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Merlin’s 2017 Return: Carrying on the West Coast Tradition of “Fast Is Fun”

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!”

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