting the long reach down to South Point. Boomerang took the lead about 55 miles from South Point, moving a mile ahead of Kialoa IV and Sorcery, and went on to break Kialoa’s 1982 record for the race by over an hour. Condor saved her best finish for the most important race coming in third, followed by Sorcery, Nirvana and Ragamuffin.

Sorcery finished the series and in tenth place overall (3/16/2/13/21), just ahead of Nirvana but well behind Boomerang and Kialoa IV who finished first and second respectively. She finished in third place in Class A (1/4/2/4/4).
Sorcery seen here crossing behind Nirvana and ahead of Windward Passage during the 1984 Big Boat Series (photo Facebook)
Sorcery went on to compete in the 1984 Big Boat Series in San Francisco, posting a series of third places for third overall, with Boomerang taking out overall honours in the six-yacht Maxi fleet. 
Sorcery to leeward of Boomerang (above) and behind Matador during the 1984 (or 1986) Big Boat Series (photos Sharon Green | Ultimate Sailing)
In February 1986 Sorcery competed in the 1,100 mile San Diego to Manzanillo (Mexico) race, where she set an elapsed-time record of 6 days and one hour, surpassing the old record set by the 67-foot yacht Merlin in 1978 by over an hour.
A bump being added to Sorcery's midships to enhance her IOR rating, in or about 1986
Later that year Sorcery took line honours in all five races in the 1986 Kenwood Cup (the new name for the Clipper Cup). This included winning the Molokai Race from Windward Passage by 12 minutes. This was followed by a nearly four-day match race with Passage in the 775-mile Round the State race. The two Maxis covered each other tack-for-tack throughout the race, cross-tacking 13 times alone during the 60-mile windward leg up the Big Island of Hawaii’s rugged Ka’u coastline. The race ended in a heated neck-and-neck downwind duel to the Diamond Head finish line with Sorcery finishing just under 11 minutes ahead of Passage.
Sorcery leads Il Moro di Venezia, Ondine VII and Matador during the 1988 Kenwood Cup (photo Phil Uhl)
A similarly timed photo to the one above by Sharon Green | Ultimate Sailing, with Ragamuffin also appearing in the background
Sorcery competed in the Kenwood Cup again in 1988, with the series incorporating the Maxi World Championship and featuring the biggest fleet of Maxis ever assembled in the Pacific, including Congere, Emeraude, Il Moro di Venezia, Kialoa V, Matador, Ondine VII, Ragamuffin, Sovereign, Windward Passage II and Winterhawk (ex-Ceramco New Zealand). By this stage the 70.0ft rating limit for the series had been eased, and most of the Maxis were optimised beyond this measurement, with Sorcery having an increased rating of 70.82ft, which also suggested she had undergone some modifications to increase speed. The new Frers-designed and fractionally-rigged Windward Passage II was the fastest Maxi in 1988, but Sorcery threatened her overall hegemony by almost taking line honours in Molokai Race after Passage fell into a hole just before the finish line. Overall, however, Sorcery finished down the overall standings.
Sorcery leads Matador in tight power reaching conditions during the 1988 Kenwood Cup (photo Sharon Green | Ultimate Sailing)
An aerial photograph from the 1988 Kenwood Cup, with Sorcery trailing close behind Ondine VII and Matador (photo Histoiredeshalfs website)
Sorcery also raced in the 1990 Kenwood Cup, finishing in second place in Class A, behind the new Drumbeat which generally had the legs of her older rival. There was one race when Wood and his crew gave Drumbeat a series fright, leading for all but the final leg. Seahorse magazine described it as a truly splendid race, where by a combination of fortune and inspired sailing the obviously slower Sorcery, using every wile and trick in the book, stayed just in front of the quicker boat almost all the way around. However two-thirds of the way up the final beat Sorcery tacked on Drumbeat's weather bow and the genoa leech caught on a spreader, causing it to tear and then split, and Sorcery's three-hour moment of glory had passed. The 1990 edition also featured the inaugural sailing of the 390-mile Kaula Race as the replacement for the 775-mile Round the State Race, but while a shorter distance, it involved a 141-mile beat in up to 30 knots for the return leg from Kaula to Oahu, and many seasoned sailors commented that it was one of the toughest races they had ever experienced. Drumbeat and Sorcery rounded Kaula just minutes apart, but on the return leg Sorcery suffered a number of gear failures including the loss of both main and genoa halyards, putting them more than 2 hours behind at the finish. 
