Nic Compton delves into the fast-growing – and increasingly fast – Spirit of Tradition sector of today’s classic yacht racing circuit

Something strange is happening on the classic yacht circuit. Whereas 10 years ago the top regattas were graced with fleets of old yachts sporting great clouds of cream sails on lofty varnished spars, there are now increasing numbers of modern yachts with pointy white sails worming their way through the fleet. What’s more, they are usually faster, more comfortable and considerably drier than their more ancient counterparts. What’s going on?

After years of being refused entry and then only being tolerated reluctantly, the Spirit of Tradition class is now the fastestgrowing sector of the classic yacht scene, and shows no sign of going away. Hardly a month goes by without some spectacular new project being announced, and the class is more keenly raced than ever. Established designers such as Gerard Dykstra, André Hoek and Sean McMillan have an everincreasing range of designs, and diehard traditionalists such as Fairlie Restorations – once the doyen of authentic classic restorations – have bowed to the demand for ‘new’ classics by producing their own range of Spirit of Tradition yachts.

So what’s the fascination? Why don’t these people just make up their minds and either restore a vintage yacht or, if they’re after style and comfort, buy a Swan? Put another way, what’s the point of sticking a new Ferrari engine in a D-Type Jaguar?

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