What to look for when buying a used Vanguard 15 sailboat

A while back I was in the market to buy a used Vanguard 15, a popular 15-foot sailboat raced here in San Francisco. Here’s the list of some of the less-obvious things to look for when buying a used V15. Some of these come from Nick Adamson, a past V15 national champ who was instrumental in getting the local fleet going here in San Francisco, and Morgan Larson, a 505 world champ who’s done a bit of sailing in Vanguards.

This isn’t a complete list of things to look for — that would be a long, boring post. Rather, these are some of the really big items to look for to quickly size up a boat.

  1. Mainsheet block attachment becket — they eventually get loose and have to be reinforced (repairable but you should negotiate on the price).
  2. Spider cracking in on the hull — usually means the hull has a weak spot in the spider cracked area (stay away if you see this).
  3. Excessive wear in the centerboard trunk — a primary source of leaks (repairable but you should negotiate on the price).
  4. Make sure mast is straight — they sometimes get bent when inexperienced folks stick the mast in the mud. (Means the mast needs to be replaced.)
  5. Bow dings. These are often repairable but indicate the boat’s probably had a hard life.
  6. Delaminated rails. These are usually repairable if they are caught early. But make sure the rail hasn’t turned mushy.
  7. Misaligned/misshaped centerboard trunk. This is not repairable. If you want to be competitive, this could be a show stopper.
  8. Corrosion in the rigging. Not a showstopper, but means that you should consider replacing the shrouds, else your mast could come down.

On the other hand, Nick said it wasn’t necessary to weigh a V15 hull since he’s never her of major weight differences. This is in contrast to Laser hulls 20 years ago — yes, I’m dating myself — which could range in weight from 130 to 145 pounds.

Aside from these visual checks, it’s important to test sail a boat on a windy day and see how it holds up, and check out whether it leaks.

There are some things that are fairly easily addressed, and should not be major sticking points when looking to buy a used boat:

  1. Minor rail dings.
  2. Mast step depressions. Seems like V15’s get these after just a bit of sailing.
  3. Wear on the boom, where it meets the shrouds.
  4. Cracked plastic handrails. A number of sailors are simply taking the plastic handrails off.
  5. Worn out shock cord and lines.

Once you find the right boat, here are some things you can to do fix up your new Vanguard 15.

What do you think? What other kinds of things should one look at when buying a Vanguard 15?