Where Do Old Race Boats Go To Die?

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We went for an after-dinner stroll in Lunenburg last evening and found the old Volvo 60, Amer Sports 1, alongside the visitor float.

In her day, early in the millennium, she represented the pinnacle of high tech racing machines, designed and built to be sailed in the Volvo fully crewed around the world race by the very best professional sailors in the business.

Now she is looking kind of sad. Her paint faded and chipped. The covers of her two carbon fibre spinnaker poles sun rotten and frayed. But you can still see the power and speed in her lean and low hull and, according to the brokerage listing, someone is still spending money on her. For me, it was a bit like seeing an elite athlete who is just starting to go to seed.

Coming across her got me thinking about the scores of Volvo 60s, and their predecessors, Whitbread 60s; not to speak of even more, I would guess, superannuated Open 60s, 50s and 40s—all way-cool boats that were at the top of the game in their day and are now reduced to…what?

Occasionally you see one around, but not often, at least on this side of the Atlantic. I suspect that most of them are rotting—Does carbon fibre rot? No of course not, but it sounded good—in the corner of some boat yard or harbour.

Anyway, I really don’t have any ideas of how these boats could be used in a useful way. And maybe I’m quite wrong about this, and they are all being used in great ways.

Really, I’m just sayin’, as our friends in the middle part of the large country to the south of us are want to say. Ten solid days of rain tend to make me think gloomy thoughts—fog, I can deal with, and even quite like, but rain gets old after a while.

Anybody have any great ideas for a productive use for these boats?

The shot below is apropos of exactly nothing at all, except I like it and I have a new camera to play with that may just be the ultimate cruiser camera. More on that in a future post.

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{ 26 comments… add one }

  • Dick Stevenson July 7, 2013, 12:30 pm

    John, I do not know. I hope someone out there is still putting them through their paces and having fun—but I doubt it. Someone (I hope) will strike it rich when they figure something lucrative for old fiberglass and used tires. Quite a contrast to Colin’s last essay and the longevity and love which those boats enjoy.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    Reply
  • Colin Speedie July 7, 2013, 2:06 pm

    Hi John

    It’s not just those later generation Whitbread boats. There are still quite a number of the older IOR maxis around, still going strong. Many of them end up as charter boats, to give oldies like us the chance to sail one of the top boats of our younger days. There’s one here in the boatyard (Trinidad) now called ‘Martella’ (ex Martela of Finland, 1989 Whitbread) which is now a day charter boat in Barbados. Or how about ‘Drum’, based on the Firth of Clyde?

    Obviously it’s the famous ones that tend to survive, but you need really deep pockets to run one, which is why they can often be bought for next to nothing. They were the Formula One boats of their era, and unless looked after are pretty scary to sail – imagine driving an old F1 car with worn out suspension and brakes! Replacing anything on them is going to cost a fortune, and much of the deck gear is obsolete – imagine the cost of a new mainsail, or a coffee grinder system, for example.

    And finding somewhere to keep them isn’t easy, either – 80ft long and 12ft draft can’t be found everywhere or had cheaply.

    Best wishes

    Colin

    Reply
    • John July 9, 2013, 8:28 am

      Hi Colin,

      That’s a good point about the costs of running these boats, even though you can buy them very inexpensively.

      Reply
  • Tim Chapman July 7, 2013, 5:41 pm

    Also ‘British Steel’ on a mooring on the River Dart in UK. Looking very tired.

    Reply
  • Tom hildebrandt July 8, 2013, 9:33 am

    I have seen several of similar boats used in day charters, carrying backpackers for three and four day trips in the Whitsundays. I also saw some older match racing style boats still racing, matched against themselves with tourists as crew but I can not remember where, perhaps one of the Windwards in the Carribean.

    Reply
  • David Nutt July 8, 2013, 11:04 am

    I have the good fortune to own ‘Danza’, a sister ship to the original ‘British Steel’. She is a powerful old boat with many years of life left in her. She has served my family well on a 6 year circumnavigation and a summer trip to Greenland. Plans are now unfolding to do the Northwest Passage on her. An old but not too fancy boat lives on and I am sure a place can be found for some of the other oldies out there.

