Tuesday, December 18, 2007

MacGregor 26M


5400 during 9 years she was built the MacGregor 26X will be hard act to follow. But the 26M is maintaining the pace, with 1800 sold after 3 years. Significant differences include the new boat's 136kg of permanent ballast.
The Macgregor has a lot of freeboard: it's 1.2m from the waterline to the top of the coamings, over which you have to climb while you boarding over pontoon. From a dinghy you would need to board over the transom or use the ladder.
When motoring slowly, you should have a ballast tank full. Just open the transom bung by leaning over the stern, open the vent over the top of the tank under the forward berth and wait for about 3 minutes until water appears. You will also need a daggerboard and rudders down for maneuverability. The outboard is linked to the rudders so they're both turned by the wheel.

Like this, MacGregor say you shouldn't motor at more than 5,2knots to avoid damage to the rudders.
Maneuverability is good. The high aspect-ratio daggerboard lets her spin tightly and she grps the water well, even reversing accurately with the wind on the bow.
To motor faster, you raise the daggerboard and rudders. With water tanks still full, we made 13.5knots into a force 6 in Falmouth's Carrick Roads, and 15 knots downwind with the 50hp Evinrude running flat out. Once the tank was empty - just open the bungs and keep moving forward - our downwind speed increased to 17,8 knots. MacGregor claim a maximum of 21 knots.
Sailing under full canvas in a wind gusting over 20 knots isn't something many MacGregor owners are likely to do. Nonetheless I wanted to see how the boat handled under pressure.
The first thing to get used to is the way the engine tries to control the steering. Once it's raised, gravity takes over and it flops to leeward, tuning the wheel to it so you have to counter the lee helm. Leaving the engine down you reduces the effect at the expense of a knot or more speed. The answer would be to disconnect the engine from a steering linkage: not easy without loosing vital pieces overboard. A quick release system would be worth having.
Over broad reach we clocked over 6 knots in flat water and nearly 8 knots semi surfing outside the estuary. Upwind we heeled about 40 degrees and made a lot of leeway but gained ground all the same.
Tucking into only reef was a challenge more of a battle, in fact, that tuck two of us about 20 minutes. Fixing up a system that allows you to reef at sea would be prudent.
Under reduced canvas she was happier, making about 4,5 knots into the small chop. She could also be persuaded to make upwind under main only. Tacking is worth practising to make sure you don't get stuck in irons. Grip from the rudders was pretty good: you feel the wheel loading up at just over 40 degrees of heel beforethe boat rounds gently into the wind.
She was easy to stall if allowed to slow down , otherwise behaving better than I have expected. MacGregor claim, probably rightly, that the roasting mast has much to do with her improving performance. On the other hand, the lack of bearing at it's heel that the mast no longer rotates if you wind the rigging down too tightly. The resulting lack of tension and sagging forestay led to an overly -full jib which contributed to the heel and leeway, as did the extremely light sail cloth that had already streched a good deal. Apart from rotating mast, the principal performance enhancer in the new boat is daggerboard. It's simpler than centerboard on the 26X and can be lifted trough the deck. It also reduces turbulence. A daggerboards, don't swing up on impact, I wasn't surprised to hear that replacements are regularly ordered.

Cockpit and deck
Stopping the fuel tank sliding across the floor was a challenge. It lives in a open fronted locker - there is a one each side for two tanks - with nothing to keep it in place when the boat heels. Fenders and warps have to be stowed bellow decks there are no lockers, though you could close off the front of one fuel tank conpartment and use that if you don't plan much motoring. These don't lock so fuel has to be stored bellow decks.
Hardware is basic and there are lots of sharp edges that need filling off.

Bellow decks finish is simple but there is plenty of room: an enormous double deck bellow cockpit, another double in the bow, and a dinette that converts in the third double in saloon. To port is a galley unit that can slide aft to create more sitting. There are also a enclosed heads between saloon and forecabin.

The new Macgregor is more of a sailing boat than his predecessors. I still wouldn't to have to beat home into a force 5, but the argument is taht you call on the engine - or use it to go home before the breeze picks up.
You get a lot of board for your money. The flip side is a little in the way of the finish: sharp corners abound and there's a plenty to that look and feels just man enough for a job.
It has to be light and has to be inexpensive. That's what happens if you want 26-footer complete with trailer for under £20.000

Source: Practical Boat Owner

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