It is always fascinating to look back over the decades at how much yacht designs and sailing styles have change. Few sports have evolved quite so much, or look so diverse. Ideas unimaginable a generation ago have been tried, tested and often superseded. To take just three examples, consider the wing keel that Australia II used in the 1983 America’s Cup, the freestanding rigs of Maltese Falcon and the high speeds and stadium racing of the Extreme 40s.
When you consider of all the changes in yacht design, the range of ingenuity is staggering. Our feature on 50 yachts that have changed sailing (page 20) highlights this. Besides these are improvements to gear, from sailcloth, ropes, furlers and powered winches to complex electronics, which have driven the speed of sailing to new levels and made cruising runs of 250 miles a day, or more, commonplace.
A small but telling sign of the times that struck me aboard the new X-yachts X6 (On test, on page 63) is a button within finger’s reach of the wheel marked ‘Code 0 in’. To think of deploying such a powerful sail with no more effort than waking up an iphone is remarkable, and such systems are now quite reliable. This is changing the size of boats that people can sail. And the pace of change, with foils coming into use on displacement yachts is, if anything, accelerating.
Exciting times. Twitter @elainebunting Sir Robin Knox-johnston has just relaunched Suhaili after a three-year refit. The historic double-ender, which Sir Robin raced round the world 48 years ago, is said to be back to full glory