by Quentin Warren
Blue Water Sailing
The newest sloop from Sabre combines sweet sailing smarts and practical cruising amenities
In September the most recent addition to the Sabre Yachts catalog debuted at the Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show, sporting the solid standards and pretty lines that people freely associate with the popular Maine-based builder. The Sabre 426 joins three other collaborations between Sabre and designer Jim Taylor—the Sabre 362, Sabre 402 and Sabre 452—to bring to four a well harmonized range of midsize cruising sailboats offering medium displacement, sophisticated performance and practical livability. Anybody familiar with Sabre will recognize that trio of qualities and appreciate how unswervingly the company has pursued them in sailing craft throughout its 31-year production history. The 426 as a developmental project represents at once a fusion of existing models and a bold step forward in terms of materials, fabrication and execution. Certainly the people at Sabre had no desire to stray far from the look and feel of what has become an eminently successful line, but at the same time a new boat has given them the opportunity to incorporate new ideas with regard to performance, weight savings and layout, and in ways both subtle and not-so-subtle they have accomplished those goals. In fact, many of the advancements generated by the 426 are finding their way retroactive-ly into the ongoing production of earlier models.
“The 426 is really the amalgamation of many things,” Sabre's marketing manager Bentley Collins remarks. “We wanted to build a boat between 40 and 45 feet that wouldn't compete with our existing models, but we wanted to make it sail like a 402 and be at its heart a Sabre. We also wanted to make the most of modern technology in the process to deliver a structure as strong, light and durable as possible.” The most noteworthy technical upgrade on that score is the use of vacuum-bagged Divinycell closed-cell core and vinylester resin in the hull and deck, a significant leap for a builder previously wedded to balsa core in these applications. It's a leap, however, that lurks beneath the surface, because outwardly the vessel remains a Sabre through and through—new and improved, for sure, but true to form.
Jim Taylor has drawn a lanky hull with a fine entry forward, max beam restrained until after station five, and a low tapered reverse-transom stern incorporating a molded-in swim platform. Graceful is the word you'd use to describe it, in the contemporary sense of a straight rising sheer that culminates in a powerful raked bow. The underwater profile shows relatively shallow canoe-shaped sections indicating the desire to keep wetted surface to a minimum, though there is enough depth to them and enough of a V forward to give the boat a grip on the water in a seaway and to mitigate pounding upwind. In other words, while good performance certainly lies at the top of Taylor's agenda here, he has avoided unequivocally the flat-bottom, fat-stern design strategy favored by modern lightweight flyers. This is, after all, a cruising boat.
Appendages include your choice of a deep, 6'10” lead fin keel or a hydrodynamic bulb/wing deal drawing just 5'0”. The bulb/wing is just that—a long torpedo of lead with gossamer winglets off the trailing edge. For shoal water it may be the way to go, but it's a kelp-catcher for sure and certainly those wings represent a liability in any type of grounding, be it rocks, sand, coral or mud. All that said, however, we sailed aboard a 426 equipped with the bulb/wing and performance was spot on. Still, if you can get away with seven feet of draft, we would recommend without any hesitation selecting the deep fin. For any serious blue-water work, it is arguably the more sensible choice—the ballast is deeper, the lift is better and the structure simpler.
The rudder on the 426 is a hydrodynamic semi-elliptical balanced spade installed all the way aft. It is fabricated of molded fiberglass and bonded to a carbon rudder stock that passes through a Tides Marine top bearing and a lip-seal bearing laminated directly to the hull. Linkage is by way of Edson cable and quadrant to a 40-inch destroyer-type wheel, a solid and proven arrangement that delivers great feel at the helm. The sailplan is masthead sloop, with a one-piece aluminum, triple-spreader, keel-stepped Hall Spars section and standing rigging of continuous Navtec rod. Sabre offers a carbon spar option for owners so inclined.
Non-dimensional numbers for the boat speak to a medium-displacement sailing vessel with fairly typical horsepower in the rig and good stability overall. Displacement/Length (D/L) tips in at 230—comparable to the J/42 (203) and Hallberg-Rassy 43 (217), two very different boats in this size range with similar cruising aspirations. Sail Area/Displacement (SA/D) is a healthy 17.7, again comparable to the J/42 and the Hallberg-Rassy 43 which both show 17.3. Of course, these values are more indicators of type than predictors of specific levels of performance, which is important to bear in mind in the sense that they can't be used to rank quantitatively any boat's speed or handling characteristics over another's. D/L and SA/D simply indicate where on the long continuum of sailing craft a given design fits. Within these broad parameters, Taylor has fashioned a nimble hull offering lively response at the helm and plenty of muscle in the sailplan.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND LIVING
It is no secret that the 426 was inspired by the 1996 Sabre 402, but certainly with regard to the interior the 426 takes a number of evolutionary steps in terms of layout, design, assembly and execution. The payoff includes living quarters as practical as they are comfortable, all augmented by refined detailing and subtle touches that underscore what appears to be a meticulous approach by the yard.
