Your views on some of the best modern classics from the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia


There have been plenty of interesting emails on the subject of whether or not a glassfibre boat can be considered a classic yacht , and quite an international response. Here’s what readers said:

‘Interesting query, and of course GRP boats can be, and now are, classics,’ responded Ginny Jones (from the US.) ‘After all, we have classic steel and aluminum hulls, even cold moulded and plywood classic wooden hulls as well as carvel plank on frame or lapstrake.

‘Here are some GRP examples: the Bermuda 40s, or any of the early Hinckleys, Bowman 46/47 and 5’s, the early Swans, and the Nic 32s that you mentioned. And then we have modern built — to very classic designs — such as Morris Yachts and Alerion.’

Ginny adds: ‘There are some who would argue that Dick Newick’s multihulls, such as Cheers, Val, One Hand Clapping and Pat are classics, too.’

Diego Caro emails from Spain to make a similar point: ‘I own a Columbia 52 design by Bill Trip (father) when he was working with Olin Stephens and built in 1972. As an enthusiast of classics, I take part in most of the races of the CIM [Mediterranean classics] circuit and I cannot understand why this kind of boat cannot race with classic wooden boat designs – after all, metal ones can!’

The photo above, by the way is of, Snr Caro’s beautiful Columbia 52.

Frederico Pinheiro de Melo from Portugal comments: ‘I agree that GRP boats may become classics, though I would argue that it isn’t enough for them to simply be old. They need to have achieved, or to represent, something significant in the history of yachting.

‘Specifically, my vote goes to the Pearson Invicta, a 38ft Bill Tripp centreboard yawl, which became the first plastic boat to win the Bermuda Race (Burgoo, in 1958). More recently, another of them, Mollymawk, has been home to Tom and Nancy Zydler, who have cruised her far and wide without an engine and publshed articles about it.

‘Perhaps not a classical beauty, but neat, purposeful and wholesome, with shallow draft for good access to cruising grounds everywhere is the Cal 40: a fabulous William Lapworth design first launched in 1963. She won the Transpac at least three times, the Bermuda Race and the SORC.

‘I also like the Bill Tripp Hinckley Bermuda 40, the S&S Hinckley Pilot 35 and the Pearson Rhodes 41 (the world’s first-ever production GRP boat, I think), though it’s harder to justify their qualifications as classics, as opposed to simply pretty and well built.’

Contentiously, he adds: ‘I’m biased towards American designers and boats, and I just don’t think that the Nich 36 or Contessa 32 are in the same league ‘

Two people who would be in strong disagreement with that are Guy Darby, who says: ‘the Contessa 32 is the classic cruiser racer, which is still cruising the world and racing competitively’, and Robin Milledge, owner of Contessa Catherine, Contessa 32 hull No. 1. He comments:

‘She will be 40 years old next year and I think I have a good claim to own a classic yacht, but that’s a personal opinion. However, the British Classic Yacht Club will not accept GRP boats, so perhaps we’re not quite there yet!’

Robin Hunter-Coddington asks: ‘Why not the Rival 32 as well as the 34 and the 36?’ – a point I immediately concede.

Jonathan Gravit emails from New Zealand to say ‘The Farr 1104 should be a worthy addition. Born from Bruce Farr’s ground breaking IOR One Tonner design Prospect of Ponsonby, boats were being built from the moulds in NZ and Australia right through to the early 90s.

‘While the fractional rig, and for their time light displacement was miles way from the norm, these boats are now widely appreciated for their seakindly nature, ease of shorthanded sailing, and a consistently fast passage making ability.’

George Stead emails: ‘I started my boatbuilding at the then Southern Ocean Supplies. We built the first large production yacht , the 30ft Pionier 9 (spelt the Dutch way as designed by Van De Stadt ) in 1959.

‘However, the real start of production was the Excalibur 36, all fibreglass, even encapsulated lead keel with no keel bolts (no problems with keels falling off) and with a normal production boat won the 1963 1964 and 1965 RORC Championship. I regularly see them around the world and one competed in the last Fasnet 2007, 40 years after launching, also with the same mast!

‘We had great problems convincing customers of the strength of GRP and also of the separate spade rudder which Van de Stadt used first.

‘The Nich 36 was next but had a wooden deck and always gave problems as different flexability to glass. They then made the Nich 32 in all glass. At this time, Tylers in Tonbridge moulded all the hulls and decks.’

And Paul Stanton speaks up for the J24. His boat (No 586), he says: ‘never changes, just great sailing year after year. Isn’t that what a classic is?’

No argument there, and this subject is still very much open to any of your comments, memories and insights into how glassfibre designs have evolved, so please do email me.