    Reply
  • Westbrook July 8, 2013, 11:34 am

    Five 12-meter America’s Cup boats are moored in Great Bay, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten where they take tourists on board for informal races: Stars & Stripes 86, Stars & Stripes 87, Canada II, True North I, and True North IV.

    Reply
  • RDE July 8, 2013, 3:20 pm

    Of course not all old race boats are VOR 60′s or America’s Cuppers.

    Some 20 years ago there was a Serendipity 43 named Wings that was the terror of the Wed. nite beer can races in Seattle. Fred and Judy lived aboard, held down suit-and-tie jobs and never missed a sailboat race. In the ensuing 20 years they’ve slowly worked their way around the world, still racing in whatever area they happen to be and still living aboard.
    http://wingssail.blogspot.com/

    Now I happen to think they are nuts, not for choosing a Serendipity 43, but for sailing around the world in a flush deck boat with no cockpit backrests and no real dodger!

    As to cost, the aluminum Peterson 43 Mahalo recently sold for $15,000, and I know of a glass/epoxy one for 25k. I saw Mahalo in Deale MD a couple of years ago when she was for sale for 60k. New Yanmar, current electronics, nice paint and fairing, even a Monitor wind vane. But for the timing and logistics I’d have been the thief who ended up owning her—.

    Reply
  • Dave Benjamin July 8, 2013, 4:23 pm

    While cruising, we met a family with 2 or 3 kids cruising on a former BT 60. This was one of the 60′ steel boats used in the “pay to play” RTW race. It made little or no sense to me why someone would choose that boat as a family cruising boat. Costs of sails and rigging are predictably astronomical. They are set up for a full crew to manage as are most crewed race boats. Loads are tremendous as the rig is quite powerful. It’s certainly not a forgiving platform. The interior is set up for a large crew, not a family. Obviously the boat will perform quite well but I’d much prefer a ride on Morgans Cloud.

    Reply
    • Colin Speedie July 8, 2013, 7:51 pm

      Hi Dave

      There were two variants of those British Steel challenge boats – the earlier 67′s designed by David Thomas which are a bit more ‘cruiser’ oriented and the later Rob Humphreys 72′s which were less so – it was said at the time that they drew these latter models to be more tender to stop the crews pushing them too hard, and losing the rigs…..

      Many of them have since been made into ‘adventure’ type charter boats, or bought up by sail training clubs like the Ocean Youth Trust in the UK. Crewed they are fine, although I’ve heard that they’re not as successful as they might be as they lack enough bunks to make them viable! Designed to be hot bunked they don’t have enough for a big crew. Bear in mind that earlier series boats run by the Ocean Youth Club had up to 22 bunks.

      These latter boats were to a far more traditional 72 ft Robert Clark design, ketch rigged and with a beautifully balanced hull form. I skippered one of those boats, and two people could sail one (conservatively) with ease, which I very much doubt you could say for one of the BT boats.

      Best wishes

      Colin

      Reply
      • Chuck January 10, 2014, 3:31 pm

        The early OYC 72′ make a fantastic family world cruiser as there is space and these boats were handled by 2 crew and a mass of willing hands… Simple rig, Well balanced hull and sail plan and a few electric winches would easily replace the 18 crew…. Where are they and why is anything Good so undesirable and yet expensive….

        I agree Modern BT still require crew and need somebody at the helm at all times……

        Reply
        • Colin Speedie January 10, 2014, 5:00 pm

          Hi Chuck

          Some of them are still out there, indeed the boat I used to skipper was recently for sale, I heard. She had been much improved from her original state (as I sailed her), with winches, roller headsails, windlass etc., much modified interior and so on, and -probably – an autopilot! As she was one of the lucky ones that had wheel steering from new, that wouldn’t have needed changing – just as well, as the tiller steered ones were brutes in a blow.

