My favorite boat is a Hobie 16

Published on April 21st, 2022

In Harken’s Spring 2022 newsletter, they asked some prominent sailors to share their favorite boat. For Riley Gibbs, it was the Naples Sabot. For Jonathan McKee, it was the Tasar. For Taylor Canfield, it was the IC-24.

There were others, and for 12-time world champion Bill Hardesty, it was the Hobie 16. Yes, you heard that right. Here he tells the story:

What’s my favorite boat of all time? Well that’s a very hard question. I’ve sailed the Moth, foiling A-Cats, TP52s, superyachts, maxis, but I’ll be honest with you, I think it’s more about the people.

And when it comes to the people, the Hobie 16 is the boat that cut my teeth. I sailed it as a kid with my father. Back then, the fleet was extremely strong. 200 boats all launching off the beach. Picture that.

Everyone puts their boat on the big beach wheels and pulls up onto the beach right next to their RV. After racing, there’s one big tent that hosts all the parties. Everyone introduces themselves and wants to chat.

Yeah, sure, the boat itself is a little clunky. Hell, we even tipped over backwards in one race. Yup. Sterns down, tipped over backwards while we were going upwind. …That’s kind of embarrassing but it’s true… The opposite of a pitchpole. It doesn’t matter because it’s all about the people. That’s what makes the thing go!

Harken: So, does anyone fall asleep and spend the night on the trampoline?
Hardesty: Oh yeah. It happens. People wake up with sand in their teeth! Maybe the van is already at full-capacity for the night so someone just ends up crashing on the trampoline.

These days, the Hobie 16 fleet sees about 50 boats instead of the 200 I grew up with. But for modern one-design standards, 50 boats is absolutely a big fleet. There’s something really special about camping on the beach with the boat right next to the camper.

It can be hot at those regattas — during postponement, we’d go into the RV, pop on the air conditioner, and eat lunch inside while watching out the window for the flag to go up. When we saw the flag, it was go time.

By the time you close the RV door, slip on your life jacket, push the boat off the beach, and sail out to the racecourse, it’s been maybe five minutes. You still have plenty of time to sail upwind and down before the starting gun.

The Hobie 16 keeps it simple. I really think any boat needs to be simple for it to be enjoyable. If you have to constantly work on it — like a Moth, which seems like it’s an hour of boat work for every two hours of sailing — sometimes that’s fun, but not always.

There’s all this push for foiling, but the non-foiling boats are way more family-friendly. It’s nice and simple. You can sail one with your wife, your girlfriend, your kid, hell, even your neighbor. If you happen to snag the windward mark on a Moth, you’re quickly out a couple grand; that’s not very forgiving.

In some Grand Prix classes, there’s a lot of backstabbing – people going behind backs and saying negative things to the owner. Sometimes you don’t even want to go to dinner with your teammates after the day of racing. That sucks the fun from the sport. As pro sailors, it’s our job to create an experience for the owner. There’s a fine line between the performance we’re after and the experience we do it all for in the first place.

Really at the end of the day, I love the Hobie 16. There’s a beautiful simplicity to it. We all get so serious chasing the world championship titles, often we forget this is all supposed to be fun. It should be fun.

Editor’s note: These are the words of a 46 year old who has seen it all, done it all, and recognizes how to enjoy sailing. Not long ago he revisited his roots at the 2016 Hobie 16 North American Championship in Puerto Peñasco, MEX. Good times!

To read Harken’s Spring 2022 newsletter, click here.

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