SoCal Classic: Chimaera

SoCal Classic: Chimaera

In this new feature, The Log looks at notable boats — sail and power — that continue to turn heads in Southern California harbors.

Boat Name: Chimaera

Length: 46 ft. 9 3/8 in.

Beam: 10 ft. 5 in.   Draft: 6 ft. 9 in.

Year Built: 1967. Chimaera is a sloop rig that was built for Frederick Leibhardt, specifically to outrace other San Diego boats like Sally.  

“We built it here in Driscoll Boat Works in San Diego,” said John Driscoll, the boat’s owner. “The man that had built it was an architect, but my dad, Gerry Driscoll, knew how to make the boat look right so he did the design and sent it back to Sparkman and Stephens, who added on to it from there.”

“I actually worked on it myself as a kid, building it I didn’t do much, maybe handed a few screws to the carpenter,” John Driscroll added. “I remember being on the boat and being in disbelief by how responsive it was – you pushed the helm down and the boat moved.”

Chimaera’s design copied elements of Intrepid, the 1967 America’s Cup defender, whose rudder was separated from the keel.“It was a major breakthrough in boating technology,” Driscoll explained.

Chimaera was carvel planked, but unique in that the outside of the hull was forged in compressions, instead of calking. “That technique wasn’t widely used, I think we might have even invented,” Driscoll said. “It made for a tighter hull with no calking and no cracks on the seams.”

Notable Moments in Boat’s History: Chimaera’s first long distance race was the San Diego to Acapulco Race. The crew was comprised of the “who’s who” of North American yachting :Gerry Driscoll, founder of Driscoll Boat Works and skipper of four America’s Cup defender races;  Lowell Orton North, founder of North Sails and Olympic Gold Medalist in the Star Class; , renowned yacht designer, Olin Stephens; Gene Trepte, and Liebhardt.

“They led a good part of the race, then parked outside of Acapulco and didn’t make it,” Driscoll said.

The crew came in second.

Chimaera went on to win the Lipton Cup Regatta in 1970 and placed top two in the Ahmanson Cup Regatta in Newport Beach, Calif., and won most of the local races in San Diego and took every major championship in the area including the Rumsey Regatta and the entire series of individual races that led up to it.

The boat continues its racing legacy

“Currently we’re doing all the Ancient Mariner stuff,” Driscoll said, who’s been commodore of the Ancient Mariner Sailing Society since December 2013. “We do the whole ancient mariner circuit , which includes the Guinea Cup Race, a seven race series in San Diego Bay;  then we got the YesterYear Regatta in June; the Kettenburg & Classic Yacht Regatta – that one’s cool because you get to see all the old boats.”

Driscoll’s crew also competes in the Hot Rum Series.

Famous Skippers Who Have Been Aboard: “When I got the boat I was amazed by how many people from the San Diego Yacht Club had sailed on it,” Driscoll said. “John Gladstone from North Sails said Chimaera was the first boat he ever sailed on.”

Recent Notes:  Chimaera is on its third life, Driscoll explained, in that it’s gone from a stripped racer to a fast cruiser to a classic race boat.

“The original entry to the boat was on top of the cabin so you had to come down from the top of the boat,” he added, “the original owner did that because he wanted the aft separate.”

Leibhardt sold the vessel to a man named John Laprade, who modified the entry way. Laprade put the entry at a more conventional place at the aft of the cabin, Driscoll said. There’s a big column that housed the original staircase – the original entry had been patched up but the structure was still there, transformed into the vessel’s electrical distribution center.

Scully, the next owner who kept the vessel for 20 years, transformed Chimaera into a long-range cruiser, adding a radar system, steps up mast, bow rollers, and almost 3,000 amp hours of battery to the boat.

“When I bought it, the first thing we did was take all that stuff off – it had close to 40 outlets, it now has four and I don’t even use them all,” Driscoll said. He also reduced the batteries to one 200 amp house battery and one 100 amp starting battery.             “One thing that makes it look unique is I took off all the life lines and pulpits (bow and stern),” he said. “I first looked and thought ‘I’m not sure if this is a good idea’ but so far no one’s gone overboard and it looks pretty cool without them.”

He also added about 6 feet 7 inches to the mast and made it a fractional rig.

Driscoll also gutted the interior. “We took a lot of stuff out from the inside and opened it all up,” he said. He started by wiping out the upper cabinets and putting all storage below the cabin floors. “We even took off the sailing instruments, it’s really basic, which is my general philosophy on boats,” he said.

“There was a big column where the stateroom had been; we put in a big window in the back,” he explained. “Now you can see from one end to the other, it’s not all that private, but it’s mostly just me and my wife anyway.”

Driscoll, who lives four blocks away from Chimaera, hopes to take her out this summer to Catalina from June through September, but will settle for five or six weeks.

 Where Currently Berthed: San Diego Yacht Club

Have a favorite yacht in your harbor that should be covered as a SoCal Classic? Email suggestions and/or photos to or mail to: The Log, Editorial Dept., 17782 Cowan, Ste. C, Irvine, CA 92614.

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