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Legendary Race Boat Imp Heads to Ireland

Imp aerial
In the 1970s, the 40-ft Imp was a radical race-winner. Note that her homeport was “San Francisco.”
© 2019 Source Unknown

In the mid-’70s, renowned yacht designer Ron Holland drew up a 40-footer for Belvedere sailor Dave Allen. Holland’s then-brother-in-law Gary Carlin built her in 1976 in Florida. Originally from New Zealand, Holland had spent some time in the Bay Area during the mischievous late 1960s and worked for Gary Mull before moving to Ireland. The boat, built as light as possible and designed with a wider stern than was popular at the time, proved wickedly fast. Dave Allen named her Imp. He brought her to Europe with a young crew from California, and soon she began racking up the results. In her debut season she won the 1977 Fastnet Race overall, the Admiral’s Cup, SORC and even her division in the all-IOR St. Francis Big Boat Series.

Imp crew
In November 2014, Tad and Ann Lacey hosted a reunion in Belvedere for Imp’s crew and her designer. Left to right: Don Jesberg, Skip Allan, John Ravizza, Tom Wylie, Ron Holland (holding the half hull), Bill Barton, Tad Lacey, Skip Steveley, Ragnar Hakansson, Steve Taft, Commodore Tompkins, Warren Wheaton and George Kiskaddon.
© 2019 Dick Enersen

In the disastrous 1979 Fastnet, with communications not so fully evolved as they are today, Imp was presumed among the boats lost to a deadly storm. Instead, she actually finished the race.

Imp in the 1979 Fastnet
Imp exits the Solent near Hurst Point in the 1979 Fastnet.
© 2019 Fastnet Race

After 1979, Imp remained in Europe and passed through the hands of various owners. George Radley Jr. of Cobh, County Cork, has owned her since the ’90s. He’s shipping her from England to his own private boatyard in Cork Harbour on the south coast of Ireland. He plans a major refit followed by participation in next year’s Royal Cork Yacht Club Tricentenary. (“Tricentenary” is another word for tricentennial. For perspective, the oldest yacht club in California, San Francisco YC, is exactly half that age.)

Imp on a green truck
For her journey to Ireland, Imp was tucked into a truck bed behind an appropriately colorful tractor.
© 2019 Facebook

“As Imp’s skipper during Dave Allen’s ownership, I am thrilled she’ll be undergoing a well-earned major refit and be present for Royal Cork Yacht Club’s tercentenary,” writes Skip Allan of Capitola. “Imp was and is special in all respects. A wonderful owner, a dedicated and seaworthy crew, fast design and solid build. Long live Imp!”

Legend of Imp book cover
The jacket of Bill Barton’s The Legend of Imp.
© 2019 Bill Barton

For more about Imp from the Irish point of view, read WM Nixon’s story in Afloat. We also recommend Bill Barton’s 2010 book, The Legend of Imp and Ron Holland’s memoir, All the Oceans, published last year — they’d both make great holiday gifts.

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