It had been nearly 20 years since I stepped into a Penguin when I toted one down to Bristol (Rhode Island) Yacht Club last winter for a day of “frostbite” racing. I had owned a Penguin years earlier, and I had been able to buy it back, intending to restore it to sail with my daughter some day. But in the meantime, a good friend from Long Island offered the use of his Penguin, which had hung from his garage rafters for 15 years. “I’d love to see her sailing again,” he said. I pieced it together that brisk Saturday and made it out to the race course just in time for the first start.Maybe it was the nostalgia that had me so excited to be surrounded by so much varnish in such a little boat, one of five wooden Penguins on the starting line that day. Or perhaps it was because my co-skipper for the boat, which is sailed double-handed, was Tim Fallon, team race world champion and Beetle Cat guru from Cape Cod. Either way, watching the plumb bow punch through the dark northwesterly wavelets and feeling the windward chine lock into a wave downwind as we leaned out to weather was just plain ol’ fun and more challenging than I had remembered.The Penguin has been one of the most prolific home-built classes in the country. “Every time I look at one of these beautiful boats, I smile,” said a 70-year-old gentleman on the pier that afternoon who had raced them in the 1950s.

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