Looking for Pedigree


By Ted Hood
Managing Partner, Wellington Yacht Partners

[ped – i – gree]  “distinguished, excellent…a continuous history or series or precedents, especially considered as evidence of respectability or legitimacy”

That old adage “They don’t build them like they used to,” is familiar to most and certainly applies to the current sailboat market. Anyone looking to buy a new boat today is limited to mostly mass-produced, modern-styled lookalike designs that often incorporate some innovative ideas and equipment, but are ultimately built with one goal:  keeping costs down. That’s a great thing to attract new sailors to the market. But it also means high volume with limited options and low man hours, utilizing modern materials like man-made wood veneers and even faux wood trim.

For those looking for a higher level of detail and finish, where to go? There remain a very few good custom builders – such as Brooklin Boat Yard and Lyman Morse in Maine – where one can build a true “one-off” design to exacting standards after waiting 12-24 months for delivery.

Fortunately, there is another option that many of our clients have enjoyed with great satisfaction — the many fine semi-custom sailboats crafted during the peak building activity of the 80’s and 90’s. The four most iconic brands that stand out are Hinckley, Little Harbor, Alden and Bristol. Each design features a handsome shear line with relatively more overhang and a more traditional transom, typically with a keel/centerboard configuration that provides access to shallow waters while also preserving upwind performance. One will find a variety of layouts, equipment and interior woods, along with a mix of aft- and mid-cockpit versions available, depending on what one is looking for. Desirable features include custom stainless deck hardware, intricate exterior trim and exquisitely finished interior joiner work, often with raised-panel cabinetry and solid teak and holly floorboards.

Today, one would be hard pressed to find these qualities in most new boats, as the man hours required to build them would make any new boat cost-prohibitive. For example, a Little Harbor 54 typically required on average 18,000 man hours to complete in 1990, while a mass-produced Beneteau 55 requires less than 4,000 hours. The good news is, you can find a used Hinckley, Little Harbor, Alden or Bristol sailboat at a price that is just a fraction of its replacement cost.

We call them “pedigree sailboats” simply because they carry a solid reputation of quality, attention to detail and traditional design that cannot be duplicated today. There is a consistent following of sailors who appreciate and seek that pedigree and enjoy the pride of ownership that comes with it.

With our intimate knowledge of the design, construction and sailing characteristics of these fine yachts, our diverse team of brokers at Wellington is ready to assist you in your search.