George Olson

Sail On

George Olson

We’re sorry we missed this and are sad to hear of his passing. We loved his boats, particularly the 30, and truly a part of west coast history as moved on…

George Olson, iconic boat builder and boat designer, considered by many to be the father of the Santa Cruz ULDB’s, died of cancer last week at age 69.

Olson, a longtime surfer and surfboard maker in the early days of Santa Cruz ultralights, was the creator or co-creator of such designs as the Jester Dinghy, Moore 24, Olson 25, Santa Cruz 27, Olson 29, Olson 30, Olson 34, and Olson 40.

In 1969, starting out with a masthead maxed out Cal-20 plus named SOPWITH CAMEL, George Olson set out to create the longest boat for 2,000 pounds displacement he could. The result was the 24 foot GRENDEL, a 24-ft fiberglass rocketship built over a male mold. GRENDEL proved a terror on the water, winning the 1970 MORA season championship and that year’s 500 mile MORA Long Distance, which finished in Ensenada.

Ron Moore rescued GRENDEL’s mold from a canyon behind a burned out barn in the Santa Cruz hills, and a partnership was formed between Ron and John Moore and George Olson to create the ultimate Wednesday night race boat for Monterey Bay. By jacking GRENDEL’s mold apart with 2×4’s at Moore’s Reef(boat shop) in Santa Cruz, a foot more beam was added and the glass and resin started flowing, ultimately creating the Moore 24 prototype, SUMMERTIME.

Wednesday nights would never be the same again. (Today, GRENDEL sits in a slip on "O"-dock, and with a casual glance, you cannot tell her dark green hull apart from a nearby Moore 24.)

George Olson’s other finest design was the Olson 30, a boat he designed in 1978. On a delivery of Bill Lee’s MERLIN back from her record breaking ’77 Transpac , Olson came up with the idea while sailing with Denis Bassano and Don Snyder, who lent their initials to the prototype’s name, the SOB 30. The resulting boat was christened PACIFIC HIGH, and was launched in 1978. Photo from Erik Simonson and you may post your comments here.