Different take on the first boat
While reading all these posts about people looking for their first boat, I always wonder if the posters end up doing the kind of sailing they thought they would. Many of them are searching for relatively deluxe boats as their first ownership experience assuming that their sailing life will be what they imagined. I know that my plans changed after I bought my boat, and would like to offer this:
Many people don't hold on to boats for very long anyway, so, while figuring out what you need, why not buy a boat designed for racing? They tend to be simpler inside, have a more intriguing rig, and a smaller price tag. They can be fun to learn to sail well on, can usually accomodate some short cruising, and give you time to decide what kind of sailing will actually be happening before spending the much bigger bucks on a more complicated boat. They tend to be set up to be sailed by a crew, as mine was, but minor adjustments can fix that. You can find them as stripped out hulls and including some minor sleeping arrangements, so they can be a way to get into fun sailing without spending the big bucks before you know how to spend them.
Boats designed for racing are also generally sailed hard and put away wet. A racing boat generally has a much shorter lifespan than a cruising boat. It is often built more lightly than a cruising boat of the same size. Also, they aren't generally much cheaper than a coastal cruising boat of the same size... if they are cheaper at all.
While, i agree that most people don't keep their first boat for long, it generally isn't that great an idea to get a boat that is probably going to have more maintenance problems than one that is going to be more reliable.
It goes without saying that you have to choose carefully, just as you would with any boat. And, having looked into the matter, I maintain that you can find them for less than a similarly aged cruising boat. You can also drive a hard bargain frequently, since there seems to be a smaller market for out of date racing boats. Even if it is a bit worn, it is still a good way for a neophyte to find out what he's going to do once he actually owns a boat without spending a lot of money on it. There's an excellent chance that family participation rates and other factors will change once the boat is in the water with the new owner's name on it and money going out the companionway.
When we were looking for our first boat, I fell in love with the Sabre 28 which is a great boat and would be an excellent starter boat for lots of people. In our case though, we'd decided that rather than keep our boat in the northern part of the bay closest to where we lived, we decided we liked the mid-bay area better as a get away. We knew going in that we'd be staying on the boat pretty much every time we used it. We eventually decided that a bit more room would be important to us. As it turns out, I've never been to my boat that I didn't spend at least one night usually two or more. Chosing a boat with a bit more room was the right choice for us.
In a case where the person lived within a hour of their boat and planned to mainly daysail it, only ocasionally staying aboard, your suggestion might be a good one. Learning to make a sailboat move as fast as you can is fun and challenging and the type of boat you suggest offers a lot to learn. Still, if you drove 3 hours or more to get to your boat and had to spend the night on it every time you saw it, you might start to dislike it pretty quick if it wasn't pretty comfortable.
Aren't racing boats complicated?
I haven't been on too many of them, but they tend to have things like running back stays, barber haulers, line adjustable genoa leads, baby stays, spinnaker winches and spinnaker gear, and things that make it complicated for a beginner.
I think a basic, simple, cruiser / racer would be easier to sail, easier to survey, and easier to buy than a race boat.
Just mt $.02.
I chose the opposite tack to what Drynoc proposes. After learning to sail, I took six years to learn how to sail well - mostly by racing with some of the best people I could find. Then I thought long and hard about what kind of sailing I was likely to do. In my case, I realized it would be mostly daysailing with the promise of the occasional weekend cruise, at least as long as I'm still working.
I also recognized that my most frequent crew would be my wife, who really doesn't like sailing as much as lounging on the boat, so I'd essentially be single-handing. I learned from sailing on friends' boats with my wife that a large cockpit was essential to her well-being, so I decided it would have to have wheel-steering even though I'm partial to a tiller. Finally, I'm not real handy, so it would have to be in pretty good shape to start out - I can handle routine upkeep - so I was prepared to spend more.
The upshot is, I bought my first boat 6 1/2 years ago, my wife and I both love it enough that we resisted the temptation to sell during a financial rough patch, and I expect it will be my last boat, barring unforeseen disaster.
Pure racing boats tend to have been used hard. They tend to have more complicated sheeting. They also tend to be laid out below in a much more spartan fashion than the family wishing to learn to sail will enjoy. If you go too minimalist, and the rest of the family hates it, you'll be single handing.
