One of the most impressive new boats of 2012 was Collective Spirit, the 30ft Simon Rogers designed sportsboat built of donated wooden materials for the Cultural Olympiad. It was a fascinating blend of up-to-the minute design, influenced by the latest round the world race boats, combined with traditional materials plus modern epoxy resin systems to maximise strength and stiffness.
Jesse Loynes, one of the boat builders on the project, saw the potential for private owners wanting a distinctive dayboat/weekender that would combine easy, yet fun and fast sailing with the kind of pride of ownership that run of the mill modern designs simply can’t provide. The market is arguably ripe for this style of boat, as evidenced by the success of the French Tofinou series, the Rustler 33 and a number of others. It’s easy to see the appeal – the hassle that’s all too frequently associated with sailing is minimised, while the sailing experience itself is optimised – akin to handling the best high-end performance cars.
The production boat is a slightly smaller version of Collective Spirit, although with the same beam, a little more accommodation and an inboard diesel engine. The hull shape owes a lot to designer Simon Rogers’ experience with Class 40s and Open 60s, carrying maximum beam well aft, with chines to increase stability when heeled. The prototype boat has a lifting bulb keel, although a fin keel option is also available.
The western red cedar and epoxy construction is stiff and very light – the hull weighs only around 300kg. Once planked the hull is sheathed in epoxy and glass before being faired. When the hull is turned over it’s then sheathed in a similar manner inside, creating a fully waterproof and abrasion resistant structure. Similarly, over size holes are drilled for the fastenings for deck fittings, which are filled with epoxy, before the correct size hole is drilled for the fastener. This means that, even if a deck fitting leaks, water cannot find its way into the timber.
On deck and performance
The 9/10ths fractional carbon rig has spreaders swept aft by 25 degrees and no backstay to allow for a fat headed mainsail. Headsails are designed to be easy to handle, with a blade jib and code zero on furlers plus a large asymmetric spinnaker that sets from a long fixed carbon sprit.
The deck layout is simple, but effective, using quality gear, including ratchet blocks and a ball bearing track for the mainsail luff slides that makes hoisting, reefing and lowering the sail easy. These are small, but expensive, details that are all too often missed out for the sake of economy. The layout will work well, whether you are sailing short handed or racing with a full crew and the only thing we could fault was a little more friction than ideal in the control lines for the traveller.
The rig and hull are nicely balanced, with just a touch of weather helm evident when sailing upwind fully powered up. The rudder is a big foil that also gives plenty of bite for spirited performance under spinnaker in a strong breeze.
Sailing under main and jib we were nicely powered up sailing close hauled in 10 knots of wind with three people on board. Bearing away and hoisting the Code 0 reaching spinnaker, the log hovered between 7.6-8.5 knots and would clearly have been planing properly in a little more breeze. The sail plan also includes a large asymmetric spinnaker cut for sailing downwind, rather than reaching.
The Arbor 26’s interior is surprisingly bright, with the forehatch helping to bring a lot of light into the cabin. There’s a large double forward berth, a small midships galley with a sink and two-burner cooker, plus two generous quarter berths aft. There’s also provision for a sea toilet. All the berths are a commendable length – the shortest are more than 2m.
On the prototype the lifting keel pops up through the large bridge deck area – if the alternative fin keel is specified this area can be incorporated into a significantly larger cabin. There’s also a neat cockpit table that lifts out of the cockpit floor. The inboard diesel is mounted under the cockpit, below a removable hatch, where it can be easily reached for maintenance.
Equipment and options
A very high degree of customisation is possible – this is a boat that an owner can have built to suit their exact requirements. Arbor Yachts is also keen to build a larger model – the aim with the 26 was to showcase what the company can build, but founder Jesse Loynes says the possibilities are endless.
What it does best
This is a very attractive boat with loads of style that will appeal to those who appreciate sailing fast on a beautifully built craft with impeccable handling. Other people’s reactions are a good indication of what a boat is like aesthetically – our test took place on a busy day in the Solent and we very quickly lost count of the appreciative waves and interest from other people. This is clearly a boat that turns heads for all the right reasons.
The rig is somewhat detuned compared to an all-out race boat, but that makes it significantly easier to handle, and it still benefits from the razor sharp and fool-proof handling that the hull shape confers. The biggest compromise associated with any dayboat is one of cost – you can get a significantly larger and more spacious boat for the same money. But a bigger boat that’s less fun to sail, more time consuming and complex to mainta, and that lacks the wow factor of the Arbor is unlikely to offer anywhere near as much fun.
The 26ft Tofinou 8 built by this trend-setting French yard remains the one against which top end daysailers of this size tend to be judged. On the other hand, the Seascape 27 is lightweight rocket ship with a surprisingly useable interior. It’s a fast and fun to sail, but doesn’t have the high-end style of the Arbor.
Arbor 26: Specifications
Draught 1.8m (keel down)
Mainsail 25.6sq m
Asymmetric spinnaker 55sq m
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Check out the original features on Collective Spirit, and the Rustler 33, both of which count as inspiration for this new Arbor 26. And if you're serious about getting aboard a daysailer/weekender, read the boats.com guide: How to Choose the Right Weekend Cruiser.