Before Warwick “Commodore” Tompkins, who is slated to speak at the Pacific Singlehanded Sailors Association meeting in Marina del Rey on Monday, January 8th, was old enough to attend kindergarten, he had already crossed the Atlantic Ocean 13 times and rounded what most consider the most treacherous region on the world map — Cape Horn.
In the 1930s, his father, Warwick Tompkins Sr., his wife and two children boarded Tompkins’ 85-foot schooner Wanderbird and proceeded to sail all over the world.
The experience spawned one of the finest and most revered sailors in the world today and the Commodore has now sailed over 500,000 ocean miles.
He has spent over 70 years involved in sailing, most of it as a professional and has raced in such prestigious races as the Fastnet and the Sydney-Hobart Race.
Along the way, in addition to being a racer and delivery captain, Tompkins also became a rigger, a sailmaker and a boatbuilder.
After spending his life in and around the yachts of others, Tom-pkins has devoted his retirement (if it can be called that) to building and sailing on his own extremely custom 39-ft. racer/cruiser, Flashgirl.
The boat is the realization of a master’s vision. The methodical and fastidious Tompkins spent an estimated 8,000 hours through a span of ten years turning the boat into something that is uniquely his own.
“The choices that a sailor of the Commodore’s caliber makes on a new boat inform the rest of us on today’s standards of yacht design,” said Steve Saul, who happened to be in an anchorage in Tonga when Tompkins and his wife Nancy pulled in one day back in September aboard Flashgirl.
“There are so many details on this boat to take in. Suffice to say that she is fast, well found, thoughtful and graceful,” said Saul.
While the couple was based out of Mill Valley, California before, these days they spend most of their time in New Zealand and the islands of the South Pacific, though they are currently wrapping up a delivery of a catamaran from New Zealand to Japan.
“Commodore, long a most conservative of sailors, is toying with the dark side by accepting a catamaran delivery from New Zealand to Japan,” Nancy Tompkins told Latitude 38 magazine back in July. “He once delivered Profligate (a catamaran) from Cabo to San Diego, and wrote a single-spaced multi-page letter describing why they should ‘sell cat immediately’.”
The latest update is that the cat has been successfully delivered to Japan and the Commodore will be making it to Los Angeles to speak about his life and voyages at 8 p.m. Monday, January 8th, in the main room at the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club, 13589 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey. Admission is free.
The commodore will likely be talking about his extensive cruising, the boat he has poured his soul into to make perfect and his recent voyage from New Zealand to Japan aboard a 46-foot catamaran.
After speaking with Commodore Tompkins in Tonga, Saul said: “If you are looking for inspiration, look no further than someone like the Commodore, who is actively pursuing his future by being on the water exploring the world, and is still full of ideas and life.”