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The Rebel

One sailor refers to her Rebel-class sailboat as a “perfect lake and coastal boat.” It’s that simple.


Glenda Libby’s Rebel, QT. Photo courtesy Glenda Libby.


October 2011


he Rebel is a simple-to-set-up, easy-to-sail one-design sailboat that is popular with many sailors, be they novice or expert. It makes an excellent family boat, and yet the Rebel can be a very competitive racer. That’s what this story is about. Now, let’s talk about some details. First, here are the dimensions. The overall length is 16’ 1”, but the waterline length is 15’ 10”. Her beam is 6’ 7 1/2”. The draft is three-and-a-half feet with the centerboard down, but she draws only six inches with the board up. A Rebel weighs in at 700 pounds, give or take, and her sail area, including main and jib, is 166 square feet. Her Portsmouth rating for racing purposes is 96.9, which could be compared with a 420’s 97.6, or a Catalina 16.5’s 96.3, or a Laser Radial’s 96.7, or an OK Dinghy’s 96.5. Secondly, let’s look at the history of the Rebel—which class officials say is the first sailboat built out of fiberglass. Back in Toledo, OH, in 1944, Ray Greene designed the boat so the average person could enjoy it. Then he and Alvin Youngquist, a drawing instructor, used fiberglass samples from Owens-Corning fiberglass. The first boats were a combination of wood and fiberglass, but soon Rebels were all fiberglass. Wooden boat sailors laughed at the Rebels and called them names, but the boats were so user-friendly that they became very popular around the country. It wasn’t long before the Association of Rebel Sailors was born, and over the years there have been five versions, beginning with the Mark I. Today, the class numbers around 4,200. Like most classes, the price range varies with the boat’s age and condition. A good used one might cost in the neighborhood of $2,500, and a brand-new vessel runs about $12,000. Nickels Boat Works of Flint, MI, is the primary builder, and the boat’s popularity has spread to many places around the country. The most active fleets are in the Midwest, such as Grand Rapids and Jackson, MI, but there are other hotbeds of activity in Virginia, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois and Ohio. Michigan’s Bruce Nowak, editor of the class newsletter, “Rebel Rabble,” for the past 10 years, says he sailed them while he was in the service, and there are boats available on Okinawa and in Canada. People can also find Rebels in the South in general, and Florida in particular. One Rebel owner and fan is Glenda Libby of Eustis, FL (That’s her comment in the first sentence). She learned to sail in New Bedford, MA, when she was 16, but Glenda never touched another sailboat for several years. Meanwhile, she had gotten married and had a couple of children, but she never lost her love of sailing.