Sunday, August 30, 2009

[good old boat] woody and pleasing to the eye

This is a reply to the post on favourite things by Tom Paine:

It wouldn't hold a candle to today's plastic fantastics, speedwise but this 20 foot wooden catamaran was designed by the father of Australian catamaraning, Charlie Cunningham, a man I was priviliged to meet shortly before his death [no comments please].

In that one afternoon in his enlarged garage, with the Little America's Cup winning Quest in straps hanging from the roof above us, he taught me the principle of design, of buoyancy and centre of effort, of rocker and freeboard.

And who was I? A nobody except that I was building a B class at the time and wanted to know a couple of things, certainly not all I learnt that day. This was the nature of a purist who loved his field and was willing to to share on it. I'll never forget that afternoon and I actually ended up with a B2, for those it means something to.

It's not nostalgia. Surely it's just a love of pleasing lines and natural materials which makes me determine, with approaching age, that I'd never have anything but a wooden boat with either a gaff rig or something else traditional, most certainly with golden spars and tanbark sails.

Graham Chapman summed it up for me:


Tom Paine said...

You wouldn't like my car then, James. No wood, and lots of carbon fibre. It's a design classic already and one day, someone will be nostalgic about it, but I am too old to wait.

Wasn't your Mr Cunningham an innovator in his day? Wouldn't he have used modern materials if they were available to him?

I am fairly sure the original (and best) Tom Paine would have blogged, as he was more concerned in getting his message speedily and cheaply to the masses, than in profiting from his writing.

I think Shakespeare would have written for television too. The groundlings made him more money than the aristocrats sitting on the stage, and he was a businesslike genius, who stopped work when he achieved his financial goals.

Nostalgia can be harmless, but it can also be rather silly. You do know the Monty Python team was satirising it in that clip, don't you?

I envy you your skills though. I have often meant to have a go at yachting. We are a seafaring nation above all else and you can't be properly English if you can't sail, I always think.

James Higham said...

Tom, I seem to recall that wooden dashboards and leather upholstery were a desirable feature of luxury cars until not so long ago. Has that ceased? :)

And yes, my so-called classic was fibreglass but not carbon fibre. It did have a wooden dash and leather upholstery though.

Cunningham certainly was an innovator, his son Lindsay continued the tradition by winning the Little America's Cup and the gang held the world speed record at one stage.

Check this out.

And my Mac is the metallic silver variety and I can't imagine it in wood.

I don't think we're really arguing against one another - we both like elegance. The point about the wooden boat of that type, apart from the sheer beauty, is that it is better suited to cruising and comes into its own in the blue water.