Sorcery prepares to set a spinnaker in the 1994 Sydney-Hobart Race (photo Facebook)
Sorcery headed to Australia in 1994 to race in that year's Sydney-Hobart, where she finished fourth across the line, just three hours behind line honours winner Tasmania (ex-New Zealand Endeavour), and 26th on corrected time (of 236 yachts). A video of that race can be seen here:
Sorcery raced in Antigua Race week in April/May 1996 and placed second overall in the Big Boat class and top of those boats more than ten years old. She then sailed across the Atlantic to Ireland, posting a best days’ run of 274 miles, and raced in the Round Ireland Race and Ford Cork Week – in the latter she won the first light airs race of the regatta, after withdrawing from the first race after one of her 26-strong crew was flipped overboard by a running spinnaker sheet, who was eventually recovered uninjured by a rescue boat.
Sorcery in 2009
In her last racing campaign under Woods’ ownership in the 2006 MEXORC she won all seven races against other more modern yachts such as Pendragon and Magnitude 80.
Interior view of Sorcery, circa 2012 (photo Facebook)
Jake Wood died in March 2007, and a subsequent obituary in Latitude 38 magazine in May 2007 noted that one aspect that had set him apart from the many owners that came and went through the ranks of various fleets was that he held onto boats that he enjoyed. So, long after the IOR Maxi fleets had gone, Woods still sailed Sorcery, racing her always with a huge crowd aboard in just about every Southern California, Mexican or Hawaiian event at one time or another. A life-long competitive sailor from England, John Walker, bought Sorcery and he relocated the yacht from Marina del Rey to Vallejo in November 2007. At some stage, possibly post-2007, Sorcery was fitted with a new bulbed keel. The IMUA Yacht Charter Company runs a Facebook page for Sorcery and where readers can stay up to date with her continued maintenance and sailing events.
Sorcery being relaunched in June 2021 following a refit at Svends Bay Marine (photo Facebook)
Other photographs and information on Sorcery can also be seen on the Histoiredeshalfs website here.



22 December 2022

Windward Passage (Gurney Maxi)

Windward Passage, seen here racing in the 1980 Clipper Cup (photo Phil Uhl | Facebook)
Windward Passage was one of the best-known Maxi yachts of the IOR period, and greatly admired for her longevity that spanned much this era, thanks to continual upgrades and the age allowance provisions of the rule. Windward Passage was designed by Alan P Gurney for Robert Johnson of the New York Yacht Club, to replace his earlier yacht Ticonderoga, and the ocean racer was built by Grand Bahama Yacht Builders. She was 72ft 9in long, just below the 73ft maximum length then imposed for the Bermuda Race, with a relatively light displacement of 80,000lb and an easily driven dinghy-like hull form, and a balanced blade rudder without a skeg – a combination that was markedly different to any other large yachts of her time. Her original configuration was that of a ketch (where the rudder was set abaft the mizzen), with the mainmast forestay set off a short bowsprit.
The original design for Windward Passage (above) and interior profile and plan arrangement (below)
Windward Passage’s unusual design reflected Gurney’s thinking at the time for a truly competitive yacht, and incorporated some unique features in her construction, utilising triple diagonal spruce planking, covered with Dynel set in epoxy resin, laid over longitudinal Douglas fir and spruce stringers and plywood structural bulkheads approximately 6ft apart, to laminated fir floor timbers, stem, keel and beams (at the time she was considered to be the second-largest spruce structure in the world, after the massive Spruce Goose airplane - she was in fact the largest such structure because the Spruce Goose incorporated a variety of other types of wood). Her plywood deck was also covered in Dynel. Passage was built under a tent in an empty lot in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The first shipment of lumber for the boat was unloaded in November 1967, and she was launched just one year later.
An early photo of Windward Passage (photo Facebook)
Within a month, and with an IOR rating of 70.9ft (replacing her original CCA rating issued in December 1968 of 76.8ft), Windward Passage had won her first race, the Miami to Palm Beach event, which she won again in 1969, and took top honours in the Miami/Nassau race, and the Transpac, setting new records for both. Johnson died in 1969 but his sons, Mark and Fritz, continued to campaign the yacht. In 1971 she broke her own Transpac record (with a time that stood until 1977 when Merlin snatched the prize). 
Windward Passage during the record-breaking Sydney-Hobart race in 1975
She competed in the 1975 Southern Cross Cup, sailing as part of the South Australian team (which finished eighth), and enjoyed an epic battle with Kialoa III in that year’s Sydney to Hobart race. An early easterly gave way to hard running north-easterly conditions, with all of the fleet clocking high mileages. Passage and Kialoa were within sight of each other all the way to the finish, with Kialoa taking line honours in a new record time of 2 days 14 hours and 36 minutes (nearly 11 hours faster than the previous record set in 1973 by the 73-footer Helsal, with Passage just 23 minutes behind, although both boats finished well down in the fleet on corrected time). A video of this race can be seen in the Kialoa link above.
