owned a Vanguard in the 1960's. While we enjoyed the boat at the time, Vanguards were a very mixed bag. Pearson
was very much a production boat builder
; Pearsons and Columbias were the Hunters, Catalinas, and Beneteaus of their day. They offered reasonably good performance for that era, but were not especially fast, erring on the side of being a little more roomy at the price
of offering less performance.
Even for their day they were not especially weatherly, and by any objective standard they do not point well and do not offer minimal leeway by any modern standard. They were quite tender
. My Father spoke to Phillip Rhodes about this. Rhodes said that the boat was designed to have 10% more ballast than they did. He said the ballast was supposed to be in the form of 'trim ballast'. I also heard from someone at Pearson
that the boats were substantially heavier than the design which partially lead to the decision to keep the ballast minimal. That combination of being overweight out of the box and being short on ballast made a big difference compared to the earlier wooden versions of these boats.
These were hard boats to sail at either end of the wind
range. They were designed to be sailed with 180% genoas in winds up to 15 or so knots. These were huge sails
that were a pain in the neck to sail with, especially with the primitive winches of the day. These large genoas were a bear to drag around the shrouds on each tack. I have sailed Vanguards with 155% and 135% jibs and pretty much lose the lower end of the windspeed range. Because the boats were tender, sail changes were very critical with windspeed changes or else you use a compromise genoa
size and motor
a lot. In heavy air these boats developed shoulder wrenching weather
These boats do not track worth a darn, My current
fin keeler which is no great shakes when it comes to tracking still tracks better than the Vanguard.
The build quality was a mixed bag on these boats. The glass work was pretty poor. Corings to install instruments and make repairs
to the keel
showed lenses of overly rich laminate mixed with other areas with dry cloth. Like many boats of this era these boats were built with laminates that would be prone to fatigue and being brittle over time. The electrical
on the boats were pretty poorly done so that with the short time that we owned the boat we had did a fair amount of work on these items.
So here is the deal as I see it, the Vanguards were pretty mediocre boats for their day. Their day was forty years ago and a lot has happened since. You can buy a lot better sailing and a lot more confortable boats for roughly the same cost as a Vanguard. Unless a prior owner has poured a lot into maintenance
and upgrading the boat, any forty year old boat is bound to need a lot of maintenance
and to be pretty unreliable. There is a very different aesthtic to sailing these older boats, and I still sail on them for the nostalgia of doing so, but that does not mean that they sail well or offer any kind of reasonable performance.
A quick comment on Delmarrey's comment, fin keels with separate rudders do offer much better windward perforance than you can expect out of the Vanguard. I disagree that a wing is necessary although a bulb keel is helpful if you are trying to obtain reasonable perforance coupled with shoal draft
. Bulb keels generally the easist of the keel options to free in a grounding.