Sailing the Classics - a Day out on Nina
Sailing the Classics - a Day out on Nina

Throughout history, from the first single-masted square-sailed vessels to the latest America’s Cup catamarans, technology has played a huge part in improving the speed, manoeuvrability, safety and comfort of sailing vessels.

With advancements in building materials, yacht design, sailcloth, and more, many of the yachts you see out on the water today are a far cry from those of yesteryear.

These changes in technology bring a lot of benefits to the dynamic and shifting world of sailing. But, as we embrace the future, let’s not forget the past.

There is a unique beauty in the sleek lines and polished wood of a classic yacht, with her wooden spars and overlapping headsail. There’s something enchanting about the way she cuts through the water. Something magical about the stories she has to tell – stories that take you back to the good old days of competition and camaraderie, woollen socks and oilskin jackets.

Ok, let’s face it – modern clothing allots much better protection and comfort, which is something we can all appreciate.

However, a classic yacht in this day of modernity is truly something to be appreciated.

I recently had the good fortune to be invited along to a race on Nina, a 13.1 metre wooden sloop launched in 1967.

Commissioned by Sir Alexis Albert and originally know as Norn, she was re-christened to Nina after being sold in 1981. In 1999 she was sold again to her current owner, classic yacht enthusiast Mark Fesq.

Nina was designed by Warwick Hood and built by Ron Balkwell at Careening Cove, Sydney. Nina’s second owner sailed her on Sydney Harbour but also in offshore events, for which he had lifelines fitted and bunks installed forward.

After purchasing Nina, Mark decided to take her back to her original enclosed waters racing configuration. Her refit in 2000 included a new simplified rig with no running backstays, new engine and the removal of the lifelines, extra forward bunk, sink and stove. She was subsequently refitted in 2007; this included the replacement of some deck beams and floors, a complete new sub-deck, a new teak deck and a loving overhaul of anything that needed attention.

Mark races Nina regularly in Sydney harbour, often out of the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club (SASC). Founded in 1872, SASC in one of the oldest clubs in Australia and regularly conducts races in Sydney harbour, drawing a large fleet of classic yachts, amongst others.

When asked what he loves most about Nina, Mark explained: “I love the beauty of a well-designed classic yacht. Nina is fast and well balanced – she is a true pleasure to sail.”

Mark is keen to see more people get involved in sailing classic yachts, both owners and crew. “Classic yachts require a lot of attention, but to me this is part of the pleasure of owning Nina,” explained Mark. “Keeping her in perfect condition is part of appreciating her beauty and history.”

Nina has a core team of experienced sailors, but often takes one or two new crew along when they race. “She is a great yacht for less experienced sailors to learn the ropes, or for an experienced sailor who’s looking for a civilised sail on Sydney harbour,” says Mark.

So, next time you’re on the water, take a look for the elegant lines of a classic yacht gracefully cutting her way through the water, take in her beauty, and enjoy this gentle nod to a day gone by.