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Thread: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

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    Default Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Here is now a third thread on Matt Walsh and the Common Sense Class sloops as well as his general background. Walsh was a native of Nova Scotia and came to California in the early 1900s seeking his fortune in a warmer clime. He was both a gentleman and an amazing skipper. He was a founder and partner in the Garbutt and Walsh Shipyard on Terminal Island Ca. Walsh designed and built many famous boats there as well as the tug boats, fishing craft and ferries of Los Angeles Harbor for many years. During WWII the yard built boats under Navy contract. He was also one of the founders of the California Yacht Club. A sterling silver model of his famous Common Sense Sloop No 1 sails with silver spinnaker set on the trophy that was once designated for races of the Common Sense Sloops. The trophy is now used for PHRF competition and so is still a sought after winners reward. Matt has often been compared to members of the Herreshoff Family for his uncanny ability to steer or design a victory vessel in nearly every form of sailing competition. His 110 foot schooner "Skidbladner" was an example of his amazing genius to create a vessel that was both seaworthy and fast under all sailing conditions. His own personal creation was the "Thorobred" a boat that he finally withdrew from California sailing competition in order to allow other boats to place in the winners circle. According to local lore, Matt never lost a race, flew a protest flag or allowed an engine to be used in a sail boat of his design. I remember his comment as to when he was a child and would watch the fishing fleet sail into Lunnenberg, drop anchor and fall back on the hook all within a few feet of each other! Matt hated engines!
    Jay
    http://www.rboat.org/html/history/walsh.html
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 09-04-2015 at 08:21 PM.

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Jay, thanks for posting this. I enjoy reading and learning about the people and history of sailing and sailboats. As I'm relatively new to this wonderful word, I have much catching up to do.

    I really love the look of the classic sailing boats. I am building and styling my Wharram Narai Mk IV to have the look and style of a classic sailboat as possible. Tho I realize that catamarans really didn't exist yet at the time. But working to give her the look that would be 'correct' for the time if she was from that time period. Simple elegance.

    Cheers, Allen

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    That's really cool. I like the last sentence immensely.

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    I was aware of Matt Walsh, and some of his work, but really knew very little. I certainly did not know he was originally from Nova Scotia. The Common Sense Class sloops and indeed very pretty boats. Thanks for the post and the history.

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Here is a bit on Matt and the Rboat "Pirate".

    http://www.rboat.org/html/history/history.html

    Note that Matt, who was at the helm of "Pirate" beat the entire Rclass fleet in the 1928 mid-winters at Larchmont NY. This included beating the radical LF Herreshoff boat
    "Live Yankee".
    Enjoy,
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 09-04-2015 at 08:22 PM.

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    According to Matt's daughter Margaret, Matt was always ready to race a boat, car or airplane. It was in his blood and he always was up to a challenge Noted West Coast race skipper Peggy Slater once told me that she was in a race off of Point Fermin, LA Harbor, where she was sailing her Rhodes 33 "Valentine" and Matt was at the helm of his Common Sense No. 6. Peggy told me that Matt was out front but she caught a favorable wind shift and started to close on Matt. Walsh was at that time, in his late eighties. She realised that she was beating him and out of respect pinched up enough to lose way on "Valentine" so as to allow him to keep his lead. Matt found another shift and crossed the finish line well ahead of her. Peggy told me that after that incident she never gave quarter to anyone in a race when she was on the favored tack. She added that, in truth, She did not need to pinch up as Matt would have won any way.

    Matt Walsh had an uncanny sense of how to make almost any boat win a sailing race. He could read the wind, tides and seas like a Polynesian navigator. Matt was a great friend of the olympic champion swimmer and surfer, Duke Kahanamoko. Duke often went sailing with him as crew member when he lived here in California for a time. Duke presented Matt with a very accurate and elaborate model of a Hawaiian long distance sailing model of two canoes that were set up as a voyaging catamaran as a token of friendship.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Here is a story I once heard from someone who belonged to Califronia YC in the early years. This was the club that Matt Walsh belonged to and raced out of. A new member had just had a new racing boat delivered and that was tied up at the club dock. It was sleek and looked pretty fast. The owner, who had been doing some serious training in the club house bar, was loudly lecturing the bar crowd as to how fast his new boat was. According to him it was virtually, unbeatable in a race. As he droned on, Matt Walsh finally smiled at him and said, "Well, that boat can't be all that fast, I'll bet you, if I rig a mast and sails, I can beat it with the Ferry boat!" The new owner took him on and a bet was placed for a race on one of the club courses. Matt had requested a bit of time to rig a mast on the ferry boat and make some sails. So, a month later, the race was held. Matt and the blow hard took off in a brisk Westerly and Matt and the ferry boat lapped the course before the blow hard and his boat had made one lap. Of course Matt won the race! The ferry boat was actually the old "Uncus" a racing boat that Matt had originally built. He had pulled the mast out of to use "Uncas" as a ferry to get yard workers back and forth from San Pedro to his Garbutt and Walsh Boat Yard on Terminal Island.
    Matt had an Irish sense of humor!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 09-07-2015 at 12:02 PM.

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Quote Originally Posted by abosely View Post
    Jay, thanks for posting this. I enjoy reading and learning about the people and history of sailing and sailboats. As I'm relatively new to this wonderful word, I have much catching up to do.

