Welcome to the XOD renaissance

Thursday 6 October 2016

In 2012, the X One Design Class gave Nick Whittle and Isle of Wight-based Whittle Marine authorisation to commence building new XODs. After three years of preparation and meticulous planning, the new XOD is currently in-build at Whittle Marine’s facility outside Yarmouth on the West Wight.

‘The benefit of this new build is to show to the world that the X One Design fleet is not only alive and well, but that this new build represents a renaissance of the class,’ says Mike Till, XOD Class Captain. ‘This new boat will also demonstrate to everybody out there, not just the members of the class, but those interested in historical yachting and those wedded to the philosophy of traditional, classic boat building methods that Nick Whittle and Whittle Marine are well on their way to achieving this objective.’

With an estimated 110 to 130 XODs still sailing, is there a tangible demand for new boats? Till is convinced that new XODs are essential to the class and identifies the reason; running costs. ‘These boats go back to 1911, so they are in different states of condition,’ he explains. ‘Some are very good and some very old boats are in immaculate condition because their owners have spent a lot of money maintaining them in the traditional manner.’

Running costs among classic boat owners is a popular and endless debate. ‘The costs of maintaining a wooden boat are quite high because you are constantly fighting issues relating to wooden boats,’ Till continues. ‘Nowadays, with the advent of epoxy, the tenure of these boats has radically increased, especially those boats that are fully epoxied. So, that has reduced the costs, but it’s still a big issue.’

Despite modern polymers and resin, Till believes there are compelling reasons for a new build: ‘The argument put forward for a new boat is that although the cost of acquiring a new build will not be cheap, Nick’s argument, and one that I support, is that by investing that sort of money you will get a boat that – in all seriousness – will give you many years of trouble-free, maintenance-free sailing,’ says the Class Captain.

However, XODs are raced hard so there are consequences. ‘You will have to handle that, but in general terms, it will be a lot less than messing about with a boat that’s been around since 1935 or 1936, or whenever,’ he believes. ‘And I think that’s the biggest argument for marketing this boat quite apart from the obvious benefit to the XOD fleet.’

Naturally, there is some resistance to change: ‘Any class has a level of politics, so there are people out there who are always looking to find negatives, rather than positives,’ explains Till. ‘Nick’s not immune from that happening to him, but in general terms, we know he’s built this boat absolutely to the class rule and the class measurements,’ he continues. ‘He has invested a considerable amount of money in full laser measuring equipment which has enabled an accuracy of 100 per cent on all the lines and on that basis, I think he’s on to a winner.’

There is, of course, an element of risk. ‘The other issue that you’ve got with a new boat is if you’re buying from a builder who hasn’t got an established reputation as a builder, you are effectively taking a dive into deep water,’ says Till although, in mitigation, Whittle Marine has been heavily involved in XODs for many years with a growing reputation and, as a result, 30 XODs are scheduled for work in the yard this winter. The new build will be a landmark for the company.

This vital, unknown factor will remain unresolved until the boat is proven on the water and the current absence of a trophy-winning build pedigree at Whittle Marine may cause some initial resistance. ‘The sort of guy who is going to buy a new build and invest all that money in a first class boat is going to have XOD in his DNA and he’ll be 100 per cent dedicated to supporting the class with all his heart,’ explains Till.

The performance debate will be settled when the Whittle Marine XOD is launched in May 2017.

In the next Whittle Marine blog, Nick Whittle reveals the technical, financial and logistic challenges of building a new XOD.

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