Can You Be Fast in an Old Boat?


I am the proud skipper of the mighty 'Green Monster', FS #1146, which turns 50 in two years.  It's bottom is slick with VC-17, and has recent sails.  There are no core issues, though the deck has some soft areas.  I have refurbished the boat and installed many upgrades.  The boat is just as I would have it!  (gorgeous, comfortable, rigged perfectly for me) The Green Monster has done very well in club racing, but my wife and I plan to stretch our legs a bit, and sail the regional circuit this season.  I assume that our hull is not as light or stiff as newer boats.  We are a One Design class, but I assume that our boats are not all equal.  To even have a hope of being competitive this season, I feel that I'd need to buy new sails, but am concerned that would be throwing good money after bad.  I have come close to buying a few newer boats, but they are REALLY expensive, and I don't like them as much.
What to do?  Any thoughts, advice, guidance you could offer on the subject would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,
Dennis in New Hampshire

One of the great things about the Scot, is that it's a very strongly built boat, so over time, the boats don't get as soft as more lightly built craft.
Sails matter, especially if they are really old, but how you trim them matters just as much.  Handling and tactics matter.  One tack in the wrong direction can erase all the gain of shiny new stuff.  The boats are that even!
Technique, Tactics, Trim, Practice, Sails and Luck are all probably more important than the age of the hull in the Flying Scot.

seanodonnell's picture

"Can old boats go fast?" The answer is YES. And old sailors can go fast too. We have several experienced sailors at Lake Norman Yacht Club who are deadly fast, are always on the correct tack it seems, and can find pressure like no other. I notice other clubs also have their own cadre of skilled veterans. I have made it my business to extract every tidbit of knowledge out of these guys, and they across the board have been generous to share their wisdom.
When I came out of sailing retirement 5 or 6 years ago, I stumbled on the Scot. What convinced me to buy a Scot was the numbers of solid sailors...and by "solid" I mean really good. Unlike other fleets where sailors 'age out' of boats with hiking straps and uncomfortable seating, the Scot can be sailed and raced well into your 60's and 70's. I love the fact that at our local yacht club there are a handful of 70-somethings who will absolutely eat your lunch on any given race, punishing you for a single strategic or tactical mistake. And these older guys have older boats, usually with fresh sails, which does matter in light and medium winds when sailing upwind (not so important on the downwind, especially on a run).
So I would say yes...go ahead and get some good sails (reward the pro/brand that you feel helps you the most), make sure your board is shimmed correctly (ask your local Scot star or Harry), make sure your vang functions effectively, and know your boat can hang with the best.
Sean O'DonnellFS 5171NC Community Sailing &Lake Norman Yacht Club

I have an even older boat and I am considering the same questions you had.   How did it work out for you?   Were you satisfied with the performance?   Did you feel hindered by the boat?


Where are you located?  Are you a member of a fleet?  You can often find great advice locally.

Come join us at Lake Nockamixon in PA.

James Titus's picture

Hi!  My first Flying Scot was formerly owned by Charlie Buckner, and 3440 was fairly competitive with new sails, but on our tiny lake with very shifty light winds, any slow factors showed themselves.  After 6 years I finally got a newer boat, which points higher and generally is faster.   I think the hull was fine but have to guess that perhaps the shape of the mast and boom were to "blame", besides the skipper not being the best out there.  I often wonder if new mast and boom would have solved my issues.  My newer 5339 is able to point as well or outpoint the other Flying Scots in our races.  So, I don't think it's the age of the hull, but maybe of the combination of components.

BudSails's picture

My skipper, Fred Soward, and I sailed hull 5298 to a 3rd overall in the 2019 NAC's and won the 2019 NAC Master's Trophy (combined age 117). Older boats CAN be competitive. Fresh sails, good tuning on a well-maintained boat and sound tactics can get you to the top (or very near it), despite sailing an older hull.  

FS5516's picture

I used to own #99 a few years ago. I raced it at our club's regatta then, and was racing boats of all ages and placed very well. It comes down to what BudSails said above!

I raced Flying Sots off and on from 1980 thru 2012. I have owned 2 boats, both of which were bought used. 

When buying an older boat I focused on a few things:

  • Ensure that the core was dry and not compromised unless you are willing to replace the problem areas. I would check this by tapping a hard instrument or a coin on all of the areas of the bottom and decks. If the sound went form sharp to dull, you potentially have a problem.
  • Second, I would look at the structue under that mast step to make sure it is solld. I never saw a boat that wasn't but i checked anyway.
  • Somehow, try to make sure it is at or near minimum weight. Not sure how to do this easily.

If all of this was OK, I think any boat can be made competitive assuming the following:

  • You need to stabalize the centerboard in the trunk. This is critical espcially if you are sailing in light air and waves. This can be some by adding shims to the trunk on the top and the bottom
  • Many Scots have bent booms. You need a straight one to control sail shape and mast bend in higher winds when you need to depower the boat. You can buy a new one for a reasonalbe price.
  • Get a decent set of sails and take care of them. only fold them if absolutely necessary. Instead role them. I would always role the main before i took it off the boom. This protects the material.
  • Make all you wetted surface as smooth as possible. This includes the centerboard and the rudder blade. I would sand these surfaces to 400 grit. On the rudder, you want to get ride of all pitting on other bumps. For those who knew me, they would tell you that I didn't focus very much on cosmetics, just what was under water.

It should be noted that I never sailed with a tight or snug rig, so there may be other things to look at that will help the rig handle the tension better.

The last boat I owned was 4499. It was built in 1986 (I think) and I competed off and on through 2013. I think it was competitive throughout the time I owned it. We won the Midwnter Nationals and were top 5 every year we competed. Also the Wife Husband and numerous districts. It the boat is taken care of, it will last and be fast for a long time.

I hope this helps

I have sailed a number of club-owned Flying Scots.   Years ago, someone weighed several Scots with a hanging scale.  Some of the old boats weighed considerably more than the newer boats.  Even with good sails, those boats would not go as fast as the lighter ones.  If you are interested in racing, definitely check the weight of the boat.

One item that may get overlooked is the centerboard gasket. A loose or torn gasket or one that has deformed into being open like my old rubber gasket  will slow you down.. The factory has repleacement instructions. I have a tee nee trailer with no central support member and was able to roll the trailer and boat unto 2x6 planks to elevate the boat some and do the work from below.