Ensign, Thistle, Lightning and other one design championships are won by boats that are around 50 years old at times. Why not the Hobies?Weight
Boats gain weight as they get older (don't we all!), but an Ensign weighs >3000 lbs; a Thistle weighs >550 lbs; a Lightning weighs >700 lbs. A few extra pounds is not a big deal to them. Minimum weight on a Hobie 16 is 320 lbs. Hobie 16s before 1984 weighed >340 lbs - 20+ lbs is a significant percentage of the boat's weight. Weight doesn't affect straight line speed, but it greatly affects acceleration (remember F=ma?). Hobie 16s are significantly faster than all the other one-design classes you mentioned - and acceleration (out of a tack/jibe, working through waves) is a significant component of their overall speed. Weight is a major issue - and there's no real way to make a heavy boat lighter. Older, light boats (1984/'85) boats can
be competitive - if they've survived this long. They tended to be fragile. Newer (since '96) boats are both light and sturdier.Incremental Changes
While your 1980 Hobie 16 and my 2007 Hobie 16 are superficially similar, there have been many small production changes that cumulatively make my boat significantly quicker, especially upwind. Many of them have to do with squeezing every every possible millimeter of mast rake out of the rig - and balancing the rudder system to take compensate for the additional load that puts on them. For you to upgrade your boat to take advantage of the differences would cost as much as buying a new boat. We're talking about things like crossbars with integrated traveler tracks, beefier corner castings with a much tighter fit, a different mast step casting and a revised jib cut with a higher clew. Fully sheeted in upwind, my boom is less than 9" above the rear crossbeam (not the track). My jib clew plate is less than 2" from the front crossbeam. You can't do that on a 1980 boat.
The helm on a newer boat is light and responsive. The rake adjustable rudder castings (introduced in 1984) make balancing the boat a breeze. I can lay my tiller down upwind and the boat will track straight, with almost no helm input. The stock rudders from 1980 (Lexan) are heavy and flexible - they give the helm a "mushy" feel, while the EPO, EPO2 and EPO3 rudders are light and extremely stiff - it's like sports car steering.Casting / Pylon Wear
Older boats are loose - put your fully rigged boat on the ground and slowly lift one bow. Note how much you can lift it before the other bow starts to come up. On a newer boat (or one that's been glued together), the bows will come up in unison. That slop in the frame is an energy absorber - some of the energy that could be used to make the boat go faster is eaten up by making the frame twist. You can shim the pylons and tighten the tramp to help reduce the slop - but the only real way to eliminate it is to epoxy the castings to the pylons and crossbeams.
I don't want to discourage you from racing - on the contrary - I want you to try it and not get discouraged
. I'm very familiar with all the classes you mentioned, and it's very rare that an old boat does well in them - mainly because it takes a lot of labor and $$$$ to do so. It's not practical and the people that do it do it because it's a labor of love. It's much more practical to get a newer boat, learn to sail and race competitively - then
if you want to get to the very pointy end of the fleet, get a new boat and go from there.
You're in an area (Tucson) that has a very active Hobie fleet (Hobie Fleet 514 - http://www.fleet514.com/
). Hook up with them and they can get you started on the right track.