The photograph above shows TS Godley cadets close-hauled in a Crown, autumn sailing on Lyttelton Harbour in 2017. They are learning and practising the same skills in the same-sized boat and the same environment as their predecessors from earlier generations.
The Crown is basically a fibreglass-hulled version of the old, wooden, clinker-built 17-footer that would have been familiar to the Cadets of half a century ago. Below is another photograph, of TS Steadfast cadets in a 17-footer engaged in a Lyttelton Harbour race against TS Waireka cadets from Dunedin. The date of this photograph is unknown, but it appears to be from the 1970s. The older photograph was found in the wardroom at the Cass Bay on-shore training area.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The cadets of yesteryear would probably step into a Crown and be able to sail it easily. Today’s cadets would likewise manage very well if they found themselves in a 17-footer, although they might find the boat heavier to handle and possibly slower through the water.
However, apart from the boat, there are two obvious differences between then and now.
One is the all-male crew – today’s Crown sailors are just as likely to be young women and the Crown in the top photo has a female coxswain.
Also, the lads from the previous years are not wearing lifejackets (possibly they are under the thwarts), and their clothing seems inadequate for the conditions. Perhaps young people were hardier then, but today’s cadets are not foolhardy. Lifejackets are now compulsory and the young people of today favour neoprene wetsuits and polypropelene undergarments to ward off hypothermia.