          Many of them were at one time lying in various states of disrepair in boatyards in the Solent. The problem was that towards the end there was no money to repair or improve them, and so some of them were cannibalised to keep the others going. Others, too had their interiors chopped around in ways that did them no favours.

          Bottom line – they were by then old boats (rigs etc.) by then, and despite their simplicity they would inevitably cost a great deal to update simply due to their size. Many must simply have been abandoned.

          But I did see one two years ago in the Canaries that had been nicely updated, and she looked very good. I don’t know which boat she had originally been (the name had been changed), but it’s still nice to know that some of them – at least – are still going strong. Great boats in all weather.

          Best wishes

          Colin

          Reply
  • Patrick July 8, 2013, 5:24 pm

    In New Zealand – Auckland you can sail them as a paying guest, they have a couple of america’s cup boats and the Steinlager and I believe Lion and sometimes they race against each other with paying guests on board.

    Reply
  • Austin July 8, 2013, 8:03 pm

    Hi John,

    The V60 you took the snap of is “Spirit of Adventure” and is being campaigned by Derek Hatfield. You can find out more about her at SpiritofCanada.net.

    Austin

    Reply
    • John July 9, 2013, 8:34 am

      Hi Austin,

      Thanks for the heads up. No indication on the hull of any name other than her old one, but then I went to Derek’s site and found that that’s exactly the case. Good on him for trying it on. I hope it works out.

      Reply
  • Evan Gatehouse July 8, 2013, 10:14 pm

    It’s sad but old race boats are like old race cars. Technology moves on, racing rules change (I’m looking at you IOR and IMS) and they lose value pretty quickly. The bigger ones do cost a fortune to keep up.

    Like Dave, I met the folks on the BT 67. They couldn’t sail the boat to anywhere near it’s potential. Too scary and they said it would rapidly get ahead of you if the wind came up fast.

    But the famous ones live on. I’ve sailed on some IACC boats in Auckland and the family sailed on Lion New Zealand (now there’s a legend) in the Bay of Islands. My 10 year old daughter took the helm for a while.

    awesome pics here:
    http://maiaaboard.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/teaching-10-year-old-about-love-heroes.html

    Reply
  • Dennis Harjamaa July 9, 2013, 8:21 am

    Paul Bieker converted a 30′ racing skiff into a neat outboard powered camp cruiser a few years ago. Seeing that project made me wonder whether turning one of the more recent open 60 mono or a Volvo hull into a cruising powerboat would be worth investigating.
    Certainly the hulls have been engineered for far greater loads than they would see as powerboats, no deep canting keel or massive rig compression.
    The deck would need a bit of a modification to give the interior some usable volume, maybe a small pilothouse could be designed to keep the helmsman out of the weather. This could even be made to look fairly good I think given the length and beam of these hulls.
    If things were kept fairly simple and light weight a very small engine could produce good cruising speeds very efficiently.
    It would be interesting to do a feasibility study on something like this.

    Reply
    • John July 9, 2013, 8:32 am

      Hi Dennis,

      Now that’s an interesting idea. I guess the hull forms would not be ideal, but it might be a cheap way to get on the water, although I do wonder about the cost of convertion, but maybe it would work for a handy DIY owner.

      Reply
  • John July 9, 2013, 8:30 am

    Hi All,

    Nice to hear all the stories of classic race boats that continue to have useful lives, although I do fear that they are in the minority.

    Reply
  • Glen Dickson February 16, 2014, 7:28 pm

    Actually, I’m off in a few days to hook up with Derek Hatfield and a group of sailors from Ontario as we race Spirit of Adventure/AS1 in the Caribbean 600. Derek told me recently he hopes to have the boat repainted this year. We’ll let you know if she’s still got a turn of speed!

    Reply
    • John February 17, 2014, 1:26 am

      Hi Glen,

      Have a good trip…and keep your head low.

