In 1911, Yachting Monthly reported that seven 21-foot keelboats of a newly established one-design class started their first race in the Solent, UK. By 1939, the class had expanded, and 81 X One Design boats had been built.
Ever since, XODs have consistently been the largest one-design fleet at Britain’s oldest sporting event, Cowes Week. An entry well in excess of 100 is expected for 2011, the XODs Centenary year. It is generally acknowledged the XOD class is the most difficult to win at Cowes Week. How does a simple and relatively slow old wooden boat achieve such a successful longevity?
One reason is that an XOD sails with two or three crew including the helmsman, and weight or strength is not a factor when competing, so crews of all sizes can compete on equal terms. The XOD is also a very pretty classic yacht, made of wood, but can be easily maintained with modern epoxies.
One of the keys to the class success is that the boats sail to a strict one-design, so the skill of the helmsman and the crew are a major factor, not the depth of the owner’s pocket, strength, or agility. Top sailors in their 20s compete against ex-Olympians in their late 70s. The draw of highly skilled sailors has added to the allure of the class; so often we hear about the ‘trickle down’ effect of ideas from the America’s Cup into other areas of the sport, but with the XODs it can work the other way. For example, the XODs have had transverse jib tracks since the 1950s, way before they appeared on Cup boats and grand prix racing yachts.
Older boats are just as likely to win as newer ones. Cowes Week 2010 was won by X26, built in 1923. Shared ownership is widespread and a good way to keep costs low for competitive racing in a family-friendly format. What's more, XODs may need a lot of tender loving care to be winning race boats, but wooden hulls can be maintained for a significantly longer time than more modern materials.
The XOD is a real success story and whilst other classes and regattas are struggling for sponsorship, the XOD Class has recently landed a major sponsor, which recognises that the class aspires to achieve mutual values.
“Aberdeen Asset Management are delighted to be supporting the X One-Design class in their centenary year," said Martin Gilbert, CEO of Aberdeen Asset Management, in a recent release.
‘We are extremely proud to align our brand with this historic fleet, and we are very much looking forward to witnessing history in the making as an expected 100 or more of these beautiful boats gather from around the south coast to set sail in a display of immense unification to celebrate 100 years of the fleet.”
There is no doubt that Aberdeen Asset Management will get a valuable return on their investment. The XOD fleet at Cowes Week is an iconic symbol of the Cowes event and with HRH Princess Royal firing the starting gun for the XOD Class, the fleet will be getting far more media exposure than usual.
Photos: Rick Tomlinson