Sailing and Racing the Yankee One Design Sailboat

Why are Yankee One Design sailboats so much fun?

Why are Yankees called “a sailor’s sailboat?”

Why would anyone consider a sailboat without lifelines a great family boat?

And why are Yankees still winning races, decades after their design was considered competitive?

Y19 Dawn has been equally treasured as a racing boat and a family boat.

A Family Sailboat

The large, deep cockpit with plenty of room inside for napping makes the Yankee a much loved family daysailor.

Some lucky Yankees have spent generations with the same family. Y29 WESTWARD HO (on Lake Champlain) and Y19 DAWN (on Lake Erie) have both been with their families over 50 years, with two generations of children growing up sailing.

A Sailor’s Sailboat

The Yankee One Design is often described by lifelong sailors as “the sweetest boat I’ve ever sailed.”  It’s often the last boat a sailor wants to own.

Y40 TARFUN, winning a race in San Francisco Bay, 1968

Y21 SIROCCO racing in the Les Calanques Classiques, 2015

Still Remarkably Competitive

Burgess created the Yankee One Design class in 1937, sailboat technology was evoloving so rapidly that he wrote that his new boat would be competitive for about ten years, tops.

Burgess’ prediction was both wrong and right. Yankee One Design sailboats are still remarkably competitive, even though sailboat racing technology has eclipsed 1937 standards.

Most conspicuously, racing boats became lighter as wooden hulls were replaced by fiberglass, then carbon fiber.

Changes also happened underwater. As racing sailboats became more maneaverable, the Yankee’s arrangement of a long keel with an attached rudder was made obsolete by fin keels with bulbs and free hanging, deep spade rudders.

So why is the Yankee One Design still winning races? Why is it fast and delightful? Much has been written about its wine glass bow and exquisitely balanced helm. But maybe this is what Aristotle meant when he said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

We’d just raised the mainsail for the very first time, and Y43 Gemini was already sailing herself without either of us needing to be at the helm.

A Yankee will Sail Itself

It’s also true that when you’re double reefed in a gale, with your Yankee smashing through waves like they don’t exist, charging upwind and against the tide at a startling boatspeed, if the sails are set so that you find yourself using two fingers on the helm, you may realize you can lift your hand from the tiller, and when you do, when you stand there and just watch a Yankee sail itself like that, it’s hard to imagine that your sailboat isn’t alive.

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