Tanzer 26 and 7.5
By Paul Howard
Copyright © Canadian Yachting Magazine
Tanzer Industries Ltd. was a major boat builder in Canada for more than 20 years before bankruptcy ended production in May 1986. Some designs were in production on both coasts of the U.S., but the factory at Dorion, Que., turned out the bulk of the roughly 8,000 Tanzers built. The most successful model (2,270 units) was the Tanzer 22, launched in 1970 and is still actively raced with a strong class association. Riding the wave of the success of the 22, designer Johan Tanzer added the lines of the Tanzer 26 and the slightly shorter 7.5 (24.5 ft) to the line-up for sailors who wanted to move up in size. The family resemblance of these siblings is obvious: raised topsides, bold waterline and sheer stripes, outboard spade rudder, swept fin keel and deep, comfortable, well-protected cockpits. With relatively long waterlines and a moderate beam, shoal draught and a simple sailing rig, these two boats offer comfort and good performance, and enough weight to make them feel reassuringly stable to the moderately experienced sailor. Many sailors find the look of these boats is not to their liking, as they have neither a traditional profile or a sleek and go-fast-while-still-sitting-still appearance. I can only guess that Tanzer drew the lines to a shape he felt was practical.
The interiors are very similar: vee-berths forward with opening hatches above; the head area is curtained off from the rest of the boat. Port and starboard settee/berths in the main salon lie across from a folding table. The 26 has a larger galley aft and a quarter berth as well. The 26 has 5ft 9 in. headroom, while the 7.5 is an inch shorter. Both have a sliding companionway hatch through which anyone taller than average can standup and poke his or her head up to look around.
The Tanzer made its appearance in 1976 and was considered quite fast. In the year of its introduction, a factory team campaigned in the major open regattas in the Montreal/Ottawa region – seven in all. They never placed lower than third in the SLVVRA Cruising Class, which boasted a large and competitive fleet at the time.
Most 26s were outboard-powered, though an inboard Yanmar diesel was an option. According to A. Eric Spencer, President of Tanzer Industries from 1968 to 1985, perhaps only five per cent of the production run was fitted with diesels. A boomed, self-tending jib was also an option, though there seem to be few of them on Lake Ontario. Spencer assured me that many boats shipped to the Gulf and the sea coasts were so fitted.
The Tanzer 7.5 was introduced in 1977 and remained in production until 1985, with about 790 built. It appears that Tanzer simply let some air out of the design balloon of the 26 when drawing the 7.5. The LOA is 21 in. shorter, beam eight in. narrower, displacement 550 lbs lighter with the vertical clearance only a foot shorter. In fact, I often find it difficult to decide if a boat in the distance is a 26 or a 7.5. At least if I am close enough, I can see the forward-facing port of the 26. The 7.5 was never actively raced, though it is a steady performer. Quoting the sales brochure, the boat is for sailors who "are looking for a high-performance yacht that can be readily transported, ramp launched, and has a hinged mast step."
Though most people think of these boats as local cruisers, several have made notable passages. A 7.5 owner sailed his single-handed from Quebec City to St. Malo, France, and later returned to Canada with another crew member. Another 7.5 sailed solo from Nova Scotia to Bermuda and back. Tanzer 26 number 226 was sailed from New York to Lorient, France in 29 days, then returned to New York on a passage from Plymouth, England, in 31 days. Eric Spencer assured me that none of these boats were modified from the standard production boat in any major way.
I joined Egbert Tingling, past commodore of the Cathedral Bluffs Yacht Club in Scarborough, Ont., for a sail on his Tanzer 7.5 (1981, number 559) Cilda V., named after his late wife in June 1993. Tingling has added lazy jacks, new roller-furling gear. Our afternoon was Tingling’s shake-down sail, to prepare for a group cruise from Bluffer’s Park to Port Dalhousie. Jamaican-born, Tingling, 67, explained, "I single-hand this boat all around the lake during my six weeks’ sailing holidays. She handles so easily, I would never trade to a larger boat." The wind was a gusty northwester off the Bluffs, and though we raised full main and rolled out the genoa, the new furler was soon put to the test when we took in half the headsail’s area. About a mile offshore, the gusts from the bluffs decreased and we had a fast broad reach to the east, then a close reach back. The boat balanced easily, with a little pressure on the helm. As we tacked towards the harbour mouth, I did note the speed decrease as we came up to 45 degrees apparent wind. By laying off another five degrees, she livened up and was noticeably faster. This is not surprising given that we were sailing with a roller-reefed genoa and a full main. A larger headsail and a reefed main might have made a difference.
Back at the dock, a look below gave some indication of Tingling’s preferences for outfitting his boat. Under the step into the cabin, in the place where an inboard would be located, a countertop fridge was wedged in place. "I do like cold drinks," he explained. "This little unit will keep ice while I cross the lake, until I can plug into shore power at the next marina." At the extreme outboard side of the counter on the starboard side, a microwave was securely mounted – he likes hot food, too!
A look around the boat showed her to be in very good condition. A few dabs of caulking around the port lights was the only repair that I noted. The gelcoat appeared a bit chalky, but a good wax job could probably liven up her looks again. The hatches and deck fittings seemed in good condition with no apparent loosening or fatigue.
I asked Yachting Services’ Eric Spencer, a Tanzer parts supplier, what parts were requested for these boats. He mentioned that he has supplied spars, and a few rudders, in addition to a handful of small parts. The updated rudder for the Tanzer 22 apparently works well on the 7.5, being nearly the same size and with a more efficient shape. The 26 is supplied with rudders from the Tanzer Quarter-tonner.
Not trendy or flashy, these ’70s Tanzers represent good value in a strong pocket cruiser.