Colgate 26 By Dave Ellis
he Colgate 26 is the result of 35 years of planning and experience gained by instructors and adult students at Offshore Sailing School. Founder Steve Colgate knows his way around sailing craft, having sailed in the Olympics, the America’s Cup and numerous big-boat events worldwide. He is regarded as a practical, no-nonsense fellow with the skill and experience to back up his opinions. What resulted was an adult learnto-sail boat that appeals to a wide range of sailing interests. It took five years to get to the first 100 boats produced and only half of that time to get to the second hundred. Around twenty boats are used by Offshore Sailing School operations, so there are a lot of C-26 sailors cruising and racing. What is it like to sail? Three sailors used the St. Petersburg-based Offshore boat #80 on a light-air day in mid-September. “Whoa, it turns quick.” was the first response while we were leaving the Harborage Marina floating dock. The inboard rudder is balanced and a little larger than most boats of this size. When a student oversteers this boat, it shows. The rudderstock is very much overbuilt to take the rigors of six days a week sailing at Offshore. A neat feature is the ability to turn the tiller 360 degrees. Not only does this clear weeds from the rudder, but also the rudder can be turned around and the boat sculled backwards! It was demonstrated that if the tiller is suddenly and forcefully pushed perpendicular to the hull, the boat will stop in its tracks and slowly turn around, completely stalled. No running into manatees with this boat. With the little 3-HP Nissan outboard on the stern mount, the boat made six knots on the GPS. With large waves and heavy winds, crew must stay aft to keep the prop in the water, but instructors have successfully stemmed these conditions with that little kicker. Our sail was in smooth seas and less than five knots of breeze. We averaged 4.2 knots upwind and about the same under spinnaker. Hull speed of just under seven knots comes quickly and easily, and the boat surfs readily on decent waves. I have taught a class in a steady 30 knots, using a double-reefed main and the jib furled. The PHRF handicap in Florida is 162 for the standard jib, making it faster than the J-24’s 174. Don’t mistake the Colgate 26 with an ultralight sport boat. At 2600 pounds it is 200 pounds more than designer Jim Taylor suggested. Colgate opted for more strength in the hull, accounting for the extra weight. It has paid off. The sailing school puts these boats through most boats’ lifetime of use every year. The LOCAL NEWS FOR SOUTHERN SAILORS
LOA 25’8" LWL 20’0" Beam 8’6" Sail Area 283 sq. ft. Draft standard keel 4’6" Draft shoal keel 3’6" Displacement Standard keel 2600 lbs. Displacement shoal keel 2800 lbs. Ballast standard keel 1050 lbs. Ballast shoal keel 1240 lbs.
boats do not break. Who would be interested in looking at a Colgate 26? Several Sonar owners who want to have a little more substantial boat that they could weekend in with their family have traded up to the C-26. The cockpit will easily hold six people. Those who want to comfortably sail together appreciate the inside seating and roominess. Below, four could sleep. But we all know that in a boat of this size we sail it, not sleep on it. The stern is open. For ease of getting a swimmer back aboard, this is a big help. But many are uncomfortable with a boat that looks as if you could be swept right out the back. So the C-26 has a bulkhead at the rudderpost that allows for the open transom configuration while still having the enclosed cockpit. Scuppers let water out of the cockpit, but when backing into waves, your feet won’t get wet forward of that bulkhead. The mast is deck-stepped. Two people can rig the boat without hiring special equipment. The shoal draft version at 3-1/2 feet can be ramp-launched. This version has an additional 200 pounds in the keel to keep the stability the same. It is not quite as quick as the standard version, but you get to run aground in skinnier water. Incidentally, Colgate made sure the design did not have a wing or large bulb on the keel. Have you ever tried to get off grounding with those boats? No “kedge anchor effect” with this boat. The jib is barely overlapping-a 100 percent jib. The main is ample and relatively high aspect ratio. A goal for students when tacking the boat, even in significant wind, is to never have to use the winch handle for the jib. With proper timing, the jib is easy to handle. But if they miss, the twin self-tailing winches do the job. The class has a Web site at colgate26.com and colgate26class.com with lots of good information on the boat. Southwinds