By George Yeoman
Whether you have just left Uni, are looking to move class or are just looking to get into sailing, buying a boat can be daunting and more often than not a new boat is not attainable. The second-hand boat market is an amazing place where I have found many like-minded people who are always willing to chat boats. But the big question remains, what is the right class for you?
There are a number of criteria to think about, and whilst the obvious one is price, there are others. The great thing about most modern boats is that they are very well designed and, normally, built. Builders like RS, Winder, Ovington (other boat builders are available) are good at over-engineering the boats leading to longevity and therefore value for money. So, whilst this can be a sticking point there are other factors that may swing the decision for you, so let us focus on them.
Things to think about:
- Where are you going to sail?
- Who are you going to sail with?
- What are your friends doing?
- What are you looking to get out of it?
There is no specific order to look at this so I will run you through my thought process as I moved classes from the RS200 to the Merlin Rocket.
Sophie and I have been sailing the RS200 together for 6 years and have had an awesome time doing it, with a highlight of 2nd
in the 2015 Nationals in Abersoch, but we have always been on the heavy side. We weigh in at around 145 kgs which is about 10kgs too heavy to be competitive across the whole wind range and we found this frustrating. We wanted to sail something where we were light or on weight.
- What are our friends sailing?
As we are weekend warriors one of the key things we want to use our precious free time for seeing our friends and enjoying time with them, whilst being able to sail together. Our close friends had started to move out of 200s and I had already sailed a Merlin with my mate, Ben, and loved it. Also the mix of genders sailing the Merlin made the socials much more enjoyable for both of us. The other key thing was how to spend the Nationals, we were looking for proper holiday destinations where we could book out big accommodation with our mates for the week.
- What do we want to get out of it?
At the end of the day, we are looking to race. We want to take on the best people we can, on the most level platform, whilst still keeping us interested through slow and steady development. Not much to ask I know, but by this point, we were pretty much set on the Merlin Rocket.
- Where are we going to sail?
Itchenor Sailing Club is our home club, it is where I have grown up and we love it there. The only problem is that we sail set classes, and the Merlin was not one of them, so we are building one! This was less of an issue for us as we enjoy going to open meetings and therefore the competitive national circuit tilted the scales, but we are determined that the training done at home with friends makes for a pretty decent proving ground. It’s not surprising that talented generations come from the same group of friends as people push each other in training as hard as on the race course and this is what we are looking to do.
Onto actually buying the boat, I have picked up a few golden rules when deciding which boat is “the one”.
- Speak to the guys at the top
- Work out what you can afford
- Review the results
- Check the kit and chat with the owner
- Always view before you buy!
I started my search by speaking to one of my friends who had just joined the class. He explained to me about his boat and what he would look for if he were buying. He then provided me with a number for one of the class supremos who would be able to give me further insight into the boats on the market. This is where I had a bit of luck, he spoke to me about the pros and cons of the boats currently on the market and I then suggested my budget. It was then that he mentioned he may look to sell his boat at the end of the season if I could wait, and for the right boat, it is always worth waiting.
Next check, and one that becomes even more key in development or non-one design classes, is the background (results) check. Boat building is very difficult to be exact and therefore it can be the case that not all boats are equal. This is most prominent in historic classes like the Firefly or the XOD, it is also true in the Merlin to a certain extent. Some boats have been better sorted, some people have taken a development view which has or hasn’t worked. I was able to quickly see a string of top 5 results in Nationals and circuit events from the class website.
Final checks were to ensure that I would not need to soon invest more money in updating the spars, sails or foils. This is key as it can be very frustrating knowing that the reason that you aren’t doing well is because of your kit, rather than your technique.
Now to see the boat. I was lucky that there was a Merlin event at Hayling Island nearby so I was able to drop by and see the boat rigged up, and needless to say, it had been looked after immaculately.
Some things to look for when you are checking over a boat:
- Look for wear around the key pressure points (centreboard pin, shroud points, mast foot)
- Check the buoyancy tank doesn’t leak (blow up through bung hole)
- Assess the wear and tear in the paint and gel coat
- Unroll the sails and look for holes or tears
- Check for dents or cracks in the spars and foils
- Before you tow it away, make sure you have it insured!!!
All in all, I was very lucky, the right boat came up at the right time. Hopefully, this will help you with the tough decision of which boat to buy, but whatever you chose will be worth it! Sailing is a great sport, hobby and passion.