For example, the engine compartment in the earlier 402, which is positioned amidships in an insulated box off the galley, has been moved aft in the 426 to a location beneath the companionway steps. At the same time, the head—aft in the 402—has been moved forward into the owner's suite aboard the 426. These changes shift the saloon and main bulkhead aft, which takes the mast out of the saloon and allows it to disappear forward of the bulkhead to where the head now resides. This leaves the area around the dining settee free so that a large folding table can be hinged up flush with the bulkhead and out of the way when it's not in use. The gains in usable space and ease of circulation are considerable. Deployed, the dinette accommodates six comfortably, eight in a pinch; shipped, it leaves room to move about without turning one-self sideways, and makes for a more practical main cabin offshore when sail stowage, gear stowage and seaberths become more important than a broad expanse of tabletop.
The new position of the main bulkhead results in technical perks as well. Moved aft as it is aboard the 426, it occurs at the chain plates where it picks up those loads and provides the structural advantage of a virtual ring frame in the area you need it most, namely at the mast. On that score, it is interesting to note that Sabre fabricates this bulkhead of 3/8-inch solid glass—not plywood—overlaid with a cherry veneer. It is a well-found structural detail and a reassuring indicator of the integrity of the vessel inside and out.
The 426 features a conventional three-cabin layout rendered in satin-finished American cherry with a teak-and-holly sole. It is bright, cheerful and well ventilated by way of seven Lewmar Ocean Series deck hatches, two Dorades, and 10 opening ports. All the way forward, just abaft a divided chain locker is what Sabre calls the master stateroom, which consists of a 6'8” double V-berth, a dressing area with its own bench and hanging locker, and the head alluded to earlier. The head includes a ceramic tile floor, a Raritan PHII toilet with a macerator pump, a separate stand-up shower stall and a
wet locker outboard. The suite can be closed off entirely for privacy, or closed at the forward cabin to preserve ship's access to the head.
Moving aft, the main saloon features opposing L-shaped settees port and starboard with cabinets, lockers, shelving and an entertainment center distributed throughout. The settees with lee cloths (not standard, but an option well worth insisting on) make ideal 6'5” seaberths; the port settee will convert into a double for guests. Aft of the L on the port side is a serious navigator's niche with room for charts and a lap-top, plus the electrical distribution panel and space for instrumentation and other electronics. Aft of the L on the starboard side is the galley, a secure U-shaped affair with a three-burner stove/oven, polished Scandvik double sink, top-loading 12-volt DC refrigeration and a microwave. Conveniently, the companionway enters the main cabin between the nav station and the galley and comprises, according to Collins, “the widest staircase ever built on any of our boats.” All the way aft in the port hip is a sleeping cabin with a 6'8” double berth and a changing area that includes locker space, a seat and a small sink. The area in the starboard hip is reserved for a deep sail and gear locker accessed by way of the cockpit.
In general, the interior enjoys a smooth flow with good space dedicated to locker space, storage, galley and nav, and a clear attempt to make common areas such as the saloon as pragmatic and congenial as possible. Some builders lose sight of the practicalities involved with living in 42 feet and bollix up their layouts with modern features and exotic architectural elements like swiveling armchairs, curved settees and disappearing bars. Sabre remains straightforward aboard the 426, keeping to the basics and allowing spaces to work for you without assaulting you. And the execution is top-notch, right down to the dovetails and panel joins, concealed hinges in the cabin lockers, and, of course, the trademark fitted tool drawer in the nav station.
CONSTRUCTION AND SYSTEMS
As discussed, Sabre has updated its approach to materials and construction and this is most evident in the use of Divinycell closed-cell foam core in both the hull and deck. The single-unit hull is laminated by hand and vacuum-bagged, and it includes alternate layers of mat and knitted biaxial rovings surrounding the core material. Gelcoat is ISO NPG. The deck includes essentially the same ingredients but it is not vacuum-bagged. High-density PVC foam core (Divinycell HD) substitutes for the standard Divinycell core in areas of high stress, point loading and attachment of fittings and gear. As Collins points out, “There is no natural product in the deck,” a reassuring hedge against any potential softening by way of water migration. The deck is fastened to an inward hull flange using 3M 5200 polyurethane sealant, stainless thru-bolts on six-inch centers, and internal fiberglass tabbing. The keel is affixed externally to a reinforced built-in fiberglass sump using stainless bolts and silicon-bronze nuts.
Significantly, Sabre makes good use of interior structural components wherever possible to reinforce the hull and deck and give the boat virtual monocoque integrity. Bulkheads—particularly the GRP main bulkhead discussed above—along with berth faces, shelves and floor stringers are laminated to the hull as they go in, the result being a honeycomb-like web of structure and support designed to keep the whole package from creaking, bending or working in a seaway.
