They’re going to need some better boats

Jean is starting to show her age. At just over 40, she still moves gracefully, but her admirers around Newport are starting to notice the cracks and blemishes.

Many tourists still snapped photos of her, though, to show friends just how beautiful Newport Beach is. But, soon, she will instead be the symbol of foggy Monterey.

Jean is one of UC Irvine’s six classic Shields sailboats that will soon be moving north. The school recently purchased modern boats for its students, racers and recreation sailors, and will retire its fleet of 30-foot Shields to the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club, where they will be refurbished.

“We’re happy that the boats are going to where they’ll be appreciated,” said Joyce Ibbetson, the school’s boating program director. “It’s a combination of sadness to see the boats go, and excitement to have something new.”

One of the UCI Shields suffered a structural failure when it was racing in February’s Midwinter Regatta at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. At that point, the school inspected the other five boats and determined that they had to make major repairs or buy new boats.

“We wanted to use the opportunity to make a change and get a more modern boat,” Ibbetson said.

Some of UCI’s fleet of Shields date to the 1960s. “Jean” was named after the wife of Daniel Aldrich, UCI’s first chancellor, and christened in 1969.

In place of the Shields, the school bought six J-22s, smaller (22 feet compared to 30 feet), lighter (4,600 pounds vs. 1,790 pounds) and more nimble boats.

UCI keeps its boats at the Orange Coast College School of Sailing and Seamanship, where it leases dock space. OCC has eight Shields that will stay in Newport.

To make room for the six “J-Boats,” OCC is reconfiguring its docks. In the meantime, UCI will only have three slips and is looking for somewhere to keep the other three boats.

The J-Boats may be better for beginners, as they’re much more modern and more like dinghies, said Steve Reed, who has sailed and taught on the UCI Shields since 1978.

“It would be like a beginning driver learning in a 1960s car,” he said. “You can do it, but it would be much better on a modern boat.”

Editor’s Note: Staff Writer Mike Reicher is an avid sailor and member of the UCI Sailing Assn.