Introduction to The Freedom Story by Garry 'Gary' Hoyt
Among the inspirational, formative writings that shaped much of my sailing philosophy, an essay penned by Garry Hoyt - sailor, cruiser, racer and inventor - stands out.
In it, he presents the thinking behind his ground-breaking series of Freedom Yachts (read his full essay, here).
But what really caught me was the story he tells to introduce the concept.
His words were enshrined in a promotional pamphlet spied among my local library's reject treasures. I snagged it, and carried it with us for many years, before losing it (and nearly our boat) to mischance. I searched the internet high and low without success until today, when I found a scan at FreedomYachts.org (thank you, Folotp!).
So, here I cast Garry's pearl of wisdom; a parable for our Dark Age of Consumerism:
[Note: I have broken up long paragraphs for easier, on-line reading. Otherwise, all is as I found it.]
Introduction to The Freedom Story
by Garry Hoyt - Originator, Freedom Concept
Somewhere between the stately clippers of the late 18th century and the spin-out specials of the SORC, sensible sailing design seems to have lost its way.
Perhaps the problems started when sailing ceased to be the main method of locomotion for international trade and became more of a rich man's sport instead. But whatever the reason, there has been a dreary lack of progress and even some discernible regressions in the field of cruising design. The slightly better speeds shown by modern sailing boats when compared with their forebears of a century ago are more to be accounted for by the improvements in building materials - aluminum, dacron and fibreglass - than by any actual advances in design.
Just how seriously we have gone astray was vividly illustrated to me some years ago in the Caribbean.
We were taking a new cruising/racing machine out on her trial run. No expense had been spared in giving this superboat every possible technological refinement. When we had finished admiring the Barients, the Loran, the Sonar, and single side band and the gleaming array of dials, we scanned the horizons for a victim on which to test our speed.
The only target in sight was a large and cumbersome Tortola sloop, crammed with cement bags. vegetables, children and several goats, and powered by a tatty old battenless sail. Well, even though this didn't present much of a challenge, we set out to make short work of her. Winches whirred, lines hummed, and lips were whetted for the kill!
Except, somehow, maddeningly, that wretched old sloop just wouldn't come back to us. True, we were gaining on her - but agonisingly slowly. We were finding out just how good - despite appearances - that design of a Tortola sloop was, especially in 25 knots of breeze, on a reach.
After all, it was the product of 300 years of constant testing. And when a boat went well, they went back and built another just like her, only changing when they were sure they had one that went even better. That's how progress used to be separated from change.
Anyway, after sustained hiking by all members of the crew, and determined efforts to keep our new wonderboat drawing, we finally came abreast and passed the old sloop. The new owner, who had paid richly for the ability to leave the competition in his wake, looked particularly relieved.
The conversation onboard changed at this point from how well our boat sailed to "how well she rated". We happened to have a lady novice aboard who had the temerity to ask, "But doesn't rating well mean sailing well?" Embarassed by such ignorance, we explained (with the patience that experts reserve for the very young and the very inexperienced) that ratings were something quite apart from performance. "I see," she said, but I don't think she did. Poor girl - what naivety to confuse a good rating with good performance.
So on we went to our harbour destination, beating that old-fashioned sloop by a full 3 1/2 minutes. Naturally we used the engine a little at the end, to manoevre in to the beach, so that did give us a small advantage.
Fortunately we also had our modern depth finder switched on, giving us an admirably clear picture of what was below us. And if only that coral head which we glancingly struck had been below us, we would certainly have spotted it. As it was, we just bounced off, which we all agreed was a great tribute to the strength of our modern fibreglass construction and indeed our 6 1/2 feet of draft was a small price to pay for our high performance fin keel.
We were just getting our 160% genoa down (after sending someone aloft to clear the halyard which had jammed in our high performance airfoil forestay), when that old sloop came swooping by, turned cleanly into the wind and neatly dropped her anchor in about four feet of water, right off the best bit of beach. Quite frankly, we all thought it was a bit cheeky of him to show off and anchor there when we were left about 90 yards offshore.
However, the prospect of a piping hot meal out of our super electric stove soon gave us something else to think about. We sat around, watching the refrigerator, the oven, the lights and the hi-fi all humming away together. It was wonderful to see how modern science had triumphed over all the inconveniences of nature.
That was just about the moment we discovered that some sort of electrical malaise had drained our batteries to desperately low levels, causing the slow demise not only of our oven but also our entire electrical life support system. I mean, what do you do with half-cooked beef stroganoff? And no water because the pumps won't work?
After some argument, we decided to requisition help from the only source in sight - the native sloop.
After ten minutes of wrestling with the inflatable dinghy (specially packed for quick assembly in an emergency), and ten more minutes of trying to row this impossibly ungainly design into 15 knots of trade wind, I came alongside the sloop.
Light was streaming from their battered old oil lamp, and on the ancient paraffin stove, they were cooking a delicious-looking kingfish which they had caught on the way. I ignored the admittedly enticing aroma of this primitive fare and explained our plight.
At least the native skipper was polite enough to appear puzzled rather than amused. There wasn't much he could do to help us, other than give us some water, which he quickly tapped off a simple barrel on deck.
But he did pass along some advice as I was leaving.
"Mon," he said gently, "those conveniences got you all tied up. On the sea you got to be free."
He was so right he even rhymed.