At our pond, the decline in the Marblehead class has been real and very noticeable. Some of this is just local pond politics but it does seem to have paralleled the international swing to IOMs. I agree with Bob that it is just a down cycle, but the up cycle presumed to be ahead bears thinking about. The class will not necessarily recover automatically as the economy comes back.
It is a shame. I have sailed in several different classes, and they all have their exciting moments, but the M is the only boat that is, at its top speed, thrilling to sail.
I once came across a photo taken on a strange day in 1872 at a train yard at Swindon, a terminus of the Great Western railway. Fifteen miles of cold locomotives and empty tenders were lined up nose to tail. The technology equivalent of a fish kill.
It was a side-effect of a legislated change to a standard railway gauge in England. Broad gauge locomotives of the Great Western were technically superior, faster, and more efficient and doubtless more fun to drive than the standard gauge locomotives of the time.
But these technically superior engines were all parked forever, on that day, as a result of legislation that standardized the British rail system on a different gauge. Parliament had reasoned (correctly) that gauge standardization of the nation?s railway network was more important than the loftiness of the technology associated with any particular gauge.
So you could toy with the idea that what has happened to the Broad Gauge locomotives is a fair metaphor for what has happened to the Marblehead class. Marbleheads have been in fact been sidelined, not just by a change in technical standards, but by a change in favor of standardization. The current standard seems to be, for better or worse, the IOM. As in the case of the British railway system, the appeal of the IOM is standardization per se. Standardization is better for manufacturers, their investors, customers, the network and the nation. Never mind about high technology.
So what happens next to the M-boats? The crushing machine?
Hardly. M?s are not going to be scrapped. Their value on the market is drifting downward economically because there is less interest in them than in the IOMs. But the process is self limiting. The price doesn?t have to go down very much to dip below the (still energetically ascending) price of a competitive IOM. At this important crossover, you would have to ask yourself ? hey. Why race an IOM (which is, in light air, in my view, a complete and utter slugmobile) when you could, for the same price, race a fast, light, and agile M?
The Broad Gauge locomotives parked and photographed at Swindon in 1872 were not all scrapped. Most of them were modified, converted to the narrow gauge standard and put back on the track. Maybe something like this would be a solution for Marbleheads ? change the boat slightly to meet, or confront, the new standard.
This is not, however, an argument for standardizing Marbleheads in the manner of the IOMs. The real strength of the Marblehead class, versus the IOMs, is its indifference to (defiance of) technical standardization.
In other words, Doug is probably right. It could be that some sort of change in the definition of the class, to open it up to more innovation, would help put these many boats back in the water.
Best wishes to everyone for the holiday, Michael