August 16, 2023
By Don Finkle
The Shark Class provide highly competitive racing with comparatively small expense.
Sailboat racing is often blamed for being too expensive. Yes, it can be, but it doesn’t always have to be. Looking at the fleet at the CanAm this past weekend, we see numerous boats that are between 20-40 years old, including many of the winners. These boats can be purchased quite inexpensively. Some have been rebuilt by the owners and updated to keep them competitive, but the point is you can find a fleet where you can play the game at reasonable cost. The boats themselves are a bargain in many cases, the exception is the cost of sails. This is where the sport has failed us a bit. By pushing the technology all the time, the sails have become faster and faster, and a new carbon race sail is a gorgeous thing to behold. Unfortunately, the cost of new sails is more than it should be because we really don’t need that level of technology to go sailing… unless the other guy has it. If we want sailing to grow, this should be one area to be looked at.
On the Flip Side: As mentioned above, you don’t have to spend a lot on a boat to go racing. However, many of us like newer designs that just were not around then. We find sprit boats to be much more popular these days, this is one reason older boats with symmetrical spinnakers are cheaper: they are simply in less demand. For those who can justify a new or nearly new boat, the expense is rewarded.
We always say the design of the boat is the most important thing, and design does not stand still. The latest boats are really cool, and no matter how you care for an older boat the design can’t be changed. The J/111s are strong these days, as are the J/70s and J/88s. Eventually fleets gravitate to locations where there is critical mass for one design racing. Personally, the J/99 is one of my favorites, they continue to sell, but the boats tend to be scattered around and not concentrated.
Don Finkle is CEO & Owner of RCR Yachts in Youngstown, NY. Don founded the Youngstown Level Regatta, one of the most popular events for Canadian sailors, despite (or perhaps because) it being on the US side of the Lake.