Designed by C. Lowndes Johnson in 1932, 2012 marks the 80th year of the Comet Class. A one design boat often referred to as a miniature Star, the Comet measures 16 feet long, 5 feet abeam and weighs 265 pounds. Sailed by 2 people, the boat has a semi-flat bottom, 140 square feet of sail and planes quickly. The class boasts that they have new and used competitive boats, both fiber glass and the classic wood, available from $1000 to $2500.
In 1950, 3,150 Comets had been listed in the class registry and there were 125 organized fleets with another 2 being added in
The 80th Comet Internationals, hosted by the Cambridge Yacht Club in Cambridge, MD August 17-19, 2012 has a disappointing showing. There were only 15 boats in attendance. At the annual meeting that took place during the event, it was announced that there are currently on 80 paying members of the class.
The avid sailors of the Comet Class have been experiencing this diminishing of numbers for the past 25 years and have recently been working hard to turn the tide. As class member Peter Tasi notes, “the class is essentially endangered, almost extinct.” It is hard to maintain interest in a classical boat, in a “timeless piece of work”. But a core group of people love that boat so much that they are willing to put the time, effort and money behind it. For the love of the boat, they will do all they can to reinvigorate the class.
One of the main reasons the Comet Class feels they were losing numbers was because for many years, the class did not have a builder. A class without a builder is considered an illegitimate class, a dead class. This past year however, that has changed. Pete Mathews of the Mathews Brothers in
Along with the addition of a builder, which they have been lacking for the past 30 years, the class, in the hopes of attracting new people, have decided to take steps to modernize the boat. This modernization includes cutting down the top of the centerboard trunk to create more space between the top of the trunk and the boom, round out the sides of the boat for more leg room, and adding a light non-skid to portions of the deck. Mathews also helped the class look into cutting down the cost of building the boat. A solution was found in creating a new deck mold reflecting the new changes, while keeping the old hull mold. And while the cost of this endeavor is already twice what the class had anticipated, they are dedicated to doing all they can.
To help give the boat an even more modern image, the class has also enlisted Mark Beaton of Beaton Sails to create a set of Mylar sails for the boat; a change from the current woven cloth sails. According to Beaton, the sails would be the same cost to the sailor but have a longer competitive life of up to 4 years. The sails would keep the same form and dimensions of the current sails, they would just be Mylar. There is also talk of a full transfer top batton and a loose foot.
Significant changes are being made, but the idea is not to change the boat until it is unrecognizable. The changes are mostly for reasons of comfort and ease. Who wouldn’t want a few more inches in a cockpit? A little traction under their feet?
But all of these changes take us back to the questions that do not seem to have an answer. What has happened to sailing? And how do you reinvigorate a class?
Rudy Bailey of Bermuda, the 2012 and 2010 Comet International Champion, spoke at the Comet Class Annual Meeting about the success of the boat in
The Comet sailors have committed themselves to doing what they can to help their historic fleet. Those 3,150 boats that were once registered with the class are out there somewhere, ready for the fixing up and racing. Or, if you like your toys brand new, the modernized version of the boat will be ready soon. The Comet Class plans to debut their new boat and new set of sails at the Boat Show in Annapolis October 4th-8th of this year.
A laid back yet competitive class with a comparatively cheap, light boat that is easy to trailer, the Comet is definitely worth checking out. Go find them at the Boat Show next month or check out their website www.cometclass.com. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.