To breathe life into a piece of plywood and some fiberglass takes imagination to say the least, but that is exactly what happened. Frank Butler embarked on a project to build a small sail boat that was easily transportable and would accommodate a family at a reasonable price. What emerged was a boat that caught the eye of everyday folks who had never considered sailing and thus it became an overnight success. The Catalina 22 helped to launch the trailer sailing market, and although many other designs have entered the market, it remains at the top of the mobile sailing boats.
In 1969 Frank designed the swing keel version of the Catalina 22 and it went into production in 1970. In 1973 the pop top was introduced as an option to give sailors covered standing headroom while the boat was moored. That same year the fin-keel version was also introduced and the wing keel followed ten years later. In 1985 a new style was introduced. For the boat’s 25th anniversary of production the designers at Catalina introduced a third design with new materials and modern open interior.
“There’s nothing pretentious about the boat, it just works,” according to Catalina Yachts’ Gerry Douglas. “It could be considered the Model T or Volkswagen Beetle of the sailing world."
With a user-friendly cockpit, simple but workable interior, simple rigging and low upkeep, the boats are a natural for the first-time boat buyer, or a step between a sailing dinghy and a larger cruising or racing auxiliary. What happens in many cases, however, is that when owners move up to bigger boats, they keep their 22s to pass on to other family members or to race in the extensive one-design circuit. The Catalina 22 National Sailing Association is one of the strongest in sailing, and once involved many sailors never leave. The Catalina 22 has defined the pocket-cruising trailerable class for the last 25 years.
Any time two or more boats are on the same lake, sooner or later a race will ensue. When the boats are the same model sailors can hone their racing skills and show each other how fast they are. Thus began the Catalina 22 National Sailing Association. Since the boat was first sold in California it was only natural that area would be the starting place of what is now known as the Catalina 22 National Sailing Association. Its beginnings came from organizer Tom Winans who served as the National Commodore in 1971 & 1972. In 1973 the first Catalina 22 National regatta was held at Long Beach, California with Sam Crabtree selected as Vice Commodore in charge of producing the regatta. A boat that was only three years old and already competing in a National regatta with 45 boats in attendance was a large accomplishment in itself and Tom Winans emerged as the first National Champion. Since that beginning other names have been added to the list. In the Genoa Championship class they are Harvey Baker, Joe Becker, Carlos Canalizo, Gene Carapetyn, Terry Cobb, Bill Culp, Dick Durgin, Gene Ferguson, Pete Harper, David Hayslip, Roger Kerr, John Mies, Tom Page, Beattie Purcell, Mitchell Richardson, Hal Smith, Steve Snider, Ed Webb, Jim Wilson, and Dick Woodside.
The boat, designed as a family cruiser, came equipped with a main and 110% jib. That didn’t last long as racers wanted more speed. The 150% Genoa was added to the sail inventory and the class rules were adjusted. One design racing in the Catalina 22 was off and running.
In 1975 the weak point of the boat showed up drastically at the Nationals, held on Lake Ray Hubbard in Dallas, Texas. At the start of one of the races, with high winds blowing, several of the masts came down. Due to a lack of tuning to accommodate the larger 150% head sail, excessive mast pumping caused the cast aluminum spreader brackets to fail. Since the boat was originally designed to carry a 110% headsail, no thought had been given in the beginning that a larger headsail would cause undue stress on the rigging. At that time the forward and aft lowers were only 3/32” wire, not strong enough to handle the extra loads created by the 150% genoa and high winds. This incident began the search for a tuning guide to solve this problem. The final solution was to change the wire to 1/8”, the same as the uppers, and to replace the aluminum spreader brackets with stainless steel spreader brackets. Eventually a new mast extrusion was developed which gave the mast more rigidity. These changes eliminated the problem of mast pump and failure.
