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60-year-olds back out on the racecourse, in classes they used to sail (sometimes even in their original boat) and loving it. They simply can’t get enough of it. Proving that sailing is a sport for your whole life. And not many sports can claim that.

It’s almost as if yacht racing is at a fork in the road with road signs indicating ‘right for evolutionary racing’, ‘left for revolutionary racing’! Will the two roads ever come back together again?

The future

OK, now the fun bit, the ‘what the future might hold’ part. Looking at changes in the past, and trying to envision where they will lead us, we can make some educated guesses. The America’s Cup If Coutts is right we will see massive growth in popularity due to the TV packaging and resulting fan base. It won’t be the America’s Cup as we have known it, it will be made-for-TV sport. Still, quite a show, and could attract big sponsorship and big money. If Coutts is wrong? What if the racing does not attract the television fans the way the NFL, Formula 1 and football in Europe do? In that case, the America’s Cup will (again) have to reinvent itself. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the America’s Cup has been around for a long time, and seen lots of uncertainty. It has always shown amazing resilience. The Olympic Games The first thing is for yachting to stay in the Olympics. Plenty of hoops to jump through and compromises to make that happen. Don’t kid yourself, this will be no easy task. The 2024 and 2030 Olympic Games must see one-design foiling boats, both monohull and catamaran. Kiteboards too. Keelboats won’t be making any comeback, but the Finn could well survive – the world needs a class for a 95kg guy. Big Boat RacingAt the upper end of the scale, as owners accumulate more wealth the boats will get bigger. Maxis went from 80ft to 100ft, so now perhaps to 180ft. Systems used to sail them will be better too. But sailing them will be (even) more like a video game: sails hoisted and trimmed from a tablet or smartphone. What is not so clear, at least to me, is what replaces the likes of the TP52 or Melges 32-type classes. My crystal ball is a bit foggy on that one. The owner-driver class will always make sense, and most sailing owners prefer a cutting-edge boat. If it’s a monohull it will be some kind of swing keel or push-button winched flyer. Fewer crew, and racecourses that allow the teams to ‘send it’. Sailors like to go fast, not slog upwind, so off-the-wind flyers will be the boat of choice. Perhaps the preferred cutting-edge boat will be a foiling cat, à la America’s Cup… I wonder if the owner-drivers of the future are up for that?

It’s a bit of a paradox, but boats will look simpler and cleaner, as in the rigging systems you will see – they certainly won’t include grinding pedestals and lots of ropes. The reality is they will be more complicated and hi-tech than ever before. But they will look clean. The Volvo Ocean Race I am seeing and thinking one-design cats, fast, relatively inexpensive, but thrilling. Safety is always a concern but we will understand the limits of these boats better in 15 years. The one-design is in keeping with the philosophy of keeping costs down and making it a ‘sailor’s’ race. One-Design Racing Now that is an interesting one! The new classes will have to be foiling catamarans or light-displacement swing-keel ‘sport’ boats. I can’t see a successful mass-production boat that does not excite or is not up with the latest trends. As for today’s classes in 2030, will the 45 to 65-year-olds who are leading the resurgence today still be leading the charge in 15 years? Will today’s 30-year-olds pick up the challenge? If they do, what kind of boats will they race? Perhaps they too will jump back into the boats that they grew up with… moths, cats and kiteboards? Or not.

There are lots of twists and turns before anyone can really predict, with any confidence, what sailboat racing will be like in 2030. Fair guess is the need for speed will accelerate the light-displacement cat and foiling world. Boats will be easier to crew, but more complicated systems will mean they are harder to maintain. Hydraulic engineering and system specialities will replace sailmaking as skills of choice.

Time will tell. For now let’s get out on the water and have some fun! SEAHORSE 21



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