William “Bill” Lapworth was perhaps the foremost West Coast Naval Architect in the post World War II period. Born in Detroit, Michigan, he attended and graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in marine engineering and naval architecture. At the end of World War II, after serving as a United States naval officer, he decided to make his home on the West Coast and began a design business.
“The Navy sent me out here after V-E Day to the Naval Repair Base in San Diego. I had a lot of fun in San Diego. I learned to love sailing on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years — all those things that we couldn’t do in Detroit where I grew up.”
Bill was approached by Merle Davis, who had a yacht designing office on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Davis asked Lapworth to join the firm. Though Bill had received another offer from the American Shipbuilding Company in Cleveland, he decided to stay in California.
“It worked out pretty well with Merle, except that I started working with him in September and he died the next March,” says Lapworth. “So there I was, I had an office and was ready to go. It’s pretty hard to get started designing yachts when you don’t have anything behind you, but we did surveying and in turn started meeting people in the shipyards. We managed to find people that liked us, and we like them, and things started going better.”
Soon he was designing a series of light displacement racing sailboats that began to win or place highly on the East and West Coasts, beginning with Flying Scotsman and Nalu II, 46’ — a four time Class C Transpac race winner and first overall in 1959. Next came the 50’ sloop Ichiban, second overall in the 1961 Transpac. By 1958, more than 70 of the wooden L-36’ sloops had been built; but, by then fiberglass was becoming the material of choice.
“In my office one day walked Jack Jensen (founder of the boatbuilding concern Jensen Marine). Jack was the kind of guy that really didn’t have to have anything formal. With just a handshake, we agreed to do the design for the new 24-footer he wanted to build. You could count on that back then. Jack wanted to call it the Lapworth 24 but I said, ‘No, you can’t do that’ because we already did a 24 footer for somebody else. So that’s when he decided to call the boats Cal boats. It really took off from there.”
From an interview(2004)