It strikes me that we are going though a period in which sailboats that look like sailboats are coming back into fashion. By this I mean yachts with low freeboard and long overhangs and teak decks and the transom tipped the "right" way. A good example is this 63-footer from the board of Nils Helleberg at John G. Alden Naval Architects Inc. of Boston. There is an intrinsic beauty to this shape that has simply never been surpassed. The building of a new yacht - as opposed to restoration of an old one - is justified by the opportunity to use in its construction modern materials that did not exist when the wooden yachts that evolved this image reached their point of perfection. These modern materials eliminate seams, vastly increase strength and are lighter and even more durable than the finest woods, many of which are no longer available.

How have modern materials influenced what you think looks exactly like a Cruising Club of America design out of the late 1950s? First, take a look at the numbers. This yacht weighs only 58,000 lb. at half load. This translates into a displacement/length ratio of 234 - a number that would have been at the low end of achievability back in wooden boat days, and then only at the price of a bendy, leak-prone hull that would have gone to the boneyard years ago. Today, built of seamless vacuum bagged biaxial E-glass in epoxy resin over a Balrek Contourkore core, this hull will last until we're worrying about the Y3K software bug.

The intrinsic beauty of this shape never goes out of style. Her 16' beam provides acres of volume for the accommodations.

Then cast your eye on the sail plan. Not much of it, is there? How nice not to have to manage a huge spread of sail in order to drive a hull at a decent speed. With a modest displacement and low wetted surface beneath it, a rig of only 1,585 sq. ft. of sail is sufficient to power this 63-footer. This still translates into a very respectable sail area to displacement ratio of 16.93, which is just about right for a yacht that will be sailed offshore by a shorthanded crew. The mast itself can be of small size and remarkably light, as it's built of carbon fiber and supported by triple spreaders, using discontinuous rod rigging. This type of standing rigging enables every rod to be no larger than is needed for its particular load. When you want to trim or hoist or reef a sail, you do so by pushing a button to activate the necessary hydraulically powered winch or headsail furler. What could be easier?

You can't see the keel in plan view in these drawings, but it, too, benefits from modern thinking. Not too many years ago a yacht of this narrow beam and with a moderate draft of 8' would have been tender. Henry Scheel got us started in the right direction with his patented Scheel Keel, the first to flare out into a tip vortex reducing shape at the bottom. Today every sailing yacht design firm has developed its proprietary version of a bulbed low-aspect ratio shallow draft keel. The bulb gets the ballast very low and provides an end plate to prevent the high pressure fluid on the leeward side of the keel from leaking around the tip to fill in the low pressure on the windward side. No, it doesn't offer quite the pointing angle of a centerboard, but it's a darn sight more stable. Eliminating the centerboard, the old-fashioned way to achieve relatively shallow keel and decent pointing ability, gets rid of the centerboard problems.

You say that the interior is surely the one area that remains unchanged from the heyday of the CCA. It has beautiful cherry wood, flawlessly joined and varnished to perfection. But it too has benefited from a technology revolution, for most of it is composed of veneers clad over Nomex panels originally developed for the aircraft industry. There is no better way to dress an interior in luxurious woods and keep the overall displacement of the yacht at a reasonable level.

We've come a long way.