If you're over 40 and know anything about sailing, you probably know exactly who Bill Lee is. The image is clear: bushy brown hair escaping a Gilligan-style bucket hat, oversized glasses and a wrinkled flower-print button-down shirt. We (I'm 43) can also picture the rundown, wood-and-tin chicken coop ataop a dusty hill four miles from Santa Cruz Bay in California, where for 20 years Lee plied his trade as a boatbuilder.
A six-pack was the price of admission to the shop where Lee struck out and started a movement. Call them ULDBs (ultra-light displacement boats) or “sleds”, they were super-skinny boats that dominated West Coast ocean racing for decades. The epitome of the type, Merlin, was Lee's personal 68-footer aboard which he set a new Transpacific Race record in 1977 that held for 20 years. His mantra: “Fast is Fun!”