Bill Lee taught sailors the meaning
of the initials ULDB. In the early 1970s,
the northern California designer/boat
builder who coined the phrase “fast
is fun” turned out a series of
custom-built ultra light displacement
boats that produced more speed for their
size than any of the offshore racing
boats of the time. Magic, Chutzpah,
and the legendary Merlin dominated Pacific
Coast racing, including the TransPac.
In 1973, Lee created an everyman’s
ULDB, the first production-built ultra
lightweight offshore boat, a precursor
to the “sport boats” of
the 1990s. It was the Santa Cruz 27
– easy to sail, inexpensive and
at home surfing to Honolulu or racing
in coastal waters.
the wide, “bumped” hulls
dictated by the IOR racing rule in
vogue at the time, Lee gave the 27
a narrow, shallow, dinghy-like hull.
Its modest 400 square-foot sail plan
had it surfing at 15 knots of wind.
The Santa Cruz 27 is an easily-driven
offshore boat, with a 50 percent ballast-to-displacement
ratio, practical accommodations and
solid construction. The hull’s
reserve buoyancy and small hatches
and cockpit adds to its offshore integrity.
Like Lee’s Santa Cruz 70 sleds,
the 27 proved that hulls that go over
waves rather than through them are
easier to sail in boisterous offshore
conditions. Several owners have single-handed
their 27s form California to Hawaii.
27 also became a popular inshore one-design
– mostly on the West Coast,
as an around-the-buoys keelboat for
a five-person crew. 145 Santa Cruz27s
have been built and most still sail
in the waters where they were born,
off the coast of California. Here
owners wait with anticipation for
surfing conditions in which the pioneering
production ULDB provides some of the
biggest thrills of sailing.