Why Those Old Boats Matter

Published on January 7th, 2019

by Shan McAdoo
I recently watched some friends and acquaintances prepare for the J70 World Championship held last September in Marblehead, MA. I watched as they bought and prepared their boats and was amazed to find that many campaigns had a $1MM plus budgets.

The racing was spectacular to watch, but the impact of knowing the numbers soured the beauty as I thought about all of the less fortunate sailors who simply could not afford to be out there.

However, I felt better as I remembered all of the cheap old boats I had bought, fixed up, and raced. I was heartened to find there are still classes of boats that are somewhat stable in design and evolution, and that I can afford to buy and campaign.

I am not a Luddite. I applaud the forward progress in sailing that has come with foiling and how this is impacting the sport on every level, but I am concerned about the influence this has on a decreasing population of people getting into the sport.

Some of my other friends build and sell small boats. I love parts of what they do, but they seem to have built a business model around non-ownership of boats. This has further isolated the sailor from the boat. The trend in club owned or chartered boats likely will ultimately cause further erosion in participation.

We need to simplify. The boats need to be cheaper, more durable, and easier to own. We need to encourage an individual ownership model by making the cost of acquiring and campaigning boats cheaper.

I think that professionals and vendors in the sailing industry need to work with the classes of “cheap old boats” to determine how to keep people coming into these classes. I am not so naive to think that every boat class will survive, but only by supporting these classes can we provide a destination for the youth and college sailors.

The latest new designs will always be too expensive. The good old boats that have stood the test of time deserve continued support as we go forward. Millennials have lots of choices, so let’s try to guide them towards sustainable choices by supporting those good old boats and making them cool again.

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