Versatility was a big theme among this year’s new boats, and no builder exemplified that theme better than Tartan Yachts with its Fantail. A head-turner on the show docks, Tartan’s 26-foot Fantail comes in three versions: daysailer, club trainer and weekender. While the hull, cockpit dimensions and sailplan of all three versions are identical, the daysailer comes with a flush deck and cuddy cabin; the club trainer omits Tartan’s lovely brightwork for the sake of easy maintenance; and the weekender offers the simple accommodations of berths, burners, 12-volt reefer and head under a cabin house and foredeck that adds 10½ inches of headroom. All three versions are tiller-steered; we sailed the weekender.
“The premise behind the Fantail,” said Andy Drumm, Tartan’s director of sales and operations, “is to bring people into the family. Before this, our entry-level Tartan was our 3400, and that’s a big boat.” The Fantail is optimized for shorthanded sailing. All sail controls are led aft to the cockpit, several through turning blocks under the deck and coamings. The weekender and daysailer versions offer a self-tacking jib for upwind sailing and a retractable sprit for an asymmetric chute off the wind. Our Boat of the Year judging team sailed the boat in a whispery 6 to 8 knots — with a boat speed of 4.6 knots on the wind. Later in the week I hopped back on for a brief, rollicking reach up Maryland’s Severn River with the chute up and found her helm very nicely balanced.
Tartan is doing two things in its production that add significant value to its boats, especially if you’re comparing price with boats from other builders. Tartan’s resin-infused hulls and decks are built with epoxy, which is simply better than polyester — so much so that Tartan offers an unparalleled 15-year structural nonblistering warranty on its boats. The second thing is they build their own carbon pocket booms, which saves weight up high and simplifies the mainsail takedown. Tartan may soon offer a carbon mast for this boat.
Tartan is experimenting with electric propulsion as part of the Fantail’s standard package. The system is built around a 6-horsepower Torqeedo outboard and a single 24-volt lithium-ion battery. The Torqeedo controller panel with built-in GPS reads out the battery discharge rate, as well as speed. According to Drumm, a fully charged battery will last 16 hours at half throttle, or two hours at full throttle, pushing the boat at just over 6 knots. During our test, the motor provided plenty of power as we ran out of the calm harbor, but we had no chance to test it in a seaway or against a current, nor time to discharge and recharge the battery.
On the weekender we sailed, we would like to have seen an attractive cover or seat over the marine head, installed just inside the companionway to port, and the heavy free-floating hatch boards could benefit from further refinement.
Taking advantage of the Fantail’s street-legal 8-foot-5-inch beam, Tartan offers a great trailer option for this boat, at $6,500. It’s a double-axle trailer that, Drumm says, can be pulled behind a midsize SUV. Studs installed near the boat’s balance point accept a bracket that allows the Fantail to be hauled out with a yacht-club gin pole, omitting yard charges. All up, the Fantail is a fun, well-designed boat that looks mighty inviting for a young family of sailors.
See full specs of the Tartan Fantail here.
Tim Murphy, a CW editor at large and a 2014 Boat of the Year judge, is the co-author of Fundamentals of Marine Service Technology (ABYC, 2012).
This article first appeared in Cruising World, May, 2014.