If boats were sensible, like computers or stripy pyjamas, they would all look the same.
Something’s wrong when you find yourself worrying about the price of a meal when you’ve got a boat moored outside that’s worth more than the restaurant. But that’s boats: if they were sensible, your accountant would have one. And if boats were sensible, like computers or stripy pyjamas, they would all look the same. All those conflicts and compromises between accommodation, performance and styling that keep naval architects and designers gainfully employed from boat show to boat show would have been smoothed out and we’d be left ordering our Euro-box cruising units by size and colour.
Thankfully that’s not true now and never has been. Boat design remains one of the few areas of life where that old saw still applies: “If it looks right, it probably is right.”
And how many different ways there are for a boat to be ‘right’. It’s far more than skin deep. It can only look right if everything else is right too: it has to deliver. The Jaguar E-Type, for instance, wouldn’t be revered today as a style classic if it could only manage 45mph before the wheels fell off. And the Spitfire: a thing of sculptural beauty which if it hadn’t also been ruthlessly good at its job would now be entirely forgotten.
So being merely pretty isn’t enough to qualify as one of ‘the best-looking boats of all time’ – it has to go deeper than that. We confined our choice to production boats, since one-offs are another world. And since time lends distance to one’s perspective on what looks good or not, we weren’t expecting anything particularly new to make it into the shortlist – and so it proved.
The thing about a list like this, of course, is that no two people will ever agree about it. That would just be too sensible.