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Passion for classic yachts


If anyone proves classic yachts are not intended merely to be admired, it’s Matt Brooks, the new owner of the 1929 sailing yacht Dorade. This winsome 16m yawl has a famous pedigree, known as the boat that launched designer Olin Stephens’ career and for having won the Transatlantic, Fastnet and Bermuda races.

‘Dorade was designed to sail fast across the ocean,’ says Brooks. ‘In the last five decades, the only racing she’s done has been in buoy races that don’t really play to her strengths. We wanted to bring her back to a point where she can do what she does best.

‘Unlike a fine piece of antique furniture, classic wooden boats were designed to swim in the ocean, and frankly, I don’t think you can fully appreciate their beauty without seeing and experiencing them in that context.’

Dorade has kept up an active racing schedule since her 2011 refit. She took first place in her class at Les Voiles de Saint Barth, St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta during the 2012 Caribbean racing season.

Her refit included a new mast, winches, hatches, engine, rudder and sails and new joinery below. Brooks has owned modern yachts, but he always dreamed of having a classic.

‘They are boats you can fall in love with. They are elegant, their lines are beautiful, they are the stuff of dreams. Once you own a classic and you want to sail it, you’re in the business of refitting,’ Brooks says. ‘We understand that we are really just caretakers and custodians of an extraordinary piece of sailing history, and we take that very seriously.’

Marty Sutter notes the challenge of finding like-minded owners who share this passion. ‘Our fear is losing part of American history by not having enough people or institutions willing to preserve these boats,’ he says. ‘Can you imagine if in 100 years from now there wasn’t a Pacemaker, a Huckins, a Rybovich sportfish or a Trumpy in existence?’

Yet the recent commissioning of modern vintage yachts, such as the Burger Sycara IV and Johnny Depp’s Vajoliroja, is encouraging for Sutter.

‘It’s magnificent,’ he says. ‘They aren’t classic, historic boats, but it will inspire people.’

Huckins Yacht owner Cindy Purcell (granddaughter of Frank Huckins) believes now is the time for classic yachts: ‘Years ago, a style would fade out, another would come in, but now you can get sleek, modern, fast, classic – it’s all accepted.’

In the end, those who are drawn to a classic refit agree it’s a singular experience. ‘There’s an accomplishment to it,’ Moores says. ‘Someone who enjoys bringing something back, making it work and enjoys it for what it truly is will take pleasure in restoring classic boats

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