This assessment, which is not the best news for the many owners of existing Spray clones, came from one of America’s best-known sailboat architects, John G. Hanna, designer of the famous Tahiti ketch.
In The Rudder Treasury (Sheridan House) Hanna says: “Since the Suicide Squad has been for many years building exact copies of Spray, and will continue doing so for many years more unless restrained, perhaps I can save a life or two by explaining, as simply as possible, the basic reason (skipping many other good reasons) why Spray is the worst possible boat for anyone, and especially anyone lacking the experience and resourcefulness of Slocum, to take off-soundings . . .
“A big lurching cross sea, that would scarcely disturb a properly designed hull, can — especially if it coincides, as it often does, with an extra-savage puff of a squall — flip over a Spray hull just as you would a poker chip.
“Many duplicates trying to duplicate the circumnavigation have disappeared without trace, just as the original Spray and Slocum did.”
Hanna goes on to say that one Spray copy that completed a circumnavigation, Roger Strout’s Igdrasil, was flipped “up to the very point of the last rollover, and for a second or two it seemed she would never come back on her bottom.” Strout told Hanna that if ever he were building again for such a trip, he would willingly sacrifice the comfort of broad decks and great initial stability for more of the ultimate stability that infallibly rights a well-designed yacht, even if knocked down with her masts in the water.
Hanna added: “I trust a little sober reflection on these facts will cause a ray of light to dawn in the minds of another generation of would-be Spray duplicators. The famous old ship had her good points, and no one admires them more than I; but not enough to overcome some almost certainly fatal faults.”
All of which tends to reinforce my own long-held belief that a large portion of any boat’s seaworthiness consists of the skill and experience of the skipper (and crew, if any).
None but blockheads copy each other.— William Blake
TailpieceThere’s a new series of TV sets due to hit the market soon. They project in 3-D. They’ll give you height, width, and debt.
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)