Ranger 26: Exit Velocity at Entry Level
Fast yesterday and cheap today, the Ranger 26 is an opportunity awaiting a knock.
One of many designs that Gary Mull made for Ranger Yachts, the Ranger 26, conceived to be the ideal compromise between a safe and comfortable on-soundings family cruiser and a competitive racer, reflects much of the art and technology that Mull blended so well in the many boats he designed during his all-too-short career. The Ranger 26 is undeniably fast: One won the 1970 IOR North American Half-Ton Cup.
The 26 is a good-looking boat with a distinctive sheer and a nice balance between freeboard and cabin height—a handsome profile wasn’t sacrificed to standing headroom—and exemplifies the construction techniques of the 1970s.
The hull is laid up by hand, and the balsa-cored deck mates to it on an inward-facing flange along the sheer line. A black-anodized aluminum toerail, fastened with bolts on 6-inch centers, completes the joint. The 1-ton iron fin keel is bolted to the hull and should be inspected periodically because the half-inch galvanized keel bolts have been known to corrode badly.
The Ranger 26 is a masthead sloop. Its deck-stepped mast is supported by upper shrouds, double lowers, a headstay, and a backstay rigged with a tensioning bridle.
At about 12 inches wide, the side decks are on the narrow side. Sailors going forward must take care when negotiating the chainplates and genoa tracks and blocks.
An anchor roller wasn’t fitted as standard equipment, so anyone planning on cruising a Ranger 26 would want to consider fitting one that could perhaps also hold an anchor.
The cockpit is a little over 7 feet long and is ample for racing, cruising or socializing. The width between the seats is about right for leg bracing when heeled. Since the boat has no quarter berths, an abundance of stowage space is available under both cockpit seats.
An outboard motor provides propulsion. The transom has a cutout to accept it, but a low bulkhead just forward of the transom keeps water out of the cockpit proper and provides a convenient mounting location for the mainsheet traveler. Steering is by tiller.
The accommodation plan is conventional for this type of boat. A molded-fiberglass pan that forms the base for interior furniture includes berth fronts and platforms, and a padded vinyl headliner extends down the cabin sides. A compartment for a portable toilet and a storage closet separate the V-berth from the saloon. In the saloon, a dinette (that converts to a small double berth) is fitted on the port side, and a settee is fitted to starboard. The small galley consists of a sink to port of the companionway and a two-burner propane stove to starboard. Standing headroom is about 5 feet throughout, and sitting headroom above the seat cushions is more than 3 feet. The cabin trim is teak, and the bulkheads are teak-veneered.
Bandit, the boat I sailed for this review, races with a 130 percent genoa fitted on a Harken furler. In the 8 to 10 knots of wind that day, the boat handled well under the main alone. Once the genoa was unfurled, the boat heeled slightly before quickly accelerating to about 5 knots.
Bandit carries her 40 years lightly because she’s been well maintained. She’s a fine example of a 1970s-era racer/cruiser and is still able to show her transom to many competitors.
The Ranger 26 was built from 1969 to 1976. Depending on condition and equipment, list prices range from $3,000 to $5,800—quite a bargain for the inshore cruising opportunities that the boat offers.
Richard Smith and his wife, Beth, sail their Ericson Cruising 31, Kuma, in the Pacific Northwest. This article first appeared in the December 2013 issue of Cruising World.