Bill Lapworth, R.I.P.

Bill Lapworth, one of the best-known Southern California sailboat designers, has died. A private ceremony to scatter his ashes at sea was held yesterday, according to an item I read in Sailing Scuttlebutt this morning: Eight Bells.

William “Bill” Lapworth — perhaps the foremost West Coast Naval Architect in the post World War II period — has passed away.

…He designed Cal boats in all sizes from 20-48 feet and of course the famous Cal 40. That design proved itself over and over, winning many races including the Bermuda Race in 1966 and the TransPac in 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1985. The Cal 40 was so successful that it was inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame, and led Bill Schanen, the editor of Sailing magazine to hail Lapworth as one of the sport’s greatest designers. In cruising designs his Cal 46 was also produced in great numbers and continues to be enjoyed by the cruising set.

As a shipmate Bill was absolutely tops to sail with; a consummate helmsman and extremely valuably tactician; always sought as a crew on major races. He also sailed on boats not of his own design, providing these most useful characteristics to their owners. His designs gave him a primacy never before achieved by a naval architect as yet on the West Coast. His calm demeanor was a most recognized characteristic and his evenhanded nature fostered only the best in his fellow sailors.

Bill is survived by his wife of 40 years Peggy Lapworth. His children Barbara Burman Rolph, Charles William Lapworth III, Robert Lapworth, Jr., Susan Cohl and Kim Sorenson. A private burial at sea will be held on Friday, April 7, 2006. A reception will follow at 3:00 P.M. at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Balboa, CA. In lieu of flowers, a donation to the Newport Harbor Sailing Foundation would be appreciated. — Excerpts from the LA Times and Latitude 38

Another interesting item on Lapworth that I googled up ran in Latitude 38 back in December April, 2002: An afternoon with Bill Lapworth.

10 Responses to “Bill Lapworth, R.I.P.”

  1. Katriana Vader Says:


    I was very sorry to hear of Bill Lapworth’s passing. My husband and I last saw him before leaving for the South Pacific on our Cal-Vader 49, Seayanika. Bill seemed fit as a fiddle at the time. I am the author of the article you located, “An Afternoon with Bill Lapworth” and it was published in Latitude 38 in April of 2002.
    Cheers, Katriana Vader

  2. bill Says:

    I never knew the man but I sail one of his boats. A 1970 cal 30, in Milwaukee. If I had met him, i would just say thanks for giving my family, friends and me a wonderful experience with the wind. water and mother nature. We enjoy her everytime we step on the deck. She has developed to be a great bond between my sons John, Lou and myself. And for that experience there never be enough thanks.

  3. Richard Says:

    As a CAL34III owner I am sorry to hear about his passing. His designs are his legacy as they are timeless and flawless.

  4. Becky Coffield Says:

    I am so sorry he did not get to see “Life Was A Cabaret” in print. A true tale of a 6 year, 25,000 mile adventure aboard the fantastic Cal 2-34. An awesome boat, tough as hell, and seaworthy like no other small boat!

  5. shane Says:

    hi guys emailing from poole england. firstly sorry to hear a man with forward hull design has past away . secondly if it was’nt for that man i would not appreciate the wind and waves as i do in his cal t 4 design, of which i have restored. the project has taken me two years, alot of money,and thoughts on selling her. but i stuck to it and finshed her this year. she sails very easy in a number of condition rangeing from force 1-3 comfort,3-6 interesting, although 6 was abit much for me . i,m thinking of sailing my cal to the med as i feel safe and confident in her, she has been discribe as an e-type jag , robust quick agile and fun. hull number is 62 and she was commission in 1972. i could go on and on but kept things brief, thanks bill from shane aged 34

  6. Cody Burman Says:

    Bill was my grandfather.. Everyone knew him as a great designer as he was.. We used to sail out of the chesapeak bay when he lived in cobbs creek california prior to moving to southern california. But bill was not the man everyone thought he was. He had no feelins. He used to call once every couple weeks and wouldn’t even talk to his grandchildren would just ask for his daughter Barbara. My mother. That is why if you ever hear of his son that holds his name. He disowned his father and didn’t contact the fmaily for over twenty years

  7. David Schoenberger Says:

    I would like to contact someone from the Lapworth family. I am working on a Family Genealogy that involves the Lapworths of California. Just a few questions.

  8. jean paul Says:

    Dear Sir:
    I am sorry to hear about Bill Lapworth death,I didnt know the man but he wrote to me when I was looking for plans for my Lapworth 36″,The Lapworth 1962 was the last models built in wood.BY THE WAY LAPWORTHS ARE WONDERFULL VEASELS AND SHOULD BE PRESERVED AS PART OF THE AMERICAN NAVAL HISTORY HERITAGE.By the wayI never recived my plans…but now I know the reason.
    Any way I think Bill Lapworths memory will last for centurys just like all his master works of art.

  9. Allen Edwards Says:

    I am the owner of L-36 #5 and have a web site dedicated to the fleet. You can download plans from the web site as well as see and share information with other owners.


  10. luiz c poland Says:

    bill lives in his incredible boats…brasil

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