The grace, power and complexity of classic schooners engenders great passion in all who see these wonderful examples of naval architecture, mostly heralding from that golden age of yacht construction in the first decades of the 20th century.
In recent years many of these yachts have been beautifully restored, or replicas have been built, with painstaking attention to historical detail and with no expense spared.
These yachts have been taking part at classic yacht regattas, but here they face the difficulty of having very different sailing characteristics compared with other classic yachts. This leaves them at a disadvantage under most current rating systems.
Tomas de Vargas Machuca with the 42m Herreshoff-designed Mariette of 1915
Schooner owners do not come more passionate than Tomas de Vargas Machuca, who owns not one, but two, of these famous vintage craft. A new initiative, nurtured by his enthusiasm and that of his captain Simon Pandolfi, is the formation of the International Schooner Association.
Last week, at the 40th edition of the Régates Royales in Cannes, there was possibly the greatest group of classic schooners gathered together in modern times.
Classic schooners prepare for battle at last week's Régates Royales in Cannes
On the night of 28 September a reception and dinner were held by de Vargas Machuca aboard his yacht Puritan attended by owners or representatives of 12 schooners in order to launch the new Association.
The articles were presented and signed. Ten schooner owners are fully committed, while others have so far expressed strong interest.
The ten founder members of the International Schooner Association are the owners of:
Mariette of 1915
Aschanti IV of Vegesack (1954)
Elena of London 2009 (replica of 1910 design)
Atlantic 2010 (replica of 1903 design)
Germania Nova 2011 (replica of 1907 Germania)
Naema 2013 (replica of an Alfred Mylne design)
The intention is for the Association to run events specifically and exclusively for classic schooners. The hope will be to build a programme and a series such that, as well as individual regatta prizes, there can be an annual perpetual trophy awarded to the ‘Schooner of the Year’.
Puritan at berth, where the Classic Schooner Association was formed last week
Plans are already afoot for the first event to be held by the International Schooner Association in Capri next spring.
The formation of this new association has been encouraged and supported by the International Maxi Association, the officially-sanctioned international body whose function is to guide, structure and encourage all types of maxi yacht racing worldwide.
Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General of the IMA, who was invited as a guest to the launch party, commented: "This organisation is a wonderful addition to the maxi world. Modern classes may come and go. The interest in preserving these magnificent craft suggests that they will outlive them all."