Don't you wish someone would design a boat that's spritely and challenging to race but also comfortable enough to take the family day sailing? A boat that can plane like crazy in a stiff breeze on open water but is still a pleasure to sail in the light-to-medium winds of Atlanta's inland lakes? A boat that with a lot of love and only a little expense will retain her value no matter how old she is? Well, good news - someone did! Take a look at the Thistle, and you will find you can have it all!
The Thistle is a 17-foot, sloop-rigged boat with round bilges, open decking and a centerboard. Only 515 pounds, she is easily trailered, rigged and launched from a ramp. She has generous sail area in the main and jib and carries a spinnaker as well, making her not only beautiful on the water but fast-moving and responsive, quick to hop up on a plane and absolutely FUN to sail. The Thistle is sensitive to boat balance and likes to be sailed flat. Though she was designed to be raced with a crew of three, in light air at our lake we often "two-man it" or - when we're not racing - take as many as five or six out for a picnic or a swim. Such versatility makes her the perfect family boat.
Designed by Sandy Douglass in 1945, the first Thistles, made of wood, are still alive, well, and being raced today. New boats are now made of fiberglass - easier to care for to be sure, but no less beautiful or competitive than the original "woodies". Design changes over the years have been few and carefully considered, always with an eye for not creating obsolescence for the older boats. The Thistle has a reputation for strong, conservative class organization and enjoys a network of camaraderie and competition with fleets all over the United States, including District, Interdistrict and Mid-Winter Championships and a week-long National Championship that rotates annually among host clubs.
Atlanta Yacht Club is home to Thistle Fleet 48, a flock of about thirty actively sailed Thistles, their skippers, families and crew. Boats are kept on trailers at the Club at Lake Allatoona, where we set sail for races with fellow Thistlers most Saturday and Sunday afternoons from late March through October. Because there are many active Thistle fleets at nearby lakes and on the coast, a Southeastern regatta circuit in the spring and fall allows us the fun of traveling to compete at other clubs - but always just with Thistles. Fleet 48 hosts its own regatta, the "Dixie", on Memorial Day Weekend, drawing 60 or more boats every year. If you'll pardon our bragging, we'd like to say that the Dixie is in contention for the best Thistle regatta anywhere! Maybe you'll be there to sail with us sometime soon and can judge for yourself.
The AYC Thistle crowd gets together monthly to "talk boats" and party, even during the off-sailing season. We would welcome the opportunity to tell you why the Thistle is so great, invite you to a meeting, get you into a boat for a trial sail or crew job, or even help you shop for a used boat!