Windward Passage crosses Kialoa III in San Francisco, date unknown (photo Facebook)
Windward Passage then joined Kialoa III and others in the 1976 Hobart-Auckland race, with Kialoa setting another record time (just over seven days) and beating Passage by nearly three hours. Following her regular beatings by Kialoa, Fritz Johnson added 20ft to both of Passage’s masts, and although this boosted her rating to 72.6ft, she re-emerged as a winner in the 1977 Big Boat Series.
Windward Passage surges towards the finish line of the 1977 Transpac Race (photo Phil Uhl | Facebook)
Later, Windward Passage travelled back to Australia for the 1977 Southern Cross Cup, teaming up with Phantom for one of the two 2-boat US teams (with Kialoa III joining Bravura). This series was notable for a major collision between the two maxis in the first race of the regatta, with Passage hitting Kialoa on her port quarter during a leeward mark rounding, resulting in a large hole in Kialoa’s hull above the waterline and significant deck damage, caused by a combination of the bow and the sawing action of Passage’s heavy wire bobstay. This also put Passage at serious risk of losing her main mast as the bowsprit and headstay were no longer supported. Kialoa protested Passage (and won), but was unable to race again until the Sydney-Hobart finale. Passage had to sit out the second race, and finished 20th in the third race.
Windward Passage racing in Sydney in the 1977 Southern Cross Cup
The Sydney-Hobart race that year was a storm-tossed affair that resulted in a heavy retirement rate and a subsequent inquiry by the event organiser, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. The wind abated at the end of the race for much of the fleet, but Kialoa III and Windward Passage made it across the finish before the breeze really dropped out, with Kialoa taking out a corrected time victory and Passage taking third (behind Australia’s Ragamuffin).
The conversion of Windward Passage to a sloop in 1978
Kilroy made further changes to Kialoa III on his return trip to the US via Auckland, with significant underbody modifications, and this was the trigger for Windward Passage to be re-rigged as a sloop and fitted with a new keel before the 1978 Big Boat Series.
Windward Passage after conversion to a sloop (photo Facebook)
Windward Passage, now with a lower rating of 67.7ft, contested the 1980 Clipper Cup, with the Maxis dominating overall results in the first three races, with Mistress Quickly winning opening Around Oahu race and Passage taking line and handicap honours in the first two Olympic triangles. Going into the final race, the Round the State, Passage had a clear lead on individual points, but despite taking line honours in the series finale ended up as third yacht overall (and first Maxi) after Ragamuffin and Shockwave sailed strongly to put enough lower rated boats between them Passage. 
Above and below, Windward Passage during the 1980 Clipper Cup (photos Phil Uhl | Facebook)
Windward Passage seen here during the 1980 Big Boat Series (photo Phil Uhl | Facebook)
Bill Johnson of Atlanta (no relation) bought Windward Passage in the early 1980s, describing it as a “once-in-a-lifetime boat”. He commissioned Doug Peterson, with the assistance of Gurney, to redesign the underbody with a new keel and a titanium rudder and installed a lot of new gear, from the engine to winches and navigation, and a new 110ft mast. These changes increased her rating to 68.3ft but also her competitiveness, and she went on to win her class at the 1982 SORC. 
Condor of Bermuda and Windward Passage in close windward mark action during the 1982 Clipper Cup (photo Phil Uhl | Facebook)
Later that year she joined eight other Maxis for the 1982 Clipper Cup, including Kialoa IV, Condor and Condor of Bermuda. The series was affected by stronger than usual winds, but Passage took it in her stride, surfing past Condor and Kialoa on the downwind blast on the return leg to Molokai, taking line honours in a record setting 15 hours 33 minutes. However, she lost her mast in the Round the State race, and so finished the series in fourth place in Class A (3/1/1/3/DNF).
Windward Passage in strong winds typical of the 1982 Clipper Cup (photo Phil Uhl | Facebook)
The lost mast was replaced by one from Hood Yacht Systems with a Proctor boom. This had to be installed in Florida which ruled our Johnson’ original plan to compete in the 1982 Big Boat Series.
