The world is littered with good ideas that didn’t quite go according to plan and Imagine is just one more in a long list of good ideas turned bad.
Imagine… such lovely word but what a nightmare of a project it turned out to be. Imagine was/is (dunno if the boat still exists) an Open 60 built for an American skipper planning on participating in the BOC single-handed around-the-world race. He got his sponsorship from a Colorado aluminum company, the same one that makes the beer cans for Coors brewery. Since the sponsorship was from an aluminum company everything on the boat was made out of aluminum; except the sails. I was responsible for the sails and they were some kind of laminate as I recall.
The boat was launched out of Norfolk, VA and I joined it for a sea trial sail from there to Rhode Island. I think we were going to Rhode Island; we never made it which accounts for my vague memory of our destination. We left Norfolk in near perfect conditions which was good because we were all aware that we would have to take two 20-foot reefs each time we wanted to tack. The customer wanted a large roach on the main knowing full well that there was a fixed backstay. He said that he didn’t mind reefing each time he had to tack. Remember – he was planning on doing a solo circumnavigation and tacking an Open 60 is a mammoth job without having to take two reefs, but, as they say, the customer is always right.
By late afternoon we had racked up some miles and the boat was sailing well, but the horizon ahead was smudged with something ominous. Within minutes our perfect wind-aft-of-the-beam sail turned into a disaster. We were suddenly in 30 knot headwinds and yes, you guessed it, it was impossible to reef. The main ended up plastered against the backstay, the full length battens bending and buckling while we fought to lower the sail all the while struggling to stay on the deck which was now at a 45 degree angle. After a very long time and an epic struggle in a pouring downpour, we managed to drop the sail and get it under control. Without much forward momentum, the flat hull sections forward of the keel were starting to slam in the short chop. I went below to assess what was going on and saw that a number of the ring frames were broken and the skin of the hull had separated in large areas. The boat was coming apart. We turned around and headed back to Norfolk, fingers crossed that we wouldn’t sink.
Fast forward a couple of years. The American skipper pulled the plug on things which was probably a wise move. I seem to recall some lawsuits and the big pile of busted aluminum sitting tied to the dock. There was apparently a deal in the making for someone to buy the boat but there were so many liens attached it wasn’t going anywhere. Well, liens and the fact that he didn’t own the boat or had any rights to the boat, was not a deterrent to the new prospective owner. He had been struggling to raise the money to buy the boat but then one evening he decided that he needed some divine intervention. He needed to chat directly with God about the money situation and he figured his chances would be better if he was onboard the boat and, well, out of sight of land. So he stole the boat and took off to commune with God. When the Coast Guard found him he was arrested; I don’t think God even helped with his bail money let alone with the purchase.
I don’t know whatever happened to the yacht. The world is littered with good ideas that didn’t quite go according to plan and Imagine is just one more in a long list of good ideas turned bad. Sailing somehow has a way of attracting some of the more serious nuts out there. I wonder why that is? The call of the open ocean has always been strong and the idea of setting off into the blue unknown has for centuries lured even the strongest minded people into doing crazy things.