The Hobie Cat Way of Life

Published on January 20th, 2015

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
I learned to sail in Marina del Rey, acclaimed to be the world’s largest man-made small craft harbor. Near Los Angeles, think urban living for boats. Concrete channels filled with slips. Good for storage, but not much room for sailing.

While okay (barely) for sabots, all the other racing was keelboats outside of the harbor. For a kid like me looking to step up from sabots, it was either an hour drive to the next harbor with several dinghy class options, or transition into the keelboat classes.

Since this was an era when parents didn’t donate their weekends to fulfill their kid’s passions, I got into keelboats. This was well before asymmetrical spinnakers, when spinnaker bags were often attached in the bow pulpit. Any light kid with skills, able to gybe the pole, had no trouble finding rides.

This was in the ’70s, well before youth sports and camps swallowed summers. So with time on my hands at 14 years, I got my first job working for a boat dealer. I mostly washed the keelboats on display, but the dealer also sold Hobie Cats, and there was always a demo boat available.

The local Hobie 16 fleet ran summer races, and I soon got permission to use the demo boat each week. Racing catamarans was completely removed from the yacht club structure, and the performance was unlike anything I had done. I still distinctively remember this summer, now nearly 40 years later. It was that good.

The Hobie 16 was introduced in 1972, and despite there now being countless better catamaran designs today, the popularity of the class remains strong. In a video just released titled ‘The Hobie Cat Way of Life’, narrated by Gary Jobson, class members discuss reasons for the class’ endurance:

– Camaraderie among the sailors
– Affordable boat
– Exchange of information
– Fun sailing
– Family atmosphere
– Builder support
– Competitive crew weight allows for all genders and ages
– Launchable without formal facilities
– Non-technical layout

For sustaining popularity, these virtues appear to be working.


Video published on Jan 19, 2015.

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