Should you find yourself needing a bit of reassurance as to why you sail, a glimpse of the 300-plus beautiful classic yachts that were assembled in Saint Tropez in September for the 2009 Classic Boats Regatta will immediately have you remembering exactly why you fell in love with our sport-and lifestyle-in the first place.
This year's fleet ranged from majestic classic yachts-some of which are a century or more old-to recently built "spirit of tradition" boats that use modern construction techniques and technologies, but that assume classic lines. The fleet also ranged in size from exquisitely elegant daysailers to large (in some cases huge) custom one-offs.
It takes a cold heart to see these magnificent boats sailing and not fall in love with the craftsmanship, the timeless styles, the intriguing rigging, and the graceful sheerlines. These are not just boats but rather floating pieces of history that serve many purposes, one of which is to sail. For the owners and the dedicated crewmembers who race these lovely vessels, performance isn't the point. Rather, it's the experience of reaching back in sailing's rich history to a time when aesthetics and taste ranked alongside function.
If you think maintaining a fiberglass boat is a handful, simply gaze of the forest of varnished timbers that were floating off Saint Tropez and you'll quickly realize how easy modern sailors have it. But, should you be a modern sailor lucky enough to crew on-or own-one of these boats, you have long ago realized that the work, the effort, and the dedication needed to maintain one of these glorious boats is worth every second that's spent shoreside.
In fact, many wooden boat owners admit that working on their boats is as much a part of the experience as sailing them. This isn't to say that racing these majestic boats isn't a challenge for the crew and the brain trust alike. Dealing with the billowing walls of sail in close mark-rounding situations demands close attention and years of sailing experience. Many of these boats are crewed by professionals so you can bet your last can of varnish that these sailors take this seriously.
And should you need a little boost to your sailing psych, these few sights will send your heart and imagination into overdrive faster than watching two or more J-class boats flying their full downwind wardrobe. Now take this same vision a few steps further and imagine 300 glorious classic boats racing in the waters of Saint Tropez. If you're having memories of the first girl you kissed or the first time you went sailing, odds are spot on that you've heard the siren's song of these amazing pieces of sailing history.