      Reply
  • Fredrick Roswold June 17, 2014, 12:53 pm

    The real story is that the old race boats aren’t really dying, most of them just fall into a state of neglect or disrepair, often owned by a person who bought one cheap and has a dream but doesn’t have the resources to keep it up. But the boats are still around and mostly they are real good boats with a lot of life still in them. They are universally a good deal.
    Here are some points and misconceptions that can be corrected:
    The racing deck layouts don’t make them difficult to sail, race boats are laid out for efficiency and speed of operation; winch placement, line leads, etc, are for quickness and ease of use, so in a cruising situation you get that benefit, everything is over winched, conveniently placed and easy to operate.
    The sails, etc, are not horribly expensive. Race boats usually sail quite nicely with good Dacron sails, and big jibs, etc, are not needed. Sails won’t be any more, often less, expensive than a similarly sized cruising boat which is heavier and needs more sail area.
    Interiors are not comfortable. This one is true. However, an open, unfinished interior is a great opportunity for a remodel.
    Sailing is challenging on a race boat. No, it is easy. Keep the sails shortened and you go fast without much stress or bother, and you will know that a good offshore raceboat is built to take a beating.
    AND…
    They sail. Y0u can go upwind, you can sail in light air. If you want to sail rather than motor around with the mainsail up calling it motorsailing, you need a boat with raceboat performance.
    They have wide open decks which make deck work while sailing easy.
    They keep weight out of the ends, better for handling rough seas.
    They usually come with heaps of equipment and sails which would be expensive to buy new.
    They are easy to work on because they were usually just bolted together and you don’t have to remove furniture to get to a tank or engine part.
    I could go on, but my blog http://wingssail.blogspot.com/ best describes it.
    Hello to David (Danza) and to RDE: thanks for the mention, but out dodger is perfect (keeps us dry and we can see forward, always an advantage, and the flush deck makes great working platform, but you are right, no backrests. Yes we are crazy, but not due to our choice of boat.

    Reply
    • John June 17, 2014, 3:58 pm

      Hi Fredrick,

      Yikes, I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree on just about all of that. In my opinion racing boats usually make very poor cruising boats:

      • Poor hull form for cruising (violent motion).
      • Poor deck layout for short handed crews.
      • Often wide open decks with few hand holds or places to wedge yourself.
      • Wide cockpits with low combings that are both uncomfortable and easy to be washed out of.
      • High tech construction using high modulus materials that often have very poor impact performance.

      I could go on, but you get the idea.

