Sep 15, 2009, 1:11 PM
Post #1 of 1
The passing of Bob Allan this week led me to search for a bit of background info. I was floored by the depth and quality of anecdotes and other information he had provided me over the years on various sailing subjects.
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First of all, this quote when discussing his organizational efforts and fund-raising role in kick-starting from nothing the highly successful sailing programs at UC Irvine and Orange Coast College: "It's one of the few [activities] in which humans do nothing destructive. A boat leaves no mark in the water, uses only free air and sun and moves without noise. But most important it allows people who are crippled, injured--even blind--to sail and compete."
Allan, a Stanford graduate, was later honored for service to the Intercollegiate Yacht Racing Association.
Allan also was among the group that launched the Newport to Ensenada Race (now "the World's
Largest International Yacht Race") in 1947. The Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA) had been running some offshore races and met to discuss the idea. Board member George Michaud suggested a race to Ensenada, then just a sleepy little Mexican fishing village on the Baja California peninsula. Allan, who was at the meeting, said later, "The first couple of years weren't meant to be a race as much as it was a diplomatic deal to get us sailors into Mexico for cruising."
At about the same time the sport was emerging from the locked-down offshore days of World War II. Allan had studied meteorology at Caltech to help his sailing strategy, but before he could apply that knowledge WW II broke out, and he wound up on Gen. George C. Marshall's staff of D-Day planners at the Pentagon. As Allan told it, "[Marshall] put the word out that we had to have perfect weather, and the Germans picked that up. Instead of that, we picked a time when the worst storm ever went through England. We totally surprised the Germans because we went in right behind this big storm."
Five years later Allan was telling Dick Rheem to steer Morning Star off the rhumb line to Hawaii and go south to avoid a heretofore unknown phenomenon known as the "Pacific High." Chubasco and Westward tried just that in 1947 and finished first and third, which intrigued Allan's scientific curiosity as he prepared to navigate Morning Star for industrialist Richard Rheem in 1949. But Rheem wasn't ready to buy it.
"About halfway we had to make a decision whether to keep going straight or turn up or what to do," Allan recalled in an interview for the popular video, 'Transpac: A Century Across the Pacific.' Here I was 24, 25 years old and I said, 'We should do this.' He said, 'If you insist we do that I want you to write it in the log and sign your name, so if you're wrong you get the blame.' "
Morning Star finished first in record time, won Transpac's first Barn Door prize and marked a revolution in ocean racing.
Nearly two decades later Allan was part of another Transpac revolution. Cal 40s owned the race's overall corrected time honors in the late 60s, and Allan's Holiday Too, won in '67. - Rich Roberts