May / June 2021

WINDWARD PASSAGE

Larger than life in her sixth decade
WINDWARD PASSAGE

The maxi-yacht WINDWARD PASSAGE began her ocean-racing career soon after her launching in 1967. She was immediately successful, taking line honors in some of the world’s major events. “PASSAGE,” as she is affectionately called, is seen here soon after the start of the 1975 Sydney-Hobart Race.

"No maxi ever built can match WINDWARD PASSAGE I for pure glamour,” wrote the author Preben Nyeland is his book Maxi: The Ultimate Racing Experience. “Just the drop of her name at a sailor’s bar can focus attention and start a long conversation.”

There’s nothing ordinary about this 73' cold-molded racing rocket or her 53-year history. She gained nicknames such as the “Wooden Whale,” “Big Dinghy,” and “Passing Wind” from envious competitors such as the hard-charging Jim Kilroy in his maxi KIALOAs and Sumner “Huey” Long in his ONDINEs. But to her loyal crews and admirers, she has always been known simply as “PASSAGE.”

The legend of WINDWARD PASSAGE began in 1963 when Robert F. Johnson, a yachtsman and controlling shareholder of the Georgia Pacific lumber juggernaut, launched his quest to break ocean-racing records. Without regard to racing rules and handicap formulas, he sought line honors and jaw-dropping elapsed-time postings in major Pacific, Atlantic, Caribbean, and Southern Ocean races. “It was all about being the first boat to finish,” says PASSAGE’s professional skipper for the past 30 years, David “Halfdeck” Johnson, who is not related to the yacht’s original owner.

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