Skip to main content

The (Happy) State of Sailing

Full confession, when I first sat down to write this month’s editorial the plan was to bash Emirates Team New Zealand and its decision to put the site of the next America’s Cup up for sale, likely leaving its hometown, Auckland, New Zealand, in the lurch. Remember back in Bermuda when the Kiwis were suggesting they were going to restore the Cup to its former glory after wresting it from the grip of that money-grubbing American, Larry Ellison?

The more I worked on the issue you now hold in your hand, though, the more I found myself thinking that, America’s Cup aside, there has honestly never been a better time to be a sailor. Take this year’s Best Boats contest (for our preview story). Granted, not every new design will be every sailor’s cup of tea. But the diversity of new boats going down the ways in combination with the many used boats already out there sailing means there’s now truly something for everyone. Not only that, but today’s sailboats are better than ever. Many will claim, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” and they’re right. Looking back on the boats I’ve sailed in recent years as part of our Best Boats program, I’m struck by some of the outstanding designs I’ve seen and truly incredible experiences I’ve had. Whether it’s quality control, performance under sail or simply comfort and convenience afloat, today’s boats are in a class by themselves. I’m not saying every new boat out there is perfect. But even a perfunctory glance at all too many of the boats launched in decades past will show how far we’ve come.

Then there are today’s sailors, with the stories in this latest issue once again leaving me nothing less than amazed at the passion and life experiences of our contributors. Most are not professional writers. They’re simply ordinary people whose lives have been made so much more than ordinary by the simple fact of their being sailors—and their having some great stories to show for it.

Take the case of Greg MacIver, who gave up a desk job to become a boatbuilder and in recent issues has been recounting the retrofit of his nearly 50-year-old Santana 27. (Refurbishing Shirley Rose, p.60) Or Cruising Club of America Young Voyager Award winner Ellen Massey-Leonard and her account of a passage she and her husband, Seth, made, sailing 2,400 miles hard on the wind in the South Pacific (Close-hauled to Hawaii, p.36). Who says today’s sailors ain’t tough! Then there’s Mike Jacker and his tale of how he and his “Louis & Clark” crew prepared for a trip to the South Pacific in the mid-‘70s. Not only does Jacker’s story serve as a great reminder of how far sailing has come, he continues sailing to this day on the often-tempestuous waters of Lake Michigan. (A List of Lists, p.44)

Figure-8 voyager Randal Reeves, Emily Greenberg’s recent engineless transit of the Dismal Swamp Canal, Pip Hurn’s outstanding Vendée Globe—the list of sailors living extraordinary lives as recounted in just the last few issues of SAIL goes on and on. Better still, these stories are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the sailing community as a whole. To paraphrase Carly Simon, these are the good-old days, at least as far as sailing is concerned. Here’s hoping you’re making the most of them as well. If not, what are you waiting for? Oh, and if you want see me bash on the Kiwis, turn to p.30

September 2021



Just Launched Mid-sized Cruisers

With so many manufacturers dreaming up bigger production boats, more and more mid-sized cruisers fall on the smaller end of their lines. However, “smaller” does not mean less, and the tricks for optimizing larger models have helped with squeezing more enjoyment into less LOA. As more


Charter: Lake Tahoe

A sail on Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since the day I first laid eyes on it, and come hell or high water, I decided I was going to someday charter a boat there. North America’s largest and deepest alpine lake, Tahoe sits at 6,225ft above sea level and straddles the more


Escape from New York Part 1

I was never supposed to take my boat through New York City. After getting sucked backward through the Cape Cod Canal on my way south from Maine, when the speed of the current exceeded the maximum speed of my little electric auxiliary, I wanted nothing to do with Hell Gate and more


A Watermaker Upgrade

As a classic-boat sailor, I’ve long held that simpler is the better. I still think this is true: a simpler boat is cheaper, she has less gadgets to break down and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re able to handle a bit of discomfort. Thus, for a long time, I sailed more


Sailing Speed Records

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built more


Chartering with Non-sailors

Three tips on managing the madness First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, more


A Gulf Stream Crossing at Night

Even the dome of light glowing above the city behind us had disappeared as if swallowed in a gulp by Noah’s whale. The moon was absent. Not a star twinkled overhead. The night was so dark we could have been floating in a pot of black ink. The only artificial lights to be seen more


Summer Sailing Programs

Every year, countless parents find themselves navigating the do’s and don’ts of enrolling their children in a summer learn-to-sail program for the first time. While the prospect of getting your kid on the water is exciting, as a sailing camp program director, there are a lot of more