I’ve has raced sailboats all my life. In my view that there is no greater fun to be had than trying to push my own boat just that little bit faster than a fleet of identical competitors. All while being out of doors in the clean ocean air engaging in a sport that rewards skill over size, gives no advantage to the male of the species, and remains fun from one’s teens to one’s dotage. Plus we look good to spectators.
Racing means spinnakers. If my rivals set theirs and I don’t, I get passed. Anyone who has hung on to a spinnaker sheet with the last vestige of his strength with the tiller humming and the whole boat just on the edge of control knows there’s no greater thrill in the world.
Then there’s “handicap racing”. Fun for sure, but never the same since the guy I worked my ass off to beat claims it’s only because I have a more favorable rating. Real racing, in my opinion anyway, means identical boats. First across the finish line is the winner, and no whining.
I’m hoping to sell PAINE 26’s in certain yacht clubs as entire fleets so they can be raced as a one-design class. The yachts themselves will be identical in shape, and the sailplans will be strictly controlled within each yacht club fleet. Simple class rules will be established- the most important being the prohibition of removing equipment like berth cushions to lighten ship before a race. The yacht club will have one decision to make- whether their fleet will have the asymmetrical spinnaker, or a conventional one which requires the use of a spinnaker pole. The latter will require more crew to compete successfully, which can be looked at in one of two ways. It might mean some owners cannot race on a given day for lack of sufficient crew. On the other hand the use of “real” spinnakers introduces that many more people per boat to the fun of competition on the water.
I believe that sailboat racing as a sport has gone full circle. The postwar years of the “50’s and ‘60’s coincided with the invention of marine plywood and fiberglass to bring small boat ownership within the means of the common man- including me. First there were Comets, Bluejays, Lightnings, Thistles, Snipes and yes my favorite, Herreshoff 12½s― wooden boats that were excellent performers and required virtually no effort to get off the mooring and onto a starting line. Yacht racing was a social event that got hundreds of people together on a regular basis, all with a common interest, and friendships and marriages resulted. With the advent of fiberglass, sailboats got a bit bigger and still were affordable if manufactured in large enough numbers. Most of these bigger sailboats were still primarily for sport, i.e. racing, but they were large enough to also provide rudimentary cabins. Instead of trailering your boat to weekend regattas you could sail it there and spend the night aboard. What fun it was then- the racing itself, but afterwards a fleet of hundreds of beautiful boats and their crews spending Saturday nights getting to know each other.
Then something happened. It had to do with growing paper prosperity, combined perhaps with the looming prospect of retirement as we boomers entered middle age. We bought bigger boats, being told someday we would sail them to Tahiti. We gave up racing. Someone invented the Internet and cable TV and we spent our leisure time with a monitor in front of our faces and we put on weight. Our leaders went astray and permitted a situation where if we bought more houses they would increase in value and we could retire on their appreciation but the houses ended up owning us rather than the other way round and in the end they became worthless.
And now here we are finally having realized Tahiti was never a realistic goal, and the extra house a foolish speculation. It’s time to recapture the fun of our youth, consolidate into a beautiful reasonably sized boat that consumes no precious irreplaceable fossil fuel, rediscover the incredible fun of racing, get away from our computers and get physically fit and tanned again. For which all you need is a PAINE 26. See you on the starting line!