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Old 02-12-2014, 12:32   #1
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Faster Than a Contessa 26

I'm planning to purchase a liveaboard for mainly coastal cruising (often living on the hook) with occasional trans-Atlantic passages. I like the Contessa 26 for its proven seaworthiness, fairly shallow draft, low price, and the lower cost of docking and maintenance that comes with 26 feet. Eventually, I'll trade up to something larger/faster/more expensive, but for now, it seems like a good choice.

The only thing I really don't like about the Contessa 26 is its unimpressive speed. I'd like to be able to move fairly quickly between Spring Lake, NJ and New York City or between Miami and Nassau. Can anyone offer suggestions for boats I should consider to satisfy my need for speed without compromising on the seaworthiness and shallow draft? I'd preferably like to keep the price down as well as the cost of docking/maintenance, but I'm open to all options.

Thanks!
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Old 02-12-2014, 12:41   #2
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Re: faster than a Contessa 26

As a former Contessa 26 owner, I can tell you there are a lot of faster , more comfortable boats out there for the same or less money. The Contessa is narrow, wet, short waterline, slow, sails heeled well over, and cramped. Best looking boat in the harbor though!
A Falmouth 22 or Dana 24 will sail circles around it.... but those are not inexpensive.
Maybe a Cape Dory 27 or 28, with similar underbody would suit you. The 27 has a foot more beam than the Contessa. But you need a boat with longer waterline to get more speed, that may mean a more modern design, or the Dana etc.
Other possibilities:
Island Packet 26 or 27
Tartan 27
Seaward 25
ComPac
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Old 02-12-2014, 19:37   #3
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Re: faster than a Contessa 26

Thanks a ton for the feedback, Cheechako. That definitely confirms for me that I've got more searching to do before I make up my mind. I'm going to start researching all of the boats you mentioned. That being the said, I would really like to hear suggestions from others as well so that I have a broader list to choose from.

How about a Searunner 31 tri? As far as I understand, they have a reputation for speed and seaworthiness. Does anyone see any problems with that boat for my purposes?

My only concern would be increased cost at the dock, not only making the slip more expensive but also haul-out, bottom maintenance, etc.? Or am I overestimating the increased cost?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-12-2014, 20:00   #4
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Re: faster than a Contessa 26

I have always yearned for a Contessa 26. They are plenty fast on an ocean. You need wind... Not good for coastal. This was Sadler's favorite boat, and he still sails one. Simple, no nonsense. There are other options that are not fill keel however... Check out this video - https://vimeo.com/108545352 this is an ericson 32-3. (I have the Ericsson 32-2 after having had a catalina 27). This guy got to Hawaii no worries - AND back. You can see a contessa in the harbor when he is in Hawaii. These places are where you meet contessas.

Anyway - for your purposes, I would say a 30-32 is the sweet spot. You can sail alone no problem. They are plenty fast, they are not that expensive in marinas, and you can still dock them alone with some prodding. The only way you will go fast is by going lighter, and you have to find a boat that has been refit already. I like the heavy cruisers like Island Packet and Pacific Seacraft (which incidentally manufactured the last of the Ericsons - so that might be the best of all world - Ericsson speed, PS workmanship in construction). Other non heavy contenders still exist. Look at Cal 32s. Another boat I would look at that is FAST would be the Tartan 30 9 older models) the engine has such amazing access, I would get that boat only for that alone. If you are into Contessas, look at the 32 - that is the great boat and super fast. But it's expensive.... Best of luck. Keep us posted on what you decide.
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Old 02-12-2014, 21:28   #5
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

The Morris Frances 26 is supposedly pretty fast! The flush deck version's lack of headroom can be annoying at times though..

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Old 03-12-2014, 09:21   #6
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

For coastal and Bahamas cruising, I prefer a slightly larger, lighter displacement boat. I sailed my Beneteau 33 solo from the VIs back to Florida last summer and felt it was more than up to the task. I've cruised the Florida coast and Bahamas a few times in a Hunter 30 shallow draft (4-3), both solo and with crew and also felt that was a fine option, though I felt the Beneteau was more livable than the Hunter.
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Old 03-12-2014, 10:12   #7
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

Within the size constraints noted by the OP it does get tough to get fast. It's all about waterline length in monos. Some of the designs I mentioned have I think 3 ft+ more waterline length then the Contessa.
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Old 03-12-2014, 10:27   #8
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

The only way to go faster than a Contessa 26 is to add waterline length. Your boat is reaching her hull speed in fairly light winds. A fin keel, lighter boat with the same waterline length wouldn't do better (except in very light winds). And the Contessa's weight is a real advantage punching into a sea in average winds.

