Yachting Monthly tests the Sabre 27
What’s she like to sail?
She’s not as close-winded as a modern fin-keeler but can muster respectable boatspeed on passage – quicker than her twin-keeled sisters – and handles easily. We had her gybing and tacking with alacrity and both foresail and mainsail sheets can be trimmed from the helm, which boosts her appeal for solo sailors. Her deck- stepped mast is slotted into a tabernacle and can therefore be easily lowered to get her under low bridges – ideal for canal use.
She sports a single-spreader rig with fore-and-aft lowers and a split backstay, setting a small genoa relative to her mainsail, which makes for easy short-tacking but means the mainsail needs reefing early to maintain the balance of sails and helm. For both comfort and performance she needs to be sailed as upright as possible, hence Ian’s rule of thumb for a maximum of 15° heel.
Her mainsheet traveller runs across the bridgedeck, which is great for sail trimming but some would consider it a hazard for unwary crew in the event of an accidental gybe. It can also impede access to the cabin, but Ian has rigged snap shackles on either end of his mainsheet tackle, so he simply unclips it when moored up. This innovation can also be used for a man overboard retrieval by simply inverting the mainsheet and then using the jammer cleat at the top of the haul.
What’s she like, in port and at anchor?
When Alan F Hill drew the boat, way back in 1969, his brief was to create a yacht that the ‘average wage earner’ could afford, suitable for ‘a week’s cruise with the whole family’. She clearly wouldn’t cope with one of those 13-strong families we read about in the national press, but for a family of four she ticks all the boxes (although I know some families for whom murder might be on the agenda by the end of a week in such confined quarters). There’s plenty of room on the foredeck for anchor handling and the chain doesn’t impinge on the forecabin – it goes down through a hawse pipe into a forward chain locker. The sidedecks, too, are spacious enough for a crewman to get forward safely and there’s enough elbow room in the cockpit for a crew of four to relax. Better form stability than most yachts of her era means less rolling at anchor.
Would she suit you and your crew?
The Sabre 27 would certainly suit – as was intended 44 years ago – a small family with a modest budget. She’d make a good starter boat, a capable coast-hopper for a cruising couple, or an easily manageable singlehander. She’s got generous accommodation for her size, is easy to handle under sail or power and her thick hull lay-up will take a few hard knocks when you’re coming alongside.
In short, the Sabre is a viable alternative to the benchmark Westerly Centaur and her fin-keeled variant, the Pembroke.
She’d be OK if caught out in a blow, but I would hesitate to recommend her for deep-ocean or high-latitude work. For that, you’d be better off with a heavier, slimmer, deeper-bodied boat such as a Contessa 26 or Albin Vega. It’s swings and roundabouts, though, because neither can match her for living space.
Having settled on a Sabre 27, how do you choose between the fin and twin-keeled versions? The former is undoubtedly faster but, surprisingly, she doesn’t seem to point much higher despite her relatively deep draught. The latter can dry out upright on a cheap half-tide mooring and is far more versatile up rivers, on canals and in shoal waters.