I think it’s fair to say that not many people have sailed a classic yacht and probably few are inclined to do so. They see classics as plodding and boring to sail. Whizzing around the race course in a Melges 24 or some other kind of semi-submersible skimming dish might be your idea of fun but it’s not mine. For real excitement give me a short start line and a 20-ton schooner on starboard tack with all sails flying and I’ll show you excitement! Eye-popping excitement, change your grundies excitement.
Sailing a classic is not for the faint-hearted and you need plenty of skill to make ‘em go, or at least go fast. You also need plenty of wind and then they are hard to stop because they carry their way. If you are an owner, you also need an understanding wife or partner. And you better have deep pockets because you are going to need ‘em to maintain all that bright work and buy booze for the crew. Crew on a classic have got to be strong, winches are for wimps and if you don’t lose the skin off your hands and a toenail or two, then you are not trying hard enough and won’t be asked to race again.
Classic yachts sailing in a mixed fleet offer the most exciting racing of all. That’s because skippers in the spinnaker and non-spinnaker classes think all boats maneuver the same. Have you seen a modern race boat make a 360 degree turn? Well, classics can’t do that. In a tight space, like between the committee boat and the boats playing a game of chicken to leeward, they often can’t turn at all. This usually registers with the ‘moderns’ when their polite shouts for room are met with a stream of colorful invective followed seconds later by screams of anguish, usually their own. Some helmsmen only realize they are in trouble when they notice the skipper of the classic bearing down on them standing at the wheel with his arms folded slowly shaking his head. Others know there’s a problem when the fiberglass flies.
Classics … that’s the way to go racing!
I would like to thank the owners of the schooner Charm III for inviting me to crew during the 2012 Anguilla Regatta.
P.S. Please return my toe nails and laundry at your earliest convenience.