The McGregor 26 is one of the few boat designs that blends sail and engine power into a neat package. Paul Smith went to see if the concept is a success.
The MacGregor 26 is one of the few designs that blends sail and engine power sources seamlessly into a trailerable package. Such is the commercial success of the MacGregor 26 that the boats are sold around the world – more than 35,000 to date – and production from the US-based factory averages one boat every four hours. In New Zealand, MacGregor is represented by Christchurch-based Haven Yachts NZ Ltd under
the direction of Neil Barnett.
A great deal of thought has gone into the design of the MacGregor 26 to ensure that not only would many of the shortcomings of other trailerable yachts have been eliminated or mitigated, but that the boat would be a competent performer under sail, would be comparatively easy to rig and sail and, most importantly, that it would be capable of delivering excellent performance with up to a 50hp outboard motor fitted without overly compromising sailing capability.
One of the requirements of a trailer boat is that it must be relatively easy to launch and retrieve. While many trailer yachts require the trailer to be immersed so deep in the water that rear sections of the tow vehicle are also subjected to immersion, the MacGregor trailer has been designed so that the vessel can be floated on and off the trailer without requiring the crew or tow vehicle getting wet. With a typical towing weight of around 1600kg, the MacGregor 26 does not necessarily require a heavy duty 4WD tow vehicle as would almost certainly be the case with a powerboat of similar dimensions.
In order to keep the towing weight of the vessel as low as possible while retaining the required ballast for sailing, MacGregor developed a water ballast system. Once the vessel has been launched, a transom valve is opened allowing water to flood a ballast tank in the bottom of the hull. When the tank is full, the valve is closed. This equates to 533kg of additional ballast that makes the craft stable and self-righting whether under power or sail. The tank can be emptied in about four minutes when the vessel is retrieved on to the trailer or when under power.
Attention has also been paid by the designers to ensure rigging the MacGregor 26 for sailing is as stress-free as possible. The mast is raised or lowered using a small brake winch mounted on the support pole. The mast is light and the winch system can be left in place while sailing. The forward mast support wire is the only item of the rig that is disconnected when raising or lowering the mast.
The rotating mast increases the power of the mainsail and the concept has been well proven on modern sailing catamarans. The MacGregor system incorporates
conventional spreaders with upper and lower shrouds and allows the boat to sail well on the mainsail alone if desired. A roller furler allows the size of the jib to be controlled from the cockpit. A long, deep daggerboard is controlled by a line leading to the cockpit and can be pulled up into the boat when under power, beaching or downwind sailing.
Steerage on the MacGregor 26 is accomplished by the use of twin rudders. These can be raised and secured when the vessel is under engine power. The twin rudders allow good control even when the yacht is heeled over as one rudder will always be deep in the water. The rudders and the outboard engine are steered by a large stainless steel wheel mounted on the centrally located cockpit pedestal that also houses the engine remotes. The helm seat is built into the outboard motor cover, which hinges up to give access to the engine well and boarding ladder on the transom.
The hull design incorporates a shallow draught vee bottom for higher speed under engine power and greater stability while the sharp entry slices through the waves efficiently.
Within dimensions of 7.87m LOA and 2.29m beam, the MacGregor 26 offers plenty of internal space and volume for family or two couples cruising. For those who don’t mind cosiness, the boat will actually sleep up to six adults in comfort. There is a large double berth for’d with huge storage compartments under.
To port, there is a long settee berth, again with storage under, while to starboard, just aft of the enclosed head compartment , the dinette converts to another full length single berth. Each of these seats has storage under with the aft seat having provision for an ice chest.
A huge double/queen size berth is located under the cockpit aft and is accessed either side of the steps leading up to the cockpit.
An innovative feature is the one-piece moulded GRP galley unit. This incorporates a sink and optional alcohol-burning stove as well as cupboards for storage. What is appealing is that the galley is mounted on sliders, allowing it to be moved aft and locked in one of three positions. This greatly extends the amount of sitting space in the main cabin when cooking is not taking place. There is full headroom throughout the cabin area and the large rear berth has sitting headroom over a wide area.
The neutral tones throughout the below decks area enhance the feeling of space. The daggerboard trunk blends well into the design forming part of the mirrored bulkhead at the for’d end of the dinette. The for’d berth area has a large foredeck hatch for additional light and ventilation. Access to the cabin from the cockpit is via a long sliding hatch and stainless steel ladder.
The cockpit is self draining through the open transom. There are two full-length cockpit seats either side with compartments under for storage of two 12-gallon fuel tanks.
The pedestal-mounted helm allows plenty of foot space while the centrally sited helmseat allows good vision all round. Access to the foredeck is secured by a strong stainless steel pulpit and the anchor locker is large enough to accommodate the anchor and plenty of rope/chain. Lifeline rails surround the boat.
The MacGregor 26 is produced in a state of the art facility where advanced computer modelling is used in all phases of the design work, as well as computer integrating many of the production processes. The company focuses on the production of just one model so resources are concentrated on well engineered production tooling and developing a specialized labour force.
Each boat is built of hand-laid solid GRP laminates with additional reinforcements at all stress points. A combination of uni-directional woven rovings and smooth cloth are used in conjunction with high strength resins to form a lightweight but strong laminate. Four main moulds are used to form the vessel – the hull incorporates the daggerboard trunk and water ballast tank, while the hull liner, the deck and the deck liner are the other major components. The hull and deck are joined using 3/16 bolts at four-inch centres in conjunction with a high grade adhesive to ensure a watertight seal. The quality of the glasswork and overall finish is pretty good for a high volume production boat.
The rig uses stay adjusters rather than turnbuckles and double nicropress fittings for the wires supporting the mast that are considered to be stronger and more reliable than swaged fittings.
Performance & Handling
I do not pretend to be an expert in evaluating the performance and handling capabilities of any yacht. However, one thing I do know is that a light boat will out perform a heavier boat of the same size and with the same power (motive or sail). The MacGregor 26 is not a heavy boat for its size and therefore appears to perform well with moderate sail capacity.
The option of an outboard engine of up to 50hp transforms the MacGregor 26 from a yacht into a fully fledged power boat. Engines of greater than 50hp could be fitted to the vessel, but this is the level deemed by the designers to offer sufficient performance without compromising the boat’s sailing capability with excessive weight. A 50hp Yamaha four-stroke outboard engine is quiet and fuel efficient and endows the MacGregor 26 with a top speed of around 22mph – just enough to pull a waterskier or water toys.
The outboard engine also allows the vessel to access destinations that, say over a limited time such as a weekend, a conventional sail boat would not have the time to reach since it travels comparatively slowly. When under motive power, the rudders can be retracted so that steerage is conventional by the motor only, and the daggerboard can be retrieved up into the hull so that draught is reduced significantly.
The MacGregor 26 is certainly a versatile craft offering a range of opportunities to experience a boating lifestyle. It is a vessel that lends itself to family cruising offering plenty of internal space, yet also has sufficient performance under engine power to pull watertoys. Since the boat is trailerable, many waterways are opened up for exploration and enjoyment and a large 4WD is not necessary to tow it.
A typical MacGregor 26 sold in NZ will set you back around $86,000 depending upon the number of boxes ticked on the options list.
Given the versatility on offer, this represents good value for money.
The boats are supplied on a solid, steel framed single axle braked trailer.
|Draught:||0.3m (board up) to 1.75m (board down)|
|Weight:||1264kg (less ballast)|
Vessel supplied by Haven Yachts NZ Ltd, (03) 355 9691.
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