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‘La Diana’ — An Almost 40-Year Love Affair

In this month’s issue of Latitude 38, local sailor Fred Huffman shares the story of his love affair with his Contessa 35, La Diana

In 1974, Marina del Rey yachtsman Paul Berger purchased a Contessa 35 sailboat from Jeremy Rogers, the renowned builder of fine sailing yachts in England. The boat was shipped to MdR and Paul proceeded to actively race his new boat, Decision, in race venues all over Southern California, with winning results everywhere. During the years Paul owned Decision, he maintained her in yacht condition, and he continually made enhancements to make his boat sail faster and better. Paul’s good friend, the notable Bay Area designer Carl Schumacher, re-shaped and added depth to the keel. Paul had Seatek, the fine Southern California mast builder, build a new, bendy three-spreader mast, one and a half feet taller, to replace the original mast, which was, as was normal on boats in those days, stiff as a wharf’s piling.

In the mid-1980s, Paul commissioned the construction of a new Schumacher-designed 50-ft fast cruising boat. He then approached me about procuring his Decision, which I had long admired.

In 1986, my wife Diane and I purchased Decision, replacing our wonderful Yankee 30 — also La Diana — that for 12 years we had happily cruised and raced with great success (usually with our two boys aboard) everywhere in Southern California. Our family cruised that La Diana up to the Bay and into the Delta. By 1986 our two little boys, Brendan and Dana, had grown into much bigger guys, so we were ready to move up to a larger boat.

La diana
La Diana, post Pacific Cup, in Hanalei Bay, HI.
© 2023 Fred Huffman

We’ve now owned La Diana for more than 35 years, and I’ve come to admire and love her more year by year. I’m constantly impressed by her high-quality construction, her sailing performance, her beautiful lines, and, well, everything about the boat. Also, over the years I’ve had the huge pleasure of implementing numerous innovations and enhancements to the fine vessel — so-called “Huffmanizing.”

Fred (right) and his son Brendan at La Diana‘s current home in Sausalito.
© 2023 Fred Huffman

During the early 1970s, in the US and worldwide, a type of sailboat racing called “level racing” was immensely popular among boats called “one-tonners.” It was termed “level” racing because, although all the boats racing in the various regattas were not identical (or, they rarely were), they were all of similar size — 35- to 39-ft long — and they raced one another on a “boat-for-boat” basis; i.e., there was no handicap system of time allowances, so the racers were ranked according to their actual place of finish in the fleet. In the early 1970s, in all of Southern California’s racing venues, one-ton level racing was highly popular, very active, and very competitive, and it attracted the highest caliber of racing sailors.

Read more in the February issue at Latitude 38.com.

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