A contrast in design styles and eras, Windward Passage in light airs during the 1983 SORC, alongside Kialoa IV (photo Larry Moran)
By the time of the 1983 season Windward Passage was benefitting significantly from the IOR Mk IIIA age allowance formula (qualifying in ‘Division 1’ of the rule that applied to yachts with hull date of 12/1972 or earlier), as well as the age allowance administered under the SORC regatta. This factor yielded a rated length measurement ‘L’ some 10ft less than her competitors, which offset higher 'DLF' and 'SHR' measurements (see table below). Her rating for this series reduced to 67.0ft, some 3ft less than the 70.0ft Maxi limit. 
Key IOR measurements for some of the Maxis at the 1983 SORC (Seahorse)
Startline action during the 1983 SORC, with Windward Passage to leeward of Kialoa IV, Nirvana and Condor (photo Phil Uhl | Facebook)
It was noted in previews to the 1983 SORC that her speed producing characteristics, following her keel and rig modifications in 1982, were such that she would be in a position to perform at least as well as her rivals while benefitting from her new rating advantage. She was in effect 9 to 10,000lbs lighter than the newer boats on an effective waterline only fractionally shorter than her competition, while sporting a rig of equal size to the others in absolute size and considerably larger when compared in relation to her lighter displacement.
Windward Passage powers to windward during the 1983 SORC (photo Larry Moran)
Windward Passage and Kialoa IV (and Nirvana just visible on the right) in pre-start manoeuvres during the 1983 SORC (photo Phil Uhl | Facebook) 
So it proved, and Windward Passage finished second in Class A (but 57th overall) behind Kialoa IV and with results of 1/3/DNF/2/2/7. Notably, she finished ahead of newer boats such as Boomerang, Nirvana and Condor.
Windward Passage during the St Petersburg to Ft. Lauderdale Race during the 1983 SORC (photo Larry Moran)
Windward Passage seen here during a start in the 1983 SORC, to leeward of the S&S62 War Baby (photo Sharon Green Ultimate Sailing | Facebook)
Windward Passage along with other Maxis Midnight Sun, Condor, Nirvana and Kialoa IV at the start of the Nassau Cup finale during the 1983 SORC (photo Phil Uhl | Facebook)
Windward Passage went on to compete in the 1984 SORC, where she again entered the record books with a strong easterly arriving for the second race, the 365-mile St Petersburg-Fort Lauderdale race. These conditions suited her perfectly and she finished in 39 hours 14 minutes, often sustaining speeds in excess of 16 knots, and allowed her to beat Kialoa IV by a full 15 minutes. However, she finished the series in third place in Class A (placings of 3/2/5/7/4/5), behind The Shadow (a Soverel 55-footer) and Kialoa, and 45th overall in what turned out to be a small boat bonanza that year.
Windward Passage under new ownership and sailing in Australia (photo Historiedeshalfs website)
She was then bought by Australian Rod Muir in 1985, who took the yacht to Tim Gurr’s yard in New Zealand for a complete refit, where she was stripped to her bare hull and her keel and stern were redesigned. The floors were replaced with an aluminium space-frame and new bulkheads of ply over foam were installed, along with a new composite deck and cockpit. She raced in the 1985 Sydney-Hobart race, finishing 60th on corrected time.
Windward Passage - the poster yacht for the 1986 Kenwood Cup
Having missed the 1984 Clipper Cup series, Windward Passage was back for the 1986 edition, now re-named the Kenwood Cup, although the only other Maxi to sail that year was Sorcery. Sorcery beat Windward Passage in the Molokai Race by 12 minutes, but it was much closer in the series finale, the 775-mile Round the State race, with Sorcery edging out Passage by just under 2 minutes and taking overall honours in Class A (Passage was third, behind Marishiten, a Nelson-Pugh 62-footer). She then raced in the 1986 Sydney-Hobart, finishing 15th on corrected time.
Windward Passage in power reaching conditions during the 1986 Kenwood Cup (photo Sharon Green Ultimate Sailing | Facebook)

Above and below, images of Windward Passage during the 1986 Kenwood Cup (photos Facebook)
Muir then commissioned a new boat, a fractional maxi designed by German Frers, named Windward Passage 2. He campaigned both yachts in 1989, including the Sydney-Newcastle race.
Windward Passage and Windward Passage 2 at the end of the Sydney-Newcastle Race in 1988
Peterson designed further modifications for the boat after she was retired from racing by Muir, with a shorter rig and shoal keel, along with interior and deck modifications. It appears she had a second life as a charter yacht in the early 1990s, and she has undergone further upgrades and modernisation and is now looking as good as ever, and being sailed from Newport Beach, California.
Windward Passage looks to be in fine form in these photographs (Facebook) from 2022


Article updated January 2023