Most sailors are familiar with the term 'Corinthian' sailing.
The word 'Corinthian' connotes 'amateur' sailing - sailing that is free of any commercial sponsorship or material compensation. Traditionally, the Corinthian sailor sailed his own yacht, without a hired captain.
But no one can agree on just how the word 'Corinthian' came to be used in this way. Who first made the connection between amateur sailing, the ancient Greeks of Corinth, and their love of fair sportsmanship?
The term's application to sailing is actually relatively modern. Few people realize that it refers to the very sailing dinghy I learned to sail on - the 15-foot Mutineer - and to its larger, more famous sibling - the Buccaneer.
These two boats were born of very unlikely parentage - they were products of the Chrysler Corporation - the same company that gave us the Hemi 'Cuda and the Dodge Dart. Chrysler's brilliant engineering was applied to producing truly groundbreaking designs in sailing dinghies in the early 1970's. And the Mutineer is probably most famous for the innovative roller furling system of its jib.
Where conventional systems allow the luff of the jib to be tensioned by a halyard, the engineers at Chrysler - who had no actual sailing experience - found what seemed to them a purer solution. Rather than use a costly commercial furler, they developed a solution better suited to amateur sailors. They attached the jib to a simple piece of limp PVC tubing with ordinary hoseclamps.
The genius of this design was that, no matter how much tension was applied to the forestay, the luff of the jib hung in a graceful, untensioned arc. In the true Corinthian spirit, no competitor would benefit from the unfair advantage of a properly trimmed jib. Thus, the Mutineer was the ultimate expression of Corinthian sailing - amateur engineering for amateur sailors.
To celebrate this remarkable engineering achievement, the marketing department at Chrysler also named the upholstery in their fine motor cars for the Corinthian spirit embodied in their sturdy little sailboat, giving us, in one bold stroke, both Corinthian sailing and Corinthian leather. They hired for their spokesman famous Olympic sailor, Ricardo Montalban. And the sailing world has used the term 'Corinthian Sailing' ever since.
While, sadly, there are no surviving examples of Mr. Montalban's promotional work for the Mutineer or Buccaneer, at O Dock, we have recovered a rare example of his campaign for an equally noteworthy engineering achievement of the period, the Chrysler Cordoba. No Mutineer sailor can watch this stirring tribute to the Corinthian spirit without shedding a few tears.