In 1977 one of the C-22 owners at the Fort Worth Boat Club complained to the National Association that the fin keel boats were much faster than his swing keel and sent the local race results from the past two years to prove his point. Upon review of those results, the National Association officers decided that the fin keel boats had an unfair advantage and banned the fin keel from racing in Nationally sanctioned regattas. Since the majority of the boats in Fleet 47 at the Fort Worth Boat Club were fin keels and since Fleet 47 was to host the Nationals the following year, several C-22 owners were upset. Under the leadership of Cal Daughty, Fleet 47 captain and Carlos Canalizo, Fleet 30 captain, both fleets petitioned the National Board to allow the fin keel to race in a class of its own. They agreed and so in 1978 there were two fleets. Bill Culp won the swing keel division and Carlos Canalizo won the fin keel division. Fleet 47 had the race committee record times on the first five finishers of each fleet in every race in order to compare the speed of each boat. (They knew the person who sent in the results never cleaned his boat bottom.) Surprise! Surprise! The swing keels had better times in every race, so the rules were changed to allow the fin keel to race heads up with the swing keel.
Later the spinnaker was added to the sail inventory, brought on mostly by the Texas contingent of racers, and the first Spinnaker National regatta was held in conjunction with the Genoa National regatta at Ocala, Florida in 1981. The first National Spinnaker champion was Bill Vawter from Fleet 47 at the Fort Worth Boat Club. Others who have won this honor are Jack Armistead, Rosser Bodycomb, Don Carsten, Dick Edwards, Gene Ferguson, Pete Harper, Buz Owens, and Don White. There is not sufficient interest in the spinnaker to muster enough boats to participate every year, but like the Jib fleet and Silver fleet, when the participants number at least ten, the association gives them a chance to compete.
With the Mississippi river and the continental divide being the dividing line, the US is separated into three sections. The National regatta is rotated each year, giving each part of the country an opportunity to participate close to home. The annual National regatta is the biggest event of the year and is hosted by a local fleet who bids for the honor of being the host fleet. This event is a time of reunion for old friends and an opportunity to meet and make new friends that will last a lifetime. Because of the family relationship of the boat and the people who own and sail them, it is common place for “go fast” information to be shared among the racers. Even though the more vocal association members are racers, the large majority of boat owners are cruisers’ using the boat for what it was originally designed--cruising. Others take their boat and family to any and every out of the way place for camping, fishing, swimming or just hanging out. What a great way to raise a family. At the National regatta each year, several sailors are recognized for their contributions to sailing and the Association other than finishing positions in the regatta. Some are: Leadership award, Region Commodore of the year, Fleet of the year, Cruising family of the year, Racing family of the year, Newest racer and Newsletter of the year. As time and circumstances have dictated, new awards are added from time to time. One of those is the Betty Gay award, presented to the female skipper with the best score in the National regatta. The latest to be added is the Sandy Kennedy spirit award. Creating a close family relationship with people throughout the country is the heart of the Catalina 22 National association.
As the Association grew, the need arose for cruising activities to be coordinated on a local, regional and national level. In 1992 the office of National Cruising Chairman was formed and Stephen Mabrey accepted that responsibility and continued to work in that capacity until July of 1998. The office remained vacant until September of 1999 when Richard Fox stepped forward and accepted the responsibility, changed his title to National Cruise Captain, and immediately began to organize cruises in all parts of the United States.
With National members in the United States, Australia, Azores Portugal, Canada, England, France, Mexico, New Zealand and Puerto Rico the National Association is actually an International organization.
From the beginning the “MainBrace”, the official quarterly publication for the C-22, has been there to report the facts as well as the fiction (who says that sailors tell the complete truth when it comes to the description of a race, especially if they got lucky and won). This publication continues to be the link for the ten regions and sixty nine active fleets to share local activities, photos and technical information.
The American Sail Advancement Program has chosen five boats to be inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame. These are true American classics. These boats have, through the excellence of their design and construction, given sailors new opportunities to enjoy their sport. To qualify, the boat must have been introduced at least 15 years ago. It is noteworthy that four of the five Hall of Fame inductees are still in production, a testament to their enduring appeal. The Catalina 22 is one of those five boats selected.
Will this boat and this association survive the rigors of the fast life and instant information age? Through strong National leadership, dedicated local leaders and concerned sailors they will become even stronger. With a strong
class association and support of the builder, the boat’s future will race forward far into this century.