September 11, 2016

Darwin, and yacht evolution

I SOMETIMES WONDER how yachts fit in with Darwin’s theory of evolution. I guess it’s fairly obvious that really bad yachts will sink and automatically remove themselves from the gene pool. Or they will be so slow and clumsy to windward, or so skittish downwind, that their owners will take an ax and chop them to bits.
ut what distinguishes a good modern sailboat from a bad old one? I can think of seven areas: ease of handling, seaworthiness, comfortable accommodation, seakindliness, speed, weatherliness, and affordability.
Ø Ease of handling? Lighter, stronger fabrics for sails and lines have made handling much easier (along with fancier winches and line stoppers).
Ø Seaworthiness? I'd call it a slight improvement.
Ø Accommodation? Definitely better.
Ø Seakindliness? Probably no improvement on the whole.
Ø Speed? If we leave aside the ultra-lights and multihulls, perhaps just a little improvement.
Ø Weatherliness? Much better, through improved rig and keel design, and better sails.
Ø Affordability? Yes, more affordable now because of mass production.      
So I think we have to agree that on the whole sailboats have indeed evolved for the better. They're living longer, too. Fiberglass is turning out to have a very long life, despite a few outbreaks of bottom pox here and there.
Today's Thought
I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection.
— Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species.
Blessed are the pure in mind, for they shall inhibit the earth.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for another Mainly about Boats column.)


longroute said...

You forgot two points:
strength and beauty. Do you like them?

Marco Pinho said...

"inhibit" the earth? Could you have meant something different, like "inhabit" or "inherit"?
Great post, as always, although I love old school boats much more than new ones. There's something about seeing a fully functional, clean and sparkly double-ended piece of fiberglass that you know was firstly put together in the 1970s. Nothing wrong with a new engine, however.

John Vigor said...

Longroute, yes, both, beauty very important. And I think today's boats are stronger, especially after the first few decades.
John V.

John Vigor said...

Marco, inhibit is correct. It's a joke. Not a very good one, just my average effort.
John V.