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Sunday 22 July 2012

The Columbia 43: a classic Tripp racer

The Columbia 43 is a big, muscular boat made for long ocean races. The boat is largely forgotten now because its birth coincided with the death of the rating rule it was designed to race under.

With a long, flush deck and a low gun-turret house, the boat is easily recognizable as coming from the drafting board of William H. Tripp, Jr., one of the great designers of the Cruising Club of America racing era. Trip designed the Columbia 43 as part of a suite of racing and cruising boats for Columbia Yachts that included two of the largest production boats of the 1960s, the Columbia 50 and the Columbia 57. In fact, the first model of the Columbia 43 had a Columbia 50's deck house.
Columbia 43 hull number 1 with the deck house off a Columbia 50.
The Columbia 43 is a fast boat. In its early years, a 43 finished first-in-class in the Transpac race from San Pedro, Calif., to Honolulu, Hawaii. As the International Offshore Rating rule took over the racing scene, the Columbia 43 was left behind in favor of boats that would rate better under the new rule. With the popularity of sailboat racing under PHRF, the Columbia 43 is again a contender for the silver.

A Mark III recognizable by her small rectangular ports.
Columbia also came out with a Mark III model that was even more competitive as a racer. It had a keel with a shorter chord and lead ballast, a modified rudder, and six additional feet of mast height. Columbia also abandoned it's trademark long, low window on the side of the house for this model and substituted two, rectangular ports on each side giving it a mean, pillbox look.

Tripp's name is synonymous with CCA racers that have centerboards, so, naturally, there is a centerboard version of the boat as well. It has an additional 1,300 pounds of ballast and a minimum draft two feet less than the keel version.

The boat was well laid out for racing with a galley to port and a U-shaped dinette to starboard, a step down takes you to the main saloon with facing settees that convert to four single bunks. Forward of that is a small head to starboard with a large standing chart table and a V-birth in the forepeak, The arrangement is somewhat less desirable as a cruising boat for a couple, but it is still workable. The boat also carried 50 gallons of fuel and 50 gallons of water, about half of what you would want on a cruising boat that size.

Columbia built 153 of the 43s: about a third at its yard in Portsmouth, Va., and the rest in the Costa Mesa, Calif., yard. A smaller number (about six) of the Mark IIIs were built. The longevity of heavy fiberglass construction means most are still sailing.

At least one Columbia 43 has circumnavigated the globe. Other boats ended up scattered across the world in the Mediterranean,Caribbean and the islands of the Pacific as well as in every coastal state. A 43 in Aruba takes out 22 passengers for day sails; a job it's done every day for more than 30 years under two generations of owners. The large deck and 10-foot cockpit comfortably handles all 22 passengers. A tough boat indeed.
Columbia 43 under sail on the Columbia River.
Here's the Columbia 43 by the numbers:
  • Length: 43 feet 3 inches
  • Beam: 12 feet 4 inches
  • Draft: 6 feet 11 inches
  • Waterline Length: 32 feet 8 inches
  • Displacement: 22,200 pounds (one source says 18,900 pounds)
  • Ballast: 9,500 pounds
  • Sail Area: 806 square feet
  • Sail Area/Displacement: 18.24
  • Ballast/Displacement: 50.26 percent
  • Displacement/Length: 257.49
  • Theoretical Hull Speed: 7.5 knots 
  • Vertical Clearance: 58 feet 4 inches
  • Built between 1969 and 1974
  • Number built: 153
  • PHRF number: 102 (Columbia 43 Mark III has a PHRF number of 96)


  1. In the interest of full disclosure I should tell readers that I purchased a Columbia 43 two weeks ago. It is most definitely a project boat, but I'm pleased with the purchase. The article is a result of the research I did before I bought the boat.

    Brandon Ford

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hey Brandon,

      I purchased a Columbia 43 (1973) in Detroit. If you have any questions or comments my email is

      Captain Bob

  2. Congratulations! That is a very handsome boat which looks as if it could go anywhere. The powerful looking bow is especially impressive in profile. It gives the impression it will just shoulder its way easily through any sea, like a night-club bouncer crossing a crowded dance floor.

  3. Thanks Patrick. I'm looking forward to getting her in shape to face any sea. Long-distance cruising is in our near-term plans. I just have to get through a to-do list of about 1001 things. Then we're off.

  4. I think you bought well Brandon, you know my thoughts and she's dam fine looking as well. look forward to reading more about her.

  5. Thanks Max. Your great advice is much appreciated and played no small part in easing my mind when I handed over the check.

    The boat came with a basement full of parts and pieces -- some of them new. I think she will prove to be a good deal as well as a good boat.

  6. I'd like to have hull number one, the one with the Columbia 50 deck. That's a nice looking boat, plus it doesn't have that aluminum H for the hull to deck joint.

  7. Hey Brandon! I own Jiminy Cricket! Hull number 007. A Columbia 43 that was actually rigged as a yawl before I bought her. The decks have all been re done and she will be back in the water soon. email me if you want pics. Good choice my friend! She is a wonderful yacht. Fast and seaworhty!



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  9. Hello,

    It's a nice information about boat repair part. Boat detailing is an important part of your overall craft maintenance that should not be neglected. It also helps in making your boat look nice and maintaining its original look. Thanks a lot....

  10. Hi Mark,

    Sorry I'm so slow responding to your comment. How is Jimminy Cricket coming along? I would love to correspond with you about the work you are doing. Columbia 43s are wonderful boats.

    Where is your boat? Mine is in Newport, Ore. If you would like to look at the work I've been doing on her you can check out my blog: http://hagothlog.blogspot.com/. I would like the blog to include information about what other Columbia 43 owners are doing with their boats. Let me know!

    Thanks for the comment and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Fair winds and following seas,
    Brandon Ford
    SV Oceanus (I think she is hull number 81 built in 1971.)

  11. Wow,that boat looks nice and captivating.I just wonder how much it cost for a boat like that. :)


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  19. I own C 43 on lake erie that I will finish complete upgrade summer of 2018 took me 4 summers and $$$

  20. Just took a walk on shelter island in san diego and on an anchorage I spotted what appeared to be a shortened Colombia 50. Could this be hull #1? What a pretty boat.

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