The Cal 40's traditional appearance belies her lightweight design and her surprising scarcity value, writes Rupert Holmes


The traditional styling of this boat, with its counter stern and raked bow, might lead onlookers to assume it’s a typical heavy long keeler from the early 1960s.

However, it’s a lightweight design with the potential to surf at speeds of 15-16 knots for sustained periods. Of course, when the Cal 40 was first launched in 1963 there were many naysayers, who couldn’t believe that such a light boat could be engineered to withstand the rigours of the ocean.

Yet the design won the 1965, 67 and 69 TransPac races, having sailed 2,250 miles from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Cal 40s also took positions 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the 1966 Newport to Bermuda race.

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So what was the secret to this boat’s success? Designer Bill Lapworth drew a radically flat bottomed boat by the standards of the early 1960s, with well balanced ends and a fin keel with a relatively long chord length.

The fairly narrow transom means the Cal 40 rolls downwind far more than today’s broad stern designs, but remains on course as it does so and the big spade rudder is easily able to retain control, even when sailing on autopilot.

Accommodation is in a traditional layout, with a good size forecabin, plus heads and stowage space between that and the saloon. This has two settees with pilot berths outboard and a folding central table.


There’s also a reasonable galley, large chart table and a pair of snug quarter berths. The Cal 40 has gained a semi-cult status over the years.

Well known owners include Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator and multiple sailing speed record holder Stan Honey and his wife Sally Lindsey Honey, a double winner of the USA’s Yachtswoman of the Year award.

Prices vary considerably, but even tired examples are becoming more expensive, while very well equipped and maintained boats can change hands for much higher figures than most boats of this era.

Cal 40 specification

LOA: 12.00m / 39ft 4in
LWL: 9.25m / 30ft 4in
Beam: 3.35m / 11ft 0in
Draught: 1.70m / 5ft 7in
Displacement: 6,800kg / 15,000lb
Ballast: 2,700kg / 6,000lb
Sail area: 65m2 / 700ft2
Current market value: £50,000-£120,000 / $68,000-$164,000