Buying new is relatively straightforward . . . do you want wood or plastic?
In recent years there has been a noticeable shift in preference from wooden to plastic boats, probably as a result of lower maintenance and the boats featuring prominently at the front of the fleet in recent years. That’s not to say the wooden ones aren’t quick too, both the 2012 and 2014 Nationals were won in wooden boats and – but only a personal view – a wooden Scorpion is a thing of beauty and something to be cherished, while a plastic one is just a boat.
For a plastic boat P&B offer a complete range starting with a bare hull to the complete package including covers, trailers and all the latest rigging systems. You can either request the boat to be fitted out to the same spec as theirs or modify it to suit how you want. The boat is a proven performer with the majority of the top 10 using them. P&B’s current Scorpion representative is Oli Wells who can help with any decisions you need to make.
Kevin Gosling or Nigel Potter are the main suppliers of wooden boats, or both can produce plastic boats with or without a wood finish. These boats look more like pieces of furniture and there is more scope for tweaking the hull shape compared to the P&B hull or again, both will provide a standard fit out.
Buying Second Hand
Where to find them ?
Most boats, and especially newer ones, change hands through word-of-mouth, or via the Association second-hand boat list. Alternatively there are a multitude of sites people will use to spread the message when they want to sell so a quick ask of google never hurts.
An outside chance is to ring one of the suppliers of new boats as they will occasionally take boats in part-exchange for new ones. Or ask around the fleet, there are usually a few people who will consider upgrading if someone wants their boat at a sensible price.
It is also possible to place a wanted in the second-hand boat section of this website.
What to buy ?
Not everyone has the same ambitions when buying a boat, so the first thing is to decide what you want to achieve in terms of sailing achievement…
♦ . . . hardly anything ?
If you don’t sail much (or at all) but love restoring old boats there are a surprising number of suitable cases for treatment in garages, gardens and dinghy parks up and down the land. These can be had for as little as £50-100 or even free. Some may not be worth restoration but can still be a good source of cheap but serviceable spars, fittings and sails – or trolleys/trailers. There are always some examples on the boat list, and there really are a surprising number of people engaged in restoration projects.
Don’t buy unless you’re confident about taking on the work, – it may be worth contacting others who’ve done it before to talk it through, and the Association can probably put you in touch with someone who has. If you do go for it we’d love to hear about it. But be aware that you will not recoup your time/money in the resale value of the boat, the only reward will be the satisfaction of doing it, sailing it, and writing about it.
♦ . . . just sailing ?
If it’s just something to sail occasionally at the club, or for the kids to learn to sail, a boat of almost any age will do provided it’s sound – there is no point in paying for a hot racing machine if you don’t need it – which means that you would be looking at boats from roughly 1 to 1900.
In this range most serviceable boats (ie. not restoration projects) will be selling for between £200 and £600, but there is little correlation between price and sail number. Prices seem to depend more on the actual condition of hull/spars/sails (or the seller’s optimism) than on the age of the boat.
Most hulls were made of wood, but some are all GRP, and some had GRP hulls and wooden decks; and there were (presumably) many home-built boats. Age of the hull is not particularly important, but if you intend to race at all, the weight is: bare hull weight (ie. with all fittings and ropes removed) should be as near 81Kg as possible. With all the bits attached, it should be nearer 83Kg. The measurement certificate (if there is one) will tell you what it weighed new.
♦ . . . club racing ?
Well there’s racing and racing; and in my experience a lot of people involved in club racing are just out for a sail with some purpose to it, and a good-natured race around the cans in a reasonably competitive boat, probably in a handicap fleet, – is just the job. This isn’t the kind of racing where the crews are straining every sinew to gain that extra boat length, or where only state-of-the-art gear can keep you in contention. So, if this is what you do (and why not ?), you still don’t need a “new” boat. There are lots of club-competitive boats in the range 1800 -1950 which will not cost a great deal of money (say between £600 – £2000).
You may find a variety of layouts and fittings, but if they aren’t to your liking they can usually be changed relatively easily. So the thing to focus on is the sails – a new suit may cost around £1500 (Main, Jib, Spinnaker) – so try to get a boat with sails which have some life left in them.
♦ . . . keen club racing, Open circuit, Nationals ?
You can do this with an older boat, and we do particularly try to encourage everyone to enter the Nationals – because it isn’t just about winning – but in practice most people sailing at this level are in boats from around 1930 onwards. Not that that is “new” – 1930 for example would have been built in 1990 – but Scorpions have long competitive lives.
Price-wise you should expect to pay from about £2000 up to £11500 but it isn’t a linear scale, and it does depend on builder, the boat’s reputation, and how well it’s been looked after, – as well as age. The modern plastic boats started around sail number 1992 but most are 2000+ and, as a result, prices for these usually start around £6000.
Most boats in this range have very similar rigs and fittings, but a couple of points to note (as they will affect the boats value) are the use of twin poles, one string raking, and the recent experiments with spinnaker bags. Twin poles and one-string raking make sailing the boat a lot easier but are costly additions (twin poles with all the fittings etc are likely to cost £1000) so a boat that already has these will be worth more. One string raking is not as expensive but can be awkward to fit. Bag boats have a full bow tank and no spinnaker chute and were popular in the early noughties. However, almost all new boats have a chute and so the bag boats have declined in popularity. It means you can pick one up cheaper than you would expect for a boat of that age but they can be harder to sell again in the future. It is also harder to fit 1 string raking and twin poles but that’s not to say it can’t be done.
. . . finally, whatever you’re looking for
If you’re not familiar with Scorpions already, talk to someone who is – especially to check if the asking price is reasonable. Try ringing the boat list person, or one or two Committee members, or just come to an Open and ask the sailors.
We are a friendly class, and most people will be glad to help.