Boat Reviews

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Martin acknowledges the Santana 20 can’t keep up with the latest crop of sport boats, but insists that isn’t a problem for the boat’s fans. “Okay, it’s a Seventies design,” he says. “New boats are faster—if that’s worth another $70,000 to you.”

For W.D. Schock Corp., the Santana 20 marked a fortunate departure from the rather bumpy, distorted IOR-influenced hull shapes of the time. The rudder has a low aspect ratio by 2011 standards, and the stern is a bit narrow, but designer Shad Turner still drew a clean, fair hull that has stood the test of time.

In 1996, the company pulled off the trick of updating the boat, with an open transom and rolled cockpit seats, without destroying the class. Although there are now plenty of “new” Santana 20s out there along with the original boats, plus some original hulls with new decks, none of these boats is automatically faster. The class recently weighed a cross-section of the fleet, finding maximum differences of 200 pounds (on an advertised displacement of 1,350 pounds) and no correlation to hull number. In an Olympic class, 200 pounds would never do, but this is about playing games with your friends at a price point. And it hasn’t determined a national championship, yet.

Santana 20s trailer easily and are raced in both one-design and handicapped fleets on both coasts and in lakes across the United States. A relatively wide beam waterline provides greater initial stability than many newer designs, making it a great boat to learn on. According to five-time national champion Chris Winnard, a sailmaker from Seattle, Washington, with plenty of experience in other boats, “The Santana 20 has made me the sailor that I am. It’s a great vehicle for learning how to sail keelboats.”

Adam Mazurkiewicz, who sails mostly on lakes out west, agrees. “My wife wanted a boat we could hang out on. I wanted a boat to race, and the Santana is very satisfying on that score. It has all the adjustments of a big boat. There’s always a job for everybody, the whole race long. Generally we race with three or four, but it’s easy enough for two people to sail. We can take a learner or two along and keep everybody comfortable. And, oh yes, downwind in a breeze it’s wildly exciting.”

Tom Schock likes to call the Santana 20 the original sport boat. “We sold 50 of them at the 1976 Long Beach boat show, which was amazing, we weren’t prepared for that, and by the third year we were turning out three a day.”

He adds that the new deck has played a major role in the boat’s longevity, helping to ensure the class will remain a vibrant one for years to come. “The comfort level went up 5,000 percent,” Schock says. “We sold about a hundred new boats and that many more new decks for old boats. It revitalized the class, but it was critical to not blow away the existing fleet. We had to hit the bullseye, and we did.”

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