Read an Excerpt
It was the first day of our cruise in Maine aboard the rebuilt J-class Endeavour. The mist was clearing and the prevailing southwesterly breeze started to fill. Time to get underway. As I came up on deck, I was asked the greatest question ever heard in the sport of sailing, “Would you like to take the helm?” Every sailor will always respond positively to that wonderful query. So with my hands on the wheel and my feet planted firmly on deck, I waited as the immense sails were hoisted. The anticipation of the upcoming sail made the moment special. We live for these days. Soon the yacht started to heel over in fifteen-knot winds, and we were underway.
Looking aloft, I spied a bird flying above the mast. Perhaps the graceful creature identified with the shape of our sails, which resembled its wings. At that moment it seemed, to me, that the sky, the bird, the sails, my body, the boat, and the water existed as one complete entity.
There is no greater moment than when a boat begins to move under her own power. The crew feels the freedom of leaving land. The sensation is the same on every yacht, and in particular the classics featured in this beautiful book. On page after page, these yachts leap into our affections. You can truly feel what it is like to be on board these fourteen recently restored classics.
I love studying the intensity of the crews in this book’s photographs. These are teams just like you find in any sport, and their uniforms show the importance of each day on the water. Each member is assigned a different job, with everyone working together to set and trim sails, steer, call tactics, grind the winches, haul on halyards, and handle the endless miles of lines. The environment at sea is dynamicin order to gain an edge over the competition, crews must continually focus to stay in tune with the winds and waves. Well-disciplined crews keep their eyes on the task at hand, but no one can resist looking across the water to judge how their yacht is performing, and when gains are made, the crew feels a communal sense of satisfaction.
When I sail aboard a class yacht, I make a point to spend time on every part of the vessel. Your feelings change dramatically from different vantage points. The helm, of course, is my favorite because you can feel the power of the boat in your hands. Notice in many of the pictures that the helmsmen lean forward in an effort to make the yacht sail faster. Another great spot is on the leeward rail near the shrouds. The water rushing by the rail is loud. The hull seems to glide through the waves with authority. There is little conversation here because you fall into a kind of trance.
The bow is reserved fora unique fraternity of sailors. The bowman, in charge of setting new sails, is often the first to go aloft for any reason and is the lookout during close quarter situations with other boats. These people have a big responsibility to perform to perfection.
Going aloft in a bosun’s chair is not for the faint of heart. The deck looks very small when you are one hundred feet above it. The boat’s movement is amplified aloft. It is no accident that the early mariners had a rule, “one hand for yourself, and one hand for the ship.” Seasoned sailors are comfortable working on a yacht, while the novice can only marvel at the routine. However, once you get a taste for sailing, you are hooked by its rewards for a lifetime.
The boats featured in Classic Yachts connect generations. Friendships formed aboard are the common denominator that bonds every crew. Two shipmates might be separated for years, but a conversation about a race long past will never be forgotten. It is no accident that an owner would rather hang a picture of his yacht than of any other possession. She will always bring back pleasant memories.
Intrinsically at home in her surroundings, whether her backdrop be a seaport town, competitor, or just the water, a classic yacht makes one clean statement. From a distance she looks stately. As she gets closer, she comes alive with the living community of crew working on deck. To paraphrase an old quote from baseball legend Yogi Berra, “classic yachts are even better looking than they look.”
Classic yachts reflect the passion of their owners and designers. Every detail must be worked out in advance of construction. The master craftsman must take the dream, the drawings, and the materials to create these magnificent yachts. Many thousands of hours of loving labor go into building a yacht, and, once launched, great care must be taken to maintain her grandeur as well as her functionality. Every classic in this volume is well maintained. The teak decks are bright, the brass is always polished, the varnished wood glistens with the spray flashing past. And the crews, in their uniforms, look like they belong.
Flags, burgees, and pennants fly with purpose. You can tell that these signals all have great importance in reflecting the home yacht club, country, or owner’s private signal. There is always a reason for any flag to be displayed. Amateur vexillologists ensure that the proper flag is flown according to a strict protocol.
I love the way the shapes of sails form in shadows on the water in these photographs. The action of the waves accentuates the movement of the yacht. Every ripple adds to the majesty of the image. The symmetry of sails working together is artwork. In a strong breeze they are the lifeblood of yachts, as each one’s speed is derived from her sails. Getting just the right shape can make all the difference. Trimming is an endless experimentation. Crews measure progress against other boats, and when everything is trimmed perfection, many yachts can sail themselves. As a boat achieves balance, the helmsman can guide the yacht with only small adjustments to the rudder. At other times, such as in a big seaway, the yacht must be strictly controlled. At this point, the helmsman will work hard to keep her on a steady course, and sail trimmers will make adjustments for maximum gain. You can hear the clipped orders being shouted around the deck.
The great yacht designer Olin Stephens once said at a lecture at the New York Yacht Club that his priority for designing yachts was the comfort of the crew. When you are comfortable on a boat, you are able to work with confidence. This is quite an important statement coming from a man whose yachts have won the America’s Cup eight times, and the Newport to Bermuda Race fourteen times.
On April 13, 2008, Stephens celebrated his hundredth birthday. No doubt he has seen many changes in yacht design over his century of life. Classic yachts only seem to get better looking with age. Technological marvels of their day, these yachts are now even better to sail and easier to handle thanks to modern equipment like efficiently geared winches, synthetic ropes, advanced electronics, and light, but strong, perfectly shaped sails. Classic Yachts documents these technological advances and includes line drawings of the hull, keel, deck, and spaces down below. Future designers will no doubt study these drawings to understand why these classics endure decade after decade.
The owners of the classic yachts in this book deserve our appreciation for keeping them alive. And now, happily, Classic Yachts offers strikingly illustrated documentation of these enduring, legendary vessels. The sailors of today, as well as of tomorrow, are all grateful that these treasures live on. This is a book that you will return to often, and through it, your time on the water will come to life in moments of reflection.