The eternal question of 'which boat' has been hoisted again. In an effort to help an inquisitive friend I've compiled a collection of the many pros and cons that have been bouncing aimlessly inside my head. The Laser and Thistle are the 'baseline boats' as my audience is familiar with both. The other three are all that remain on the short list. Lets see how they compare.
Stats are listed in this order: Laser, Thistle, RS100, Viper640, Melges24
$/2, $(used), $, $$$$, $$$$(used)
These 'dollar figures' are relative and somewhat speculative.
$/2, $, ?, $$, $$$$
These resale 'dollar figures' are relative and even more speculative.
$/2, $$, $, $$$, $$$$$
Relative costs to maintain, repair, and moor the racing sailboat. Includes the cost of keeping competitive sails aboard.
1, 3, 1, 3, 4
How many bodies are aboard during racing?
Local racing fleet?
yes, yes+, no, no, yes
Is there a one design racing fleet to race in?
yes, yes, maybe-, maybe+, yes
What are the chances a fleet will be forming soon and/or exist into the future?
Venue is challenging?
yes, no, ??, yes, yes
Which fleet is on the more challenging of the two common local racing venues?
yes, yes+, no, kinda, kinda+
Boats that are easier to sail to there potential are more tactical. Boats that sail deeper downwind are more tactical.
Physical to sail?
yes+, yes, yes+, kinda, not for the driver
Basically, the lighter the boat, the harder the sailer works.
A-sail spinnaker excitement?
no, no, yes, yes, yes
DDW is out. A-sail downwind reaching is in.
yes+, yes, yes+, yes-, barely
All are trailerable. Some are more convenient than others.
Rigging time. (best case)
8 mins, 5 mins, 15 mins, 20 mins, 20 mins
These rigging time estimates are local dockage/mooring/storage options specific.
These facts and figures are nice. But, in this case, many of them are not important to our shopper. Some of them are within a certain range that was used to get the number of contestents narrowed to these three finalists. When considering a boat there are times when just a few of these many categories are of prime importance. For my inquisitive friend the biggest factors are:
1. Moving to an a-sail class.
Obviously the RS100, Viper 640, and Melges 24 all fly asymetric kites. All three are equally qualified on this feature.
2. Stepping up to a racing venue with the the added challenge of current.
Neither the RS100 nor the Viper 640 have local fleets. There is little momentum for the RS100 as of this writing. But the Viper 640 does have a few boats in the region and fleet racing on the salt, like the Melges 24, is possible.
Based on our two main features I think it is safe to say the RS100 is not really on the list. With a low likelihood of competitive fleet racing any time soon, this choice, as salient as it is, does not meet requirement number two. It could be sailed on a challenging venue but not raced on a challenging venue.
That leaves the 'fast' boats. Both would be exciting to sail under asymetric spinnakers. Both would race on the salt with it's additional challenges of tidal induced current. But an optimistic number of Viper 640's is probably about half the typical number of Melges 24's. And that makes Viper 640 racing about half as satisfying as the well established Melges 24 fleet.
And that is enough to call the Melges the winner of today's excercise. Maybe not the choice for every sailer. But for at least one chooser, the answer to the age old question is, predictably, the expensive one. Enjoy, captain.