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Bill Lee, known to many as “The Wizard” for his ability to produce fast boats, is the designer of many ocean racing yachts and one of the founders of the Santa Cruz school of boatbuilding.

Several of his designs achieved notoriety in the 1970s, with Chutzpah and Merlin having won the Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu many times. Merlin set and held the course record between 1977 and 1997, making the 1977 crossing in only eight days, 11 hours and one minute.

Mr. Lee’s designs are noted for being narrower and much lighter, often half the weight of competitors at times. His designs helped define the class of boat known as an ultra-light displacement boat (ULDB), which tends to excel at surfing downwind with spinnakers in heavy breeze.

The year 1997 marked the 20th anniversary of this eccentric Santa Cruz designer’s record-setting Transpac run aboard the ULDB 70 Merlin – the boat that ushered in “Sled” sailing on the West Coast. Along with his other Santa Cruz designs (SC 27, SC40, SC50, SC52, and SC70), Lee has influenced many sailors and designers with his “fast is fun” motto for sailboat designs.

Accomplishments and Honors

  • Designer of Santa Cruz Sailboats. Designs include SC27, SC40, SC50, SC52 and SC70
  • Owner of Wizard Yachts
  • Chutzpah: 1973, 1975 Transpacific Yacht Race Overall Winner
  • Merlin: 1977, 1981, 1987 Transpac “First To Finish”
  • Merlin: 1993 Transpac Division and Overall Winner
  • Merlin: 1977 to 1997 Transpac “Fully Crewed Monohull Elapsed time” record holder for eight days, 11 hours and one minute


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