Also, a true racing boat generally has a different motion in chop, or sailing to weather, and people who are prone to seasickness will (painting with broad strokes) likely have a harder time on a racer.
Finally, there are maintenance tasks needed to keep a racing boat in trim that you don't do with a cruiser or a cruiser/racer. For example, a racing J/24 will have a faired hull and keel, slick painted, which you have to haul and wash down after every race. If you don't, you'll grow a lawn on the hull. If you put regular botom paint on her, you'll have a hard time selling her to someone who wants to race. As one data point, if my family had to use the hoist every time we wanted to go for a sail, I'd be (as mentioned above) singlehanding a lot.
Many yacht clubs, at least on the Chesapeake, allow you to join up and crew without actually owning a boat. If the family gets an inexpensive cruiser, but still wants to learn to race, that's a pretty good way to do it.
Bottom line, I don't think a racing boat is the best choice for a beginner, unless they want to race almost exclusively.
It really depends what is and what you are considering a race boat, what size you are considering, and how far in racing was it concieved and used. Was it small club races or World IMS Championship?? Is it a small or a larger boat.
I've seen hardcore raceboats that were used only for one year, because they are no longer competitive...but who is going to buy a paper thin 42' B&C that was almost bent in half?? How you are going to sail on a boat that was conceived to barely stay upright?? Whose keel was removed 15 times in a year, that has more lead in the head of the bowman than in the keel?? That needs at least 5 people to sail it.
How will a newcomer sail on a raceboat?? Race boats have sheet controls normally far appart because they're designed for more than one crew..is it good to have a newcomer doing this??? Most probably he will quit sailing as he will feel frustrated.. Try to have a newcomer sail on a weekend on a 470!!! Can only keep it upright if the sails are down and the crew sitting down.
Race boats are designed to be relatively and inherentely unstable, to help point, tack and have a more complicated rig..All these will be problematic to a newcomer. don't you agree?
Also, you will not get a decent race boat, like a 40.7, or a JOD 35 for less than their equivalent in a cruising mode new. In fact, some of the race boats I know, even after their "race shelf life" is done and gone, are still worth and sold for more than what they cost initially. Unless its a 1970's something...but then again...that would be just trouble...
So the question remains...what do you mean by race boat...and how race is race...
If you're looking at a smaller club racer..maybe you're right, but racing dinghies are not good for that, and I believe, that above 26 feet aren't good either for a newcomer.
Also...abuse...some boats that race...well...once they're done...they're done..
I know of a 2002 44.7 that has received over 200.000 in upgrades, just to be competitive...and was...(not anymore) now that investment is seen in the price tag...that boat is worth half million US. for that you could buy a new Catalina.
Now the boat is for sale, water enters thru all holes, has a carbon mast, that requires attention all the time, the furniture is all scratched and dented...has 10 sails (what are you gonna do with them?? half you can't even fold on your own)..its just trouble...its worth a lot for what it has, but its all useless...can't race, to tricky to sail alone, and its all beat up.
The cheap race boats you find, are cheap because they lost their edge, and can't go racing with them anymore, and no on e wants them..thus being cheap....that does not make them easy to sail by a newcomer, its the opposite.
I think the best starter boats are centreboard boats between 14 and 20 feet. Most grown-ups don't really want to get wet and aren't too concerned with learning a lot of the finer points of balance and sail trim. They want to get on, drink beer and float around for a while (perfectly honorable aspirations as far as I am concerned). SO - all the go-faster gear is a bit of a waste, because the boat needs pretty good electronics to be able to tell you what the result of tightening your backstay an inch is. And it's a PITA to have to put down your drink and put your shoes on to pull on something that isn't that important anyway....
So - my $.02 - get something that isn't too expensive, that has a few dings so you won't feel guilty about destroying a piece of maritime history - make sure there's a porta potti and a cooler, and no holes in the hull that aren't supposed to be there.
Go out and have all the accidents, groundings, near-misses, gear failures until you understand what you're doing wrong, then paint her up pretty and send her on her way to teach the next bunch.
(Cause I have to admit that I find few things funnier than watching a moneyed newbie on a sled trying to figure out what rope he is supposed to pull next)
I wouldn't want to take my family day sailing on a J24 in puget sound. I can get my racing fix crewing for free and learn just as much without having to own one or subject my family to a pounding.
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