Some boats are Classics from birth, others acquire Classic status over time, and there are others beyond that again which have had imaginative things done to them in order to confer a new Classic status writes W M Nixon.
Back on February 11th, we ran a Sailing on Saturdays blog about the creative and energetic boat-builders who can be found in Ireland when you move outside the self-regarding bubble which is Dublin. One who particularly captured the spirit was Bill Trafford, who works from a shed near Skenakilla Crossroads somewhere between Mitchelstown and Mallow in North Cork.
Bill is doing things to an old Etchells 22 which fairly takes the breath away. For although there are those who would argue that this Skip Etchells-designed slim racing machine of 1966 vintage is something of a Classic anyway, Bill has done things to this particular example to move her into a completely new sector of the Classic Yacht movement.
He has raised the topsides by small but varying amounts to give a more elegant sheer. In doing this, he has provided the most perfect teak-laid deck, with a very elegant little Scandinavian-style coachroof set neatly in the middle. And he has provided a comfortable cockpit through extending her stern, which now finishes in a sophisticated interpretation of the Friendship Sloops’ unique counter transom to be found in Maine.
Bill Trafford has form in this sort of thing, as he won international awards for his transformation of a Elizabethan 23 into a lovely little fractional-rigged sloop with mostly day-sailing in mind. He prefers his boats to be finished in a classy and distinctive dark blue, and since we were last in Skenakilla, the new boat has had this treatment, and lovely she looks too.
In fact, there’s only one word for it, and it was provided by Johnny Smullen, shipwright to Dennis Conner, Mr America’s Cup. We were exchanging photos a week or so ago when I was putting together a piece about the Golden Jubilee of the Junior Section in the National YC, of which Johnny is a graduate. I slipped in that header photo of the Skenkilla Etchells 22 knowing that The Dennis has been an Etchells ace in his day. The response from Johnny Smullen was prompt: “That Etchells is amazing!”