BOATING NEW ZEALAND EVALUATION OF THE MACGREGOR 26
(PHOTOS ARE NOT INCLUDED TO SAVE DOWNLOADING TIME)
The following article appeared in BOATING NEW ZEALAND, February 2005. It was written by Matt Vance
MOTOR SAILOR ON A TRAILER
The Macgregor 26 is part trailer sailer, part powerboat, offering the benefits of life under sail with the home-by-six convenience of a powerboat. This combination of power and sail is nothing new, but the MacGregor does it in a new way.
Built in the US, the distinctive high profile outline and head turning speed under power have hit a chord with the market. A relatively recent arrival to the New Zealand scene, the MacGregor brand has been producing quality production boats for 36 years from its California base. Sales of the proceeding 26x model exceeded 5,000 and the new 26M is set to be even more successful.
First impressions of the 26M are "large". Her high freeboard, distinctive double layered cabin windows and moulded stake gave her an unmistakable look Ė this is not your average trailer yacht.
Closer inspection reveals an attention to detail typical of US manufacturers: lots of bright gel coat and moulded curves that flow through the small but functional cockpit and continue through into a clutter-free, flush desk. Though the walk-through transom is narrower than the 26X model, there is still good access to and from the cockpit for trailer and marina use.
Down below, the MacGregor reveals her Tardis-like-qualities. The exceptional spacious layout and generous 1.82m headroom would make comfortable weekend living for a couple or family of four. There is a roomy double birth under the cockpit, a spacious saloon with two large settees/single birth, an ingenious sliding galley and sink unit to port, space for an enclosed head and cozy vee birth forward. This layout seems slightly more useable than the previous 26X design, to a more user-friendly height.
Rigging and rotating mast is a breeze due to the innovative mast raising winch and pole system. Launching is straight forward, aides by relatively flat bottom, although high freeboard could make this challenging in anything other than an off shore breeze. The 26M is legal width and light enough- thanks to the water ballast Ė to be towed by a two litre car. She rides nicely on her well-balanced trailer, which comes with hydraulic override brakes as standard.
We motored out into the Littleton harbour in powerboat mode, without water ballast, and experienced the first of many unusual sensations as we lifted onto the plane and clipped along at 17 knots.
With a 50hp Yamaha four-stroke slung from a powerboat-like transom well, we had the power to push through a little wind-against-tide chop. With the skipper and crew seated aft in the cockpit, the motion is much smoother than most powerboats, however the rig seems to take a lot of shock load from the pounding, which can alarm the uninitiated. Ideally, this mode is suited to water skiing on calm days.
A simple, hand-operated gate valve on the transom allows filling of the water ballast tank. In three minutes itís full and the motion of the 26M changes dramatically to that of a displacement launch. In this mode she has a maximum speed under motor of around 15 knots. While this gives a slightly wetter ride, the sensation is a lot more solid and getting home quickly in front of a weather change is a reassuring possibility.
The Yamaha 50hp four-stroke is quite economical. There is storage for up to 60 litres of fuel in the cockpit lockers, which are isolated from the interior of the boat. The 26Mís maneuverability and shallow draft in power mode makes beaching easy, which was disturbing for the keeler sailor in me, but it will make the family beach picnic, that much more enjoyable.
Switching to sail mode is a matter of raising sails and lowering the water filled dagger board and the twin rudders, which slot nicely into the transom on an endless rope system.
The rudders are attached to the same cable steering system as the motor. This and the small powerboat-type wheel make for an awkward feel to the helm by yacht standards. Disconnecting the motor from the system may make a difference-this simply done by lifting the helmsmanís hinged seat, stepping into the engine well and disconnecting it with an R clip. However it is recommended that it left connected so the engine is ready to use if needed in a hurry.
With a 16-knot breeze in the offing, we set the 19.1 m2 genoa and 15.m2 mainsail. We quickly reefed the genoa on the CDI to balance the boat and to help her stay on her feet. The 26Mís narrow beam and lack of ballast in the dagger board mean that she is tender and needs reefing early to sail at her best. Future 26Mís will come with the working jib as standard option and the genoa as extra, which is in keeping with New Zealandís generally windier conditions. We tacked through about 90 degrees in the short harbour chop and with a boat speed of around 5 knots on the wind, which is appropriate performance for a cruising trailer sailer.
While the purist sailor might enjoy a good slog to windward in these conditions, the smart family sailor would learn to use the 26mís strengths. Itís appealing to think of dropping the sails to motor upwind at pace to a nice anchorage for a BBQ or water ski, while looking forward to a leisurely downwind home a 5-6 knots.
The designers have achieved a good compromise between power and sail. Some trade-offs are inevitable but the overall result is a comfortable family boat in the best traditions of the 70ís trailer sailer revolution, updated by technology and in sync with the needs of the modern family sailor.
loa 25ft 10in
lwl 23ft 2in
Beam 7 ft 9in
Draft , board up 12in
Draft, board down 5ft 9in
Engine 5-50 hp
Water ballast 533 kg
Permanent ballast 136 kg
Total ballast 669 kg
Disp, empty 1264 kg