The engine sits beneath the companionway and is accessed effortlessly on the forward side by lifting the stair on its gas struts. Standard is a 55-horsepower Westerbeke, though an optional Yanmar 56 appeared on the boat we inspected. Once the stair element is lifted, a fair amount of the motor is exposed and there is room to work on more than just the front. Further access to port is through a side panel next to the nav station; further access to starboard is a bit problematic because it entails working your way through some galley cabinetry. Access to the shaft, linkage and steering gear is available beneath the port quarterberth and from the deep starboard cockpit locker topside.
The installation of systems shows good attention to detail with a lot of ef-fort made to keeping things clean, well-organized and easy to get at. Four 12-volt DC 105-amp-hour group 31 deep-cycle marine batteries sit in secure battery boxes beneath the port settee; a fifth single battery services engine start. The 110-volt AC shorepower system includes a Heart Freedom 25 inverter/charger located on the port side behind the settee. All wiring is color-coded and tinned, and the business side of the master AC/DC distribution panel in the nav station is artfully arranged for clear and safe maintenance. A savvy detail worth highlighting is the installation of a convenient companionway switch hardwired to courtesy lights below; no more groping for house lights on an unlit panel at night.
Two 60-gallon roto-molded tanks carry the freshwater cache. It is delivered by means of a Sensor-Max variable-speed pump system that maintains constant water pressure at every spigot without the spikes and lulls of a conventional accumulator-tank system using standard pumps. The fuel lives in a 60-gallon stainless tank configured with a narrowing, canted bottom designed cleverly to keep diesel from slurping back and forth with the movement of the boat.
UNDER SAIL AND BWS THOUGHTS
The 426 is set up for sail handling from the cockpit with all lines led aft and a good complement of Lewmar Ocean Series winches that includes two 58CSTs as primaries and 44CSTs for mainsheet, halyards and reefing. An option that comes highly recommended is the electric halyard winch on the cabintop, which takes the crunch out of everything from raising the main to getting crew aloft. Also recommended is the adjustable-car genoa track system; given that this is a proper masthead sloop, the headsail will be used in a wide range of wind strengths and easy adjustability of sheeting is a prime consideration.
BWS tested the 426 in light air on Rhode Island Sound with a steady breeze of eight to 10 knots and flat water. We would have preferred 20 knots and seas for the purpose of putting the vessel through its paces, but such was not the case and as it turned out we had a chance to see how agile the 426 is in subtle conditions. We sailed with the bulb/wing keel option, a conventional-hoist mainsail and a 135-percent furling genoa. We should add that we
discussed the boat's heavy-weather demeanor with her delivery crew following their experience in a gusty 25-knot slog prior to our outing, and the report was unabashedly that she reveled in the conditions under shortened sail and remained solid as a rock through some decidedly lumpy seas.
On all points of sail the 426 is a sterling performer, showing good acceleration out of turns and noteworthy balance, whether slipping into a groove upwind or stretching her legs off the wind on a reach. The boat is especially responsive at the helm—truly satisfying to steer in this regard—and it has to be a result of a designer Taylor's touch with the underwater profile and the development of foils. The rudder shows the efficiency and balance of a race boat's; it allowed us with fingertip control to take the boat upwind in eight knots of breeze at a solid pace inside easy 80- to 90-degree tacking angles. The performance of the boat is, in a word, quite sophisticated.
That the 426 sails nicely should not come as any surprise, as Sabres have made that quality one of their hallmarks and we at BWS have experienced it numerous times before aboard other models. As noted at the outset of this report, one of the goals with the 426 was to emulate the sailing qualities of the smaller 402, and it is apparent that this goal has been reached. Current Sabre owners should expect to be uncommonly pleased with how well the newest addition to the fold performs. Those unfamiliar with what Sabres are all about should expect to find themselves drawn to the line after spending time on this one. We would recommend the 426 for en-joyable cruising anywhere. If long-range, oceangoing work is in the cards, we would suggest that the owner discuss with Sabre the convertible inner forestay and checkstay option, a worthy upgrade to any pure bred sloop headed over the horizon. Bottom line: A really fun boat to sail and spend time aboard, and a boat that any owner would be proud to call his or her own.
LOA 42'6” (12.95 m.)
LWL 36'0” (10.97 m.)
Beam 13'5” (4.10 m.)
Draft (fin) 6'10” (2.10 m.)
Draft (bulb/wing) 5'0” (1.52 m.)
Ballast (fin) 8,400 lbs. (3,810 kgs.)
Ballast (bulb/wing) 8,650 lbs. (3,924 kgs.)
Displ. (fin) 24,000 lbs. (10,886 kgs.)
Displ. (bulb/wing) 24,500 lbs. (11,113 kgs.)
SA (100%) 920 sq. ft. (85.5 sq. m.)
Masthead above water 59'0” (18.0 m.)
Ballast/Displ. (fin) 35%
LPS 120 degrees
Fuel 60 gal. (227 ltr.)
Water 120 gal. (454 ltr.)
Auxiliary Westerbeke 4-cyl 55-hp diesel
Designer Jim Taylor/Sabre Design Team
Base Price $310,000 FOB Raymond, Me.
PO Box 134
South Casco, ME 04077
back to top