    I really love the look of the classic sailing boats. I am building and styling my Wharram Narai Mk IV to have the look and style of a classic sailboat as possible. Tho I realize that catamarans really didn't exist yet at the time. But working to give her the look that would be 'correct' for the time if she was from that time period. Simple elegance.

    Cheers, Allen
    Allen, I thank you for your comments and I thank all of you for your positive comments on this posting. I believe that this historical information should be preserved in some manner other than just in my own memory Hopefully, may be of interest to our West Coast and East Coast readers who may not be aware of the boats and incidents mentioned herein.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Matt worked from half models he carved for his designs and worked in the same manner that Herreshoff did. He often working directly from the model to the lofting floor. When he built Common Sense no. 6 he contacted Roy Riley and offered him a free haul out in exchange for taking off her lines. This was because he had made some changes in no.5 that were a variation from the model. No. 5 is faster than her sister ships are. I belive that it is because she has a tiny bit more freeboard which prevents her from burying her rail too soon. Matt drew her hights of sheer on the fence at his yard when he did the take offsets.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 10-15-2017 at 01:33 PM.

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    Here is a story I once heard from someone who belonged to Califronia YC in the early years. This was the club that Matt Walsh belonged to and raced out of. A new member had just had a new racing boat delivered and that was tied up at the club dock. It was sleek and looked pretty fast. The owner, who had been doing some serious training in the club house bar, was loudly lecturing the bar crowd as to how fast his new boat was. According to him it was virtually, unbeatable in a race. As he droned on, Matt Walsh finally smiled at him and said, "Well, that boat can't be all that fast, I'll bet you, if I rig a mast and sails, I can beat it with the Ferry boat!" The new owner took him on and a bet was placed for a race on one of the club courses. Matt had requested a bit of time to rig a mast on the ferry boat and make some sails. So, a month later, the race was held. Matt and the blow hard took off in a brisk Westerly and Matt and the ferry boat lapped the course before the blow hard and his boat had made one lap. Of course Matt won the race! The ferry boat was actually the old "Uncus" a racing boat that Matt had originally built. He had pulled the mast out of to use "Uncas" as a ferry to get yard workers back and forth from San Pedro to his Garbutt and Walsh Boat Yard on Terminal Island.
    Matt had an Irish sense of humor!
    Jay

    Too funny!

    Jim
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Matt was a bit unrully according to reports of his tactics during the R Boat Nationals at Larchmont in 1928. First he had amazed the race committee by sporting a main that had a large Dancing Pirate displayed on the sail. "A bit brash" was the consensus of opinion. Then there was his demand for sea room when he was entitled to it and not responded to. "Give me sea room, or I will ram you!" was his comment for the slow response. It should be noted that Matt never flew a protest flag during his very long racing career. http://www.sailmagazine.com/racing/p...pirate-reborn/
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 09-09-2015 at 12:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Here is Matt's most winning boat, Common Sense #5, "Red Witch" after her restoration. She is starting her winning reach in race off of Marina Del Rey. The lee back stay is just being released. Battens and main took a fair curve after that. The boat is climbing over her bow wave and leaving her stern wave behind! She was clocked at nearly ten knots that day. Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 10-11-2017 at 07:03 PM.

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    When I finish drawing the plans, Todd Rogers who, owns CS 1, and I will start building #7. The boat will have some modern changes and a few trick items that will, we hope, make her faster than the older boats were.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Jay, thanks again for contributing your stories and history here. Wonderful stuff! I would love to see them collected in some medium a bit less transient than the internet though, such as... a book? A gentle nudge - I have a prime space reserved for it whenever it sees the light of day.
    - Chris

    https://fvpetrel.wordpress.com

    Life is short. Go boating now!

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Chris, Thanks for the encouragement! I do have a book in mind. I have so many irons in the fire that this forum is the only time I get to sit down and write a few memories.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    The Common Sense is the smallest boat ever to compete in the Transpac. CS3 was the second boat to clear the West end of Catalina Island and was in a position to win the race to Honolulu when, on the third day, the mast was lost due to the parting of the permanent back stay. There was some speculation, later, that the turnbuckle shank had been tampered with as it appeared to have been partially sawn or filed. Three days were lost in setting up a jury rig. The boat was able to finish the race and was not the last boat to finish! The performance of the little twenty eight foot Common Sense sloop was so impressive that it has been said the reason for the minimum overall length rule being added to the measurement rules. Accoring to Matt Walsh, this was a deliberate move to bar swift little sloops from future competition in the Honolulu Race.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Matt Walsh, The Sorcerer of Hurricane Gulch

    Quote Originally Posted by gilberj View Post
    I was aware of Matt Walsh, and some of his work, but really knew very little. I certainly did not know he was originally from Nova Scotia. The Common Sense Class sloops and indeed very pretty boats. Thanks for the post and the history.
    Matt was born and grew up in Canso Nova Scotia. When in his early twenties he came to S. California and supervised the laying of the Pacific Electric Trolly tacks in Santa Monica. It was there that he met Frank Garbutt who, was later to become his partner in the boat building business of Garbutt and Walsh.
    Jay

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