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post #32 of Old 07-24-2013
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Re: Eighty-year old wooden full keel boat beats new "Interesting Boats" in Transpac

Hate? Now there is a strong word....

I don't know who that is aimed at, but speaking for myself, I truly love that ‘Dorade’ was able to pull this off. In fact, I really love it when any of these old birds ('Nina', ‘Dorade’ , Cal 40's and Rhodes 41's for example) beat up on modern hardware in a major race. To me it represents a collection of what makes for the best kinds of racing; where a well prepared boat, racing under a skillful skipper and crew, under a fair rating system, can win for all the right reasons.

I love what her win says about Olin Stephens and his brother Rod's amazing abilities. Her win shouts volumes about what a super designer Olin was. In the 83 years, since her launching its easy to forget how radical she was in her day, or how young Olin was when he designed her. Olin was only 21 years old when he penned ‘Dorade’ 's lines. His brother Rod, was a genius at designing and sorting out rigs.

If you are not a student of yacht design history, ‘Dorade’ might seem like a perfectly normal design for her era. But seen in the context of her day, ‘Dorade’ and the Fife designed 'Hallowe'en' (which set a Fastnet record that lasted 75 years until beaten by Ted Turner's 'Tenacious' in the 1979 Fastnet, yes, that Fastnet) were breaking new and untread ground. In their day they were as shockingly outlandish and alien seeming as the release of Jimi Hendrix's first album.

In those days race boats were predominantly designed for inshore race courses. Offshore race courses were dominated by boats derived from working watercraft designs. What Stephens and Fife did to shake up the world was to adapt core design principles from the best of these inshore race designs to the design of offshore racing boats.

At the time, the sailing press lambasted their tall Bermuda rigs, narrow beam, and small keel areas. The debates surrounding the current bleeding edge race designs are but an echo of the debates that raged within the establishment of their day and which slammed boats like ‘Dorade’ and ‘Hallowe’en’.

The proof that the 21 year old Olin got it as right as he possibly could have is that ‘Dorade’, dominated the major race courses of the world until her younger sister, 'Stormy Weather' hit the race course. As Olin commented, 'Stormy' was a little beamier and could stand up to her sail plan better, and so was generally a slightly better all around boat than ‘Dorade’ .

To me, there will always be iconic boats, which in every era represent a major leap forward in the art and science of sailing vessel design in their day. To me, boats like America, Glorianna, Jolie Brise, Colin Archer’s Redningsselskape, Malabar II, ‘Dorade’ , Hallowe'en, International 10 sq. meter decked Sailing Canoe , Uffa Fox's first planning International 14, Finnesterre, Trinka, Intrepid, the Cal 40's, Ganbare, J-24's, Valiant 40's, Gaucho, Farr 40’s, Melges 24’s, 2000's era Open Class 60’s, 2000's era Mini-Transat’s, Foiling Moth One Designs, and so on, were landmark designs; each of changed the way that the sailing world looked at boat design. They are the missing links in the advancement of yacht design and while some of what these boats pioneered has not stood the test of time, at least some their DNA is discernable in the boats of today.

In my mind these are all boats which should be revered and celebrated; and each of which I personally admire for what they are. But to me, celebrating these designs is not about putting them on a pedestal and pretending they were perfect designs for all ages. To me, celebrating these designs means understanding them in the context of their times, understanding them for their strengths and their weaknesses as compared to the designs that came before, and those which came after them.

In that vein, there is no doubt in my mind that ‘Dorade’ was a super boat for her day. There is no doubt in my mind that her original and recent Transpac wins are impressive on all counts, and demonstrated that well sailed and well prepared boats like her remain highly capable race boats in the right venue and under a fair racing rule.

But I also recognize what I believe to be the reality of the situation, if we compare ‘Dorade’ to a modern 52 foot race boat such as a TP-52, or to a modern racer-cruiser of the same displacement sailing on a windward leeward course, triangular course, or a distance course that includes all points of sail, I would be skeptical that ‘Dorade’ , for all of her other virtues, would get line honors.

But 'Dorade' not beating a modern racing design boat for boat is okay with me. I’d sooner look at ‘Dorade’ any day of the week and would probably have a bigger grin on my face if I was ever honored enough to sail on her than I can imagine having on any modern race boat.


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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay

Last edited by Jeff_H; 07-24-2013 at 12:08 PM.
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