Friday, 4 March 2016

Yachting or a Disease of Overabundance.

Boy it's been a stellar few decades that have past many years.  Being landlocked from any sailing venues I have had to reference this article via internet and it's fair to say whilst the lower to mid range of yachts (or sailboats) has kept stable, the same could not be said of high performances vessels that rely on the wind for propulsion.  I suppose my sailing experience goes back to the early days of windsurfing and how new it was then was evident by the size of the boards back then.

And yachting was largely harbour sailing for me, except the times when I was allowed to take my board and sail to sea and had a whole empty ocean at times to play on, and yes, very alone. But as marriage and my myriad of sporting leisure's applied pressure and it was sailing that disappeared.  But I remained a very keen follower of televised competition, and then I started to take note of other events, notably Olympic sailing and local(Auckland) harbour events.  The skiff above was the start for  me seeing the change of technology, and around the same time a lot of other classes changed shape/direction in build and performance.
But first a bit about going back in the past.  Left pic is a standard weekend sailors cruising yacht.  Many used for weekend sailing club regattas and coastal races.  Very amateurish but superb.  Before the year 2000ish, these were the standard shape and rigging and sizes the only differentiation.   In fact around 2000 high end performance yachts changed, be them distance racers, regatta's or individual solo yachts. The poor mans high performance yachts stayed basically the same, the upper echelon are now stellar.

So what of the new breed.  Well it's plainly obvious it's not a yacht.  In fact the only reason it can claim to be  a boat is the fact it leaves a wake, albeit a very small one.  Is this where yachting is heading?  Super charged aerofoil!!  Ok they excite me, immensely and yes it provides very close racing, and it's a given the way boats are sailed and handled in such a way you are left hanging on the very edge of excitement.  There is one downside for me though with these behemoths!  They exist for one on one racing, not regatta racing.  And have they developed to a state where gear and sailors will become damaged through pushing the envelope??
Well  short answer is yes!!  In the  recent Americas Cup one of the superyachts tipped and a crewman was killed as a result?  And capsizes have shifted from being slow tilts (controlled) and sailors had time to save themselves, to very rapid nosedives at high speed.  Sure we live to cheat the wind and wave and to master both, but ultimately we have to do that with safety and life paramount and with the knowledge we'll be back to do it again.'

But it also begs a question.  Eventually the dearth of these speed machines will  mean a wider base of technology to those other than high performance sailors.  Is there room for that many racing machines in harbour regattas given their pedigree?

Here are a series of "Yachts" that show how our marine fleet are developing. They are yachts but many sailors would call them super-yachts or luxury boats.

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