old but not in the way

As I was driving home from Santa Barbara last night, after thrashing through the Pacific during the weekly Wet Wednesday bash, I got to thinking about our sport and the people in it.  We all know that there’s actually a rather diverse selection of characters in sailing, despite what the media likes to portray: from the snooty, G&T swilling yacht club member whose sole reason for boat ownership is image and entertaining, and whose vessel never leaves the slip; through the beer-swilling, party-hard louts who see sailing as a drinking challenge (I suspect, from reading a couple of the forums, that much of the SA reader base comes from this category!); to the grey-skinned, wrinkled, nappy-haired cruisers who live on board their boats and who shower only when deemed absolutely necessary by their neighbors!
Yet the majority of sailors are normal, friendly, family-oriented types who see day sailing or racing as a pleasant escape from the pressures of life, and a chance to mix with like-minded fellows.
Wherever we fit in that spectrum, the one thing we tend to have in common, possibly because we have invested a sizeable chunk of our disposable income into them, is how passionate we are over our choice of boat and about how much better our class is than everybody else’s!  But I recently discovered a catalyst that seems to draw everyone together.
Let me pre-empt my revelation by admitting that I was exactly like I have described.  Being brought up in the UK, my sailing path took me the standard route of trapeze dinghies (this was the pre-skiff era), including the Contender, 505, Int 14, RS600, Int Canoe, Norfolk Punt, Javelin, etc.  For me speed, especially if it was coupled with discomfort and spray, was what drew me to the water.  Indeed, when I moved to the dinghy-depleted US, the speed and discomfort theme continued, with me buying small sports boats (Hotfoot 20, SRMax21, Int Tempest, Viper 640, etc.).  I never had much interest in plodding along slowly.
Obviously, since the advent of the 29er, 49er, foiling Moth, foiling F18, foiling Nacra 17, foiling G32, etc., speed has taken a whole leap forward, and what I once considered fast is positively sedentary now, but over the last few Wet Wednesdays I’ve realized that the slowest boat in Santa Barbara – my 111 year old Broads One Design – seems to be the most appreciated.  I mentioned to you a few weeks back that she has garnered huge interest and positive comments from the ‘cool kids’ (R/P70, SC52, J125, J111, Farr 400, MC31, etc), but I also get throngs of people from the “regular PHRF” boats stopping to admire as well as the old salts walking the docks who seem to naturally gravitate towards varnish.  And understand that my old boat needs a lot of work.  She’s nowhere near concourse.
But what surprised me over these few weeks is the interest and appreciation from a group of people from whom I never thought would give the old girl a second glance – the foiling kite boarders.  They can’t seem to get enough!  The come shooting past me, eerily silent at 40 knots, while I plod upwind at 4, calling out, admiring, suggesting ideas for great photo ops and generally being thoroughly delightful human beings (at least I think they are – they go past so quickly it’s sometimes hard to hear them!).  Even the fastest people on the water seem to appreciate classic age and beauty.  It’s soul-filling for me.
What’s my point in writing you this drivel?  NONE!  It beats working and keeps my mind on more pleasant things.  But if there is a point, I suspect it’s that I believe you’ll have more people admiring your renovated classic in pristine condition, than you had when you owned your M32 and other sports boats.  Sailors – all sailors – appreciate an older racing boat that has been made whole again. Enjoy her.
-Nick Mockridge