Monday, June 20, 2011

Pirates and Pink Floyd

We've all seen them at our local boatyard.

Abandoned one-design racing boats, once part of big, healthy fleets, and now left with nothing to show for their former greatness but sun-fried gelcoat and faded memories. This can happen for any number of reasons. Perhaps class numbers dwindled, or the major hull manufacturers went out of business. Maybe a newer, slicker boat came along and lured away most of the younger sailors.

There was a time when the Buccaneer 18 Class seemed in danger of heading down this unfortunate path. However, the Roadshow crew can happily report that in 2011 things seem to be looking up for a design that, despite being conceived of in 1969 by Chrysler Marine (Yes, THAT Chrysler), remains a very fast, fun, and accessible boat.

Through hard work, open-mindedness, communication (in the shape of lively and helpful online forums), and a significant dose of humor, Buccaneer sailors have succeeded in raising interest and fleet participation. We got a chance to see this firsthand at the annual Buc's on the Bay Regatta at Narrasketuck Yacht Club in Amityville, NY.

Regatta organizer Gus Rappold recruited me as his guest skipper for the day, and I was excited to try my hand at an unfamiliar boat. Having never sailed a Buccaneer, I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of performance. I was pleased to discover that they plane in only 9-10 knots of wind, thanks to a powerful rig and an efficient, flat-bottomed hull design.

This level of performance and acceleration not only makes for fun sailing in and of itself, but great racing. If you fall back in the fleet, there is almost always hope of advancement, as small increases in wind pressure translate to huge speed gains. This keeps everyone focused, enthusiastic, and un-discouraged.

Powered by Gus's intimate knowledge of the boat, (and by his truly awesome paint job), we managed second place finishes in both races on Sunday. As a lifelong dinghy sailor, I felt right at home in the Buccaneer, and thoroughly enjoyed my day out on the Great South Bay.

Will and Gus onboard their psychedelic ride.

I can't help but feel that many other great one-design classes could benefit from the example shown by Buc sailors across the country. By getting new people out on the boats, sharing knowledge freely, and maintaining a sense of fun (As evidenced by an epic water gun fight midway through our day), the sport of sailing, and your local one-design fleet, can flourish indefinitely.


Great photography by Brooke!

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