Fun need not cost a fortune

Published on June 4th, 2018

Our sport (and the media) does a disservice when the bright lights are primarily aimed at the latest and greatest designs. There are many ways to enjoy sailing competition, so rather than promote only the shiniest new boat and prove how costly we can make the sport, Jim Gretzky reminds us that racing need not break the bank.

Rather than buying high and riding the depreciation curve, the active competition in the Twelve Metre Class is proving that fun need not cost a fortune. The competitive life of a boat is measured in decades, not years.

The boats have maintained their value and their structural integrity due in part to a very challenging yet stable rule and commonsense standards of construction. These are boats that were exceedingly well built to the highest standards and perhaps most importantly, a common and consistent standard.

It is not uncommon to pick up a twelve that was sitting forgotten and forlorn in the back lot of a boat yard and bring them her back into the competitive ranks. We have done this twice, first with Victory’83 and then with Defender.

Victory’83 re-splashed in 2008 and won the Worlds the following year against a very competitive fleet of Modern Division Twelves; her win came 25 years after her first Worlds win in 1984! Fun Fact: In both events she had the same bowman – Jerry Kirby.

Last year, Defender went sailing for the first time in 23 years after suitable upgrades and refitting. Starting the season with some hand-me-down sails from her stablemate Victory’83, she had a great season including a win under IRC in the New York Yacht Club’s Queen’s Cup. Fitted with new sails for the North Americans along with a new rudder, she came out flying and finished second to Challenge Twelve – another boat that sat on the hard only to get a new career under with a new Owner.

Used Twelves are available across the price point spectrum, ranging from fully modernized yachts like Victory to project boats of many different eras. The most expensive boat still lags behind the used TP52 and annual budgets lag even further. We have a very deep sail inventory on Victory but the metre boat rig geometry, coupled with proper care and handling, have the life of our sails measured in seasons not hours.

Now let’s get to the meat of the discussion: Competition! The Twelve Metre Class is growing again as new owners have discovered the Twelves and the outstanding value and competition that they offer. I admit to bias but there is something truly special about a crowded starting line of Twelves – all fully powered up and charging to windward.

The Class will have the 2019 World Championships in Newport (USA) as part of a full docket of events and the fleet is looking at 25-30 boats with yachts representing the many different eras of the Class and coming from the far reaches. Owner drivers are the norm in the Class and in particular, the Modern Division which represents the heyday of the Class in the Newport era of the America’s Cup.

Sailing a Twelve is on many sailor’s bucket list but interestingly, once they get on board, they want to come back. These are fun yet demanding boats to sail and everyone has a job rather than sitting on the rail. Crews can have a long competitive run in the Class:

The Newport fleet can boast of the some of the most recognizable names in the sport like Kenny and Brad Read, Mike Toppa, Richie Boyd, Gary Jobson, Robbie Doyle, Randy Shore, and many more. Crews split their time between the grand prix classes and the Twelves. As we saw in social media in recent years, everyone loves the iconic twelves! Come join the Fun!

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