Friday, 24 June 2011

Classics again - therapy please

A modern classic?
I admit that in the past I've suffered from it myself in the past, but I'm pleased to report that I'm nearly cured. I mean of course speculating about what is or is not a classic boat.

Every now and again a thread is started on a forum somewhere and the old craving to take part nags away, like the reformed nicotinic's inner compulsion to light up. Currently one is running on Classic Boat here and I'm trying to resist.

Matters aren't helped very much by the availability of magazines with names like Classic Boat, organisations like the Freundeskreis Klassiche Yachten and the British Classic Yacht Club and at this time of year events all over the place with that word in their name. Dammit, next week Stroma and I are off to the Crinan Classics.

Many years ago, before I was cured, I was involved a bit in the nascent European Classic Yacht Union and travelled great distances for meetings, where defining a classic became a major topic for debate. I became convinced that everyone regards his or her own ship, or the one he or she aspires to own, as a classic. Consciously or not we try to broaden the category to suit our subjective taste and exclude ships we simply don't like, or those made from materials we don't like.

My late friend, sometime mentor and gentle eccentric David Ryder-Turner provided a thoughtful piece on the subject for the Freundeskreis, which can be read here. He may have intended it to be the last word on the subject, but predictably it started yet another thread running. David was a Fife addict with a love of long overhangs and it shows in his article, despite his obvious struggle to be fair and objective.

British Classic Yacht Club also share the enthusiasm for long overhangs and it's easy to overlook that they were regarded as ugly when they arrived on the scene. They're not all that practical either, as they usually don't achieve their intended aim of extending by very much the immersed length of the hull. Personally I find some of the state-of-the-art racing machines attractive as having genuine functional beauty.

It's a lot easier to say what isn't relevant to being classic. Authenticity certainly hasn't got anything to do with it, because surely an incredible design from the past could be regarded as classic even if the actual ship didn't exist any more.  Whether a particular object is original, a rebuild, a restoration or a replica is only really of interest to those who regard these objects, like Barnato's Bentley, as investments rather than  aesthetically.

Easiest of all is just not to get involved in the discussion and to spend one's time doing something useful. I'm off to put some varnish on the toerails and if that doesn't work it'll have to be therapy.

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The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water