, Maximum: 8'6"
, Empty: 4'6"
Height, Waterline: 29'9"
Height, Mast: 27'9"
, Empty: 2,600 lbs.
: 1,025 lbs.
: 283 sq. ft.
, 1.0 oz.
The Colgate 26 is a new, yet celebrated member of the pocket cruiser category. Designed as a boat that easily transitions from training craft to more-than-modest performing racer, the Colgate has been selected by numerous sailing schools as the trainer of choice including The Offshore School, the Severn Sailing Association, and the United States Naval Academy. Furthermore, it won the best pocket cruiser of 1997 in Cruising World magazine. Her sleek lines are impressive, calling upon America's Cup racing yachts for inspiration, and her speed follows suit nicely, making for a nice boat with a few ignorable weaknesses.
Designed by Olympic fleet racer Steve Colgate as a replacement for the Soling class boat, the Colgate 26 overcomes a lot of concerns that beginners have with their initial sailcraft. First, the cockpit is wide open, with lots of room for the crew to move, and the cockpit runs almost all the way to the mast. Although the boat has an open transom as a safety feature for easy man overboard recovery, and the backstay mounts to the rails, the back is closed. Approximately six feet from the stern, the traveler's runner closes the cockpit. This provides assurance against the popular beginner's myth that the first big wave to come over the bow will wash the helmsman overboard. Combined with hull mounted steering (as opposed to the Soling, where the crew simply sits on the deck) a nice balance between the wide open cockpit and snug cockpit feelings is achieved.
Secondly, the boat is designed to be extremely stable. When most beginners learn to sail, they learn in small keelboats, sometimes as small as 420's or 470's. Unfortunately, many decide not continue to sail when they broach on an upwind beat! The Colgate is extremely stable, owing to its keel mounted rudder and fin package, which keep the center of gravity low and keeps the control surfaces in smoothly flowing water, thus maximizing control. Also, the mainsail can be reefed at two points, and the sails have an impressive, but not ludicrous, 145 PHRF displacement to waterline ratio. You can accelerate easily and point high into the wind, but I've never even seen a knockdown in a Colgate- pretty impressive considering an optimum wind speed range of 5-35 knots! The modern trend of disgustingly overpowered trainers is not present here.
Thirdly, the boat is designed to float well. This sounds obvious, but the Colgate doesn't take water on. The hull is styrofoam filled, which grants positive buoyancy, even if the cabin and interior becomes completely swamped. Furthermore, the cockpit is self-draining- virtually the only point where water can become trapped is through the companionway.
That said, the boat does have its weaknesses, and quite a few. The PHRF rating of 165 (which places it squarely in PHRF's "C" fleet) is less than generous- so while you can win races in a Colgate (and many sailors do), you will find it is easiest to do so when the wind is strong and steady. The Colgate can be single handed, but the bow rigging is not friendly to soloers, even with quality deck components. This is mostly due to the layout of the mast section. The placement of the tiller, backstay control, traveller control and main sheet are all well out of reach of the jib's self-tailing winches. Although this is a nice feature for larger crews (the Colgate safely drives with up to six), because it allows more workspace, it makes it extremely difficult to drive on your own. But perhaps most intimidating to sailing schools- especially ones with large fleets and large classes- is that the Colgate's all-fiberglass construction is not very reassuring- especially when you hear it collide for the first time and make a dying, crunching noise! Although I've seen several bow to beam collisions, as well as a couple of bow pulpit rammings during docking, damage was mostly cosmetic and repairable.