The Vertue, the Nich 36, the S&S 34, even the Contessa 32? What makes the grade as a modern classic?


An interesting email from Richard Smurthwaite, who writes to ask about what constitutes a modern classic yacht.

‘I was sitting here thinking about my old (1982) Westerly Fulmar and the forthcoming weekend of yet more polishing out crazing from the cockpit surfaces. This led me to consider that she isn’t actually that old compared to the earliest fibreglass boats.

‘This then made me wonder what is the oldest, still in use, fibreglass, offshore sailing boat in the UK?’

And he adds: ‘I guess a time will come when GRP boats can truly be described as classics. There’s no reason why they can’t is there? Or does plastic rule them out?’

I really have no idea which might be the oldest, and am open to any suggestions, but as for whether a glassfibre boat can be termed classic, surely the answer is yes. Or perhaps: yes, depending.

Quite a few classic events welcome glassfibre boats, though they have some entry criteria. To take one example, the Classic Channel Regatta, which starts in Dartmouth this summer and goes to Brittany and the Channel Islands, has 80 entries ranging in size from the topsail schoonerJohanna Lucretiato the TumlarenBluenose.

Its eligibility rules read: ‘a few examples of designs we would include are: the Twister, Nicholson 36, the early (pre-wedge shape) Swans and the S&S 34. Right at the “modern edge” of what is accepted is the Contessa 32 (pre-1976).’

(And by the way, the photo above is of Janessa, a Nich 36 proudly owned by Alan Hyne-Jones. She is the first glassfibre boat that Camper & Nicholson ever built.)

In addition, many classic events, including Les Voiles de St Tropez, have a ‘Spirit of Tradition’ class for modern yachts that have classic lines, but can be built of any material and be any shape below the waterline.

It’s all subjective, of course. Personally, I’d apply the term modern classic to the Vertue, the Folkboat (plastic as well as wood), the Dragon (ditto) the Nich 32 and Rivals 34 and 36. Actually, Yachting World once had a series on modern classic yachts and we even included the not-so-pretty 1970s Amel Maramu on the basis that it had stood the test of time as an evergreen bluewater stalwart.

But there are surely lots of other worthy contenders. Any suggestions?