And if you like the "feel" of a Contessa (as I do), a fin keel, light boat won't be the same.

To get a significant speed increase, I'd look for at least 4ft more waterline length than the 20' of the Contessa. This will mean a substantially more expensive boat but your day's run would be much better. What's that speed worth to you?

For similar feel to your Contessa but faster, you could look at:

Cape Dory 33
Sea Sprite 34 (Luder design, fractional rig so easy to single hand)
Bristol 35 (particularly fast)
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Old 03-12-2014, 10:28   #9
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

Try a trimaran, shallow draft and bullet fast
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Old 03-12-2014, 10:42   #10
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
The only way to go faster than a Contessa 26 is to add waterline length. Your boat is reaching her hull speed in fairly light winds. A fin keel, lighter boat with the same waterline length wouldn't do better (except in very light winds). And the Contessa's weight is a real advantage punching into a sea in average winds.

And if you like the "feel" of a Contessa (as I do), a fin keel, light boat won't be the same.

To get a significant speed increase, I'd look for at least 4ft more waterline length than the 20' of the Contessa. This will mean a substantially more expensive boat but your day's run would be much better. What's that speed worth to you?

For similar feel to your Contessa but faster, you could look at:

Cape Dory 33
Sea Sprite 34 (Luder design, fractional rig so easy to single hand)
Bristol 35 (particularly fast)
Yes I agree. But you don't have to go much bigger to get more waterline. The IP26 I mentioned above is over 4 ft longer on the waterline than the Contessa!
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Old 03-12-2014, 12:30   #11
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
Yes I agree. But you don't have to go much bigger to get more waterline. The IP26 I mentioned above is over 4 ft longer on the waterline than the Contessa!

Yeah, and they are both rated the same slow speed

PHRF 252.

You could jump on up to a Bristol 27. 5' 10" head room. PHRF 240

Alberg 30 PHRF 228

During multiple races against an Alberg 30, the Bristol 27 usually won. 12 mile course. Neck and neck until the upwind leg then the Bristol rolled.

A slight joke about the speed however. They are all slow. Example. Ericson 35-3, 6'2" keel, PHRF 123, almost 29' of water line.

PHRF New England - Handicapping - Base Handicaps

BRISTOL 27 sailboat specifications and details on sailboatdata.com

CONTESSA 26 sailboat specifications and details on sailboatdata.com

Bristol 27 For Sale

1975 Bristol 27 sailboat for sale in North Carolina
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Old 03-12-2014, 12:51   #12
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

Yeah, ratings are great for racing. cruising, just keep enough sail up to reach hull speed.
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Old 03-12-2014, 20:27   #13
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

I have serious doubts that the chubby little Dana 24 would out sail a Contessa 26 in any conditions. I did many miles in a Contessa, and most of the time turned in better passage times than boats much longer than the Contessa. I would certainly agree to Cramped, and wet, but not to any of the other complaints. Much would depend on your age and finances, if you were going to consider a Contessa. I am old now , and would not want to consider anything less than 30 foot to cross an ocean, but that has mostly to do with head room. Bending over for everything in your 60s is not fun. A few days one way or the other in a passage, really doesnt make much difference, except in ones pride of sailing ability. Dont worry, there are plenty of boats that will do fine. ______Grant.
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Old 03-12-2014, 23:14   #14
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

Wow. You guys are awesome. Thanks for all of the responses. You've given me a ton of options to consider, and I'll definitely post back here once I scope them all out and get closer to buying. Even though this has complicated my decision quite a bit, it sounds like there are many good options. If i just keep in mind that this is only my first boat and not my last, I feel pretty good about making a decision.

(For anyone wondering, my situation is this: I have a completely portable but somewhat variable income as a writer, so I can work and save for a second boat while living aboard the first. I'm eager to get out on the water soon and cheaply to get a taste of the lifestyle.)

Many, many thanks. And keep the suggestions coming if you have them. I'm taking everything into account at this point. (I'm going to post in the multihull section to see if any tris are worth considering.)
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Old 04-12-2014, 05:07   #15
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Re: Faster Than a Contessa 26

Crossing on a Contessa:



Two people cruising on a Contessa:



News from Bika - Contessa 26 Association
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