In the 1930’s Dorade was the fastest, most technologically advanced racing yacht. Today it’s easy to sail her and and see why we build boats differently. 80 years is a long time to make improvements and innovations. Bulb keels, self tailing winches, Tylaskas, and full headsail rigs all make sailing and racing boats easier and faster. None of these improvements can beat sailing a solid boat with a solid crew.
Saturday’s practice day consisted of setting sails most of the team were unfamiliar with. Spinnaker Staysail, Inner Forestay Sail and a Mizzen Staysail complete the regular line up of Main, Mizzen and Jib Dorade’s sail inventory. With hanks instead of Tuffluffs, rigging and setting these sails can be slower and more complex than what most people are used to. Everyone on the boat was able to readjust her thinking and actions and the boat was sailed like we had done it many times before. The all women crew on Dorade wasn’t special because it was made up of all women. It was special because the women were Olympians, America’s cup sailors and Rolex Sailors of the year and most had never Dorade before but all were able to adjust to everything the boat demanded.
Many sailors feel that the boats to be sailed in the upcoming America’s Cup might be a big mistake. Patricio Bertelli, Prada’s syndicate head, said this week that the boats are too complex and expensive. Others believe it should be sailed in a one design fleet, making it about the sailing instead of the money and technology. Fleet racing is more exciting to watch and easier to understand. The AC45s hit the nail on the head with their fast speeds and NASCAR style crashes. People who have never sailed or thought about sailing as sport are attracted to it and have come down to watch at every venue.
So why fix something that is working? Why sail boats that have proven in their short sea trials, to be unstable and potentially dangerous? Because just like Olin Stephens did in 1929, inventing new technology is at the heart of yachting and racing. Dorade changed the way racing yachts were built by having a deep keel and skinny beam. Her rig was designed to sail up wind. Many were skeptical of this new design. It was too race-y, too small and not posh enough for a yacht. There are doubts as to which technologies are going to trickle down to normal sailors and boats. After all, your mother’s 30’ cruiser is not going to be sailed with a wing any time soon. To be sure, there will be new materials, new ways of making them, and new ideas that stem from these gargantuan boats, just as Dorade shocked the public with her success and passed down many new ideas and inventions to the way boats are built.
Sailing Dorade with the incredible crew that we did proved that some boats are timeless, technology is priceless, and new ideas are what make the world turn. Sailing and racing technology is constantly changing. Appreciating new technology is as important as recognizing old classics. Everything has something to offer, whether its readjusting your thinking to make an 80 year old boat go faster, or redesigning something that is already faster than it should be. As long as we keep looking for the next thing to learn, we will become better sailors. Thanks to Matt and Pam for bringing Dorade back to San Francisco, and thanks to everyone involved for a great weekend on the water.