When asked to review the Alerion 26, a daysailer with classic lines, I couldnt resist asking, Why this boat? Normally, Sailing World focuses on boats with a racing orientation, but I soon learned that the boat has both champion bloodlines and an exciting history.
Nathanael G. Herreshoff designed some of the most famous racers and Americas Cup winners in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1912, he designed the first Alerion for his own use. One could reasonably conclude that the most famous race designer of his day would design a sweet sailing boat. (The original Alerion now resides in the Mystic Seaport Museum.)
Since the early 70s, Captain Nats grandson Halsey C. Herreshoff and his Herreshoff Design Company, located in Bristol, R.I., have honored a few requests each year to build the design on a custom basis. The requests became frequent enough to prompt Herreshoff Designs to contract Carroll Marine to build the Herreshoff Alerion 26 on a production schedule.
It was a beautiful fall day when I met Herreshoff and Hull No. 1 owner Brian Carroll for a test sail. As we walked down the dock my eyes were drawn to the elegant lines and handsome wood trim of the little sloop. On further inspection I found a clean finish and amenities such as modern hardware, a Yanmar diesel, and an aluminum Hall rig that had been integrated successfully with the classic look.
Herreshoff said that his grandfather went for a short sail every day of his life until well into his 80s, mostly in his Alerion. Apparently Captain Nat used to time how long it took to get underway, because he believed that time should be spent sailing. True to form, we were under way in minutes.
The wind was a puffy, light, northerly coming down Narragansett Bay, and the Alerion proved responsive in the diminishing breeze. It accelerated quickly out of a tack and with its keel-mounted rudder, the helm was nicely balanced. We werent able to test the boat in all conditions, but when we did sail through the 3-foot wake of a passing motor boat, the boat gave me the impression that it could comfortably handle moderate seas.
The Alerions cockpit is the most notable feature of the boat. Its roomy and deep, with floorboards below waterline level, giving excellent sight lines over the cabintop and a sense of complete security without being too high off the water. The high teak coamings provide perfect backrests.
The second notable feature is how easy it is to sail. The mainsail was set on luff-groove slides and the jib was set on an (optional) roller furler and standard self-tacking jib boom. Taken together, these made it easy to get underway and easy to handle. For instance, we never had to leave the cockpit to reach any control lines.
The cabin has sitting headroom, a compact galley, V-berth bunks, and a hide-away head. Most sailors wont take the boat for extended cruising but theres a nice built-in seat for reading or passing the time during a rain shower. The gelcoat finish and oiled teak fiddles in the cabin are examples of the nice finish detail found throughout the boat. The fuel tank is well situated over the keel, and the fuel gauge shows through a prism set into the cabin sole.
Carroll Marine builds the Alerion of fiberglass with Klegecell foam-cored topsides, a solid fiberglass bottom, and a balsa-cored deck. The deck is bonded to the hull with high strength adhesive and through-bolted with stainless steel bolts. Vinylester resin is used throughout to prevent blistering, and the entire boat is finished with NPG gelcoat. The full keel is an external, epoxy-coated lead casting, fastened with 3/4″ diameter stainless steel bolts.
At a base price of $45,000, the Alerion comes with a standard electrical and plumbing package. Id add the optional Yanmar 1GM diesel with folding prop and the roller furler. To aid ventilation and increase the light down below, Id also follow Brian Carrolls lead and add a small forward hatch.
Overall, the boat remains true to Capt. Nats design for a simple daysailer–easy enough to singlehand or to take a small family out for an overnighter. With a 37″ draft, its shallow enough to go gunkholing, and at 4,800 lbs. it can be lifted with a crane by the keel-top lifting ring onto an optional Triad trailer for backyard storage. The Alerion 26 will turn heads with its classic good looks and enthuse its owners with its sweet sailing performance.
Peter dAnjou is executive editor for Sailing World.