      Reply
      • Fredrick Roswold June 17, 2014, 10:13 pm

        John, I don’t mind the disagreement, but even though this thread is old, I’ll take the time to respond to some of the things you’ve said because these arguments are so often used against performance types of boats that they’ve become accepted as facts. But in most cases, they are not. In a lot of years of sailing, on my own boat as well as lots of other types of boats, from full keel cruisers to lightweight carbon racers, I’ve found these kind of generalizations are rarely true.
        First let me say that I am not a race-boat purist. I like a lot of different kinds of boats; if they are well designed, look good, and can sail reasonably, I like them.
        Your comments:
        Poor hull form for cruising (violent motion).
        This myth has been around for years. It is not based on fact. Hull form might change the motion a certain degree but weight is more of a factor than hull shape, and even then, it is a trade-off between one kind of bad motion (going over waves) or another (driving straight through them). Neither is comfortable. It is a myth that lighter weight, performance oriented boats, have violent motions.
        Poor deck layout for short handed crews.
        This is just plain wrong in the fact of it. Most race boats have cockpits where everything is close at hand and easy to operate, this is something which is needed for efficiency in a race but it benefits us who sail shorthanded as well. Secondly, all the lines are generally led straight to a winch or stopper to reduce friction so things are marvelously easier. On boats with small winches, poor placement, and high friction leads you spend a lot more of your energy overcoming friction than pulling in sails. Take for example a cruising boat with a mainsheet on the cabin top, a six to one set of blocks, mid boom sheeting, a traveler ahead of the companionway, and a small winch under the dodger…grinding in the main on that boat is going to be hard and will probably take forever. On a race boat this arrangement would never be tolerated. And since race boats are laid out to be run from the cockpit, going to the mast is less often required.
        Often wide open decks with few hand holds or places to wedge yourself.
        Well, I just don’t find that to be an issue. I’ve spent a lot of time on lots of decks doing things like sail changes or securing a sail bag or loose piece of gear, or other unplanned tasks, often in lousy conditions, and lots of time at the mast, and I can tell you, a clear deck is a nice place to work. No one likes to go on deck in rough weather, but with a clear deck you get there, do your job, and get back quickly, and I tell you, there are plenty of places to plant your foot or hook your elbow. I have never fallen off or even fallen down.
        Wide cockpits with low combings that are both uncomfortable and easy to be washed out of.
        Yes on the “wide and uncomfortable”. Its true and having table and seats make entertaining easier when in port. At sea a long bench and a seatback under a dodger would be nice. Your point. Getting washed out however, TP52 and Volvo style sailing excepted, just does not happen. In 29 years we have never had a deluge of water which would wash anyone out. We’ve filled the cockpit plenty of times, and gotten really wet if we didn’t duck behind the dodger, but getting washed out, or even moved, never happened, not even close. Maybe by not being a submarine in big waves we avoid those rivers across the decks. Anyhow, that is another myth which sounds logical but just does not happen.
        The biggest risk onboard a boat is of falling. When the boat takes a sudden roll, if you are not hanging on, you can fall or get thrown Falls can happen on any kind of boat and big, wide cockpits make those kinds of falls more dangerous. Agreed. That being said, our only bad falls have been below decks. To be honest with you, small, cramped cockpits, full of gear and surrounded by all sorts of installed hardware and equipment, present their own set of dangers.
        High tech construction using high modulus materials that often have very poor impact performance.
        There is a reason why they use kevlar for bullet proof vests. High-tech, high modulus constructions makes very tough boats, and impact performance is excellent. I can tell you, having sailed and hit things on high tech boats, I’ve never had a hull breach or even a crack. On the other hand, any boat can break. My friend’s full keel, heavy displacement, cruiser hit something, a glancing blow on the side which they barely felt, which opened up a fitting on the side and cracked the hull, and they took on water. They stemmed the flow, after removing enough furniture to find the crack, but had to beach the boat in Madagascar to repair the crack.
        My feeling is that a boat which is fun to sail, and which sails really well, will be sailed more often than a boat which sails poorly, with excess clutter and too much weight in the ends, and on which things are inconvenient to operate. If it isn’t fun to sail, and does not sail well, people won’t sail it. And they don’t. Spend any day in the Caribbean and watch how many boats motor from island to island when there is a nice cracking breeze up. And they all have roller furling mainsails, RIB dingys hanging on davits over the stern, and cockpits so enclosed and cluttered they are difficult to get out of. They wait in port for a weather window (four days without wind). No wonder. OK, I am being as bad in my criticism as those who condemn race boats because they have clear decks. I’ll stop.
        Look, the debate can go on, and I am willing, but people with fixed viewpoints are rarely budged by facts or rational, and I don’t know if you are one of them, but what we should both do is make sure our minds are open to the idea that there exists a wide variety of boats which can be good cruisers. What one chooses is just that, a matter of choice. And it matters more what kind of a person you are than the kind of boat you have.

        Reply
  • John June 18, 2014, 7:30 am

    Fredrick,

    Lots of good points, and like you, I like lots of different boats and have done a lot of racing in my time. And yes, there are many bad cruising boats around with all of the problems you mention.

    Having said that I still feel that, on a general basis, a purpose built well designed offshore voyaging boat is a much better bet for cruising, particularly short handed, than a converted racing boat.

    And I stick by all of my points in my first reply.

    Reply
  • Fredrick Roswold June 18, 2014, 9:41 am

    OK

    Reply

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