by Jessica Watson

The Catalina 275 Sport is a step away from the mid-sized cruising yachts for which the US boat builder is best known. Catalina’s chief designer, Gerry Douglas, built the 275 to meet the needs of sailors who wanted an easier way to get out on the water.

While yachts have steadily grown in size over the years, the Catalina 275 aims to meet the needs of those sailors who are turning their backs on the maintenance, logistical, financial and crewing challenges of bigger yachts.

A smart looking boat, the 275 offers a downsizing option and a way to effortlessly get out on the water for a day sail or weekend away. Designed for versatility, this yacht is well suited for racing around the cans with friends, cruising with the family and even the occasional overnight stay.

WHAT YOU GET

I hate to use phrases that sound like they come straight from the brochure but the Catalina 275 Sport really does offer all the features you would expect on a full-size cruiser.

With a modest beam of 8.5ft (2.56m), this pocket-cruiser is designed with trailability in mind. The test boat was also fitted with a lift strop that enables it to be easily lifted in and out of the water. It is a feature that could also simplify the annual hall out.

Downstairs the white and maple finish and skylight giving the open plan cabin the feel of a much bigger yacht. Space is well used with the large table and seating area easily transformed into comfortable bunks or a large double bed, by adding the infill, for those times you don’t want to go home. At lunchtime we didn’t have any trouble fitting five adults around the table.

The bow area features gear bags, mounted on the cabin walls on tracks so they can be easily slid off and taken home. On top of the already generous storage on board, I found these bags to be a great help in the battle to keep the cabin tidy and free of the crew bags that would usually be strewn around the cabin at the end of a day’s sailing.

Behind the v-berth is the hero of the small modular galley – a large removable esky that slides out from under the stove and sink. Tucked behind the galley, the large single quarter berth that is a generous length and with direct access from the cockpit can be re-purposed to store a standup paddleboard or kayak.

catalina 275-17

catalina 275-14On the other side of the companionway is a separate head and shower, complete with a wet locker like hanging area. A proper, enclosed head is an excellent way to keep guests happy, and I was surprised to find how big it was.

One thing the cabin is missing is a nav station but given the way the Catalina 275 is likely to be used it is not likely to be a big issue. If you’re any taller than my 5.5ft (165cm), you won’t enjoy full head height, but that’s to be expected on a yacht of this size.

On deck, the long roomy cockpit is one of the boat’s best features. Four adults can sail the boat here without tripping over each other and at the end of the day, many more could be comfortably entertained. At the dock, with the lifelines unclipped the open stern can be used for easy boarding or as a swim platform, complete with a telescopic swim ladder.

This wouldn’t be a boat review without covering the drink holders, and the 275 didn’t disappoint with a nifty system that allowed them to tuck parallel under the traveler while sailing.

The lazarette on the port side of the cockpit has more than enough room for the storage of all your lines and fenders. And at the other end of the boat, the lid of the anchor locker is fitted with a small solar panel to keep the battery topped up.catalina 275-16

catalina 275-13POWER

The Catalina 275 comes standard with the Doyle self-tacking jib and fully battened Doyle main, complete with a well-designed boom cover. With tracks fitted to the cabin top the boat is ready for a bigger genoa should that option be taken up. Another option is the spinnaker pack including the kite and top down furler, and I’d highly recommend this option as you would be missing out on a lot of fun without it.

For those times when you can’t use the sails the Catalina offers an outboard option, but I really can’t imagine why anyone would take it up, when an inboard diesel is offered as standard. The test boat was fitted with a 14hp Yanmar with folding prop that made it feel like a proper boat with a neat little turning circle. The Yanmar, which was tucked under the companionway steps, delivered plenty of power and engine noise was barely noticeable as we headed across the harbor at 7 knots (13km/h).

ON THE WATER

The day of the test, the weather gods were on my side providing lovely conditions on Sydney harbor and range of wind speeds that enabled me to test the performance of the 275 in a variety of conditions. On the wind, the 275 quickly found its groove pointing nicely and coming off the wind we quickly accelerated.catalina 275-22

catalina 275-21In 5 knots of breeze the Catalina 275 was light and responsive and when the wind gusted to 30 knots, pushing up a small chop on the harbour it proved to be a relatively dry boat with very little water making its way onto the deck.

Despite its modest waterline length, I found that the 925kg in the 1.52m fin keel kept us steady and the boat felt secure, even as the wind climbed to over 20 knots and a small swell rolled in Sydney heads.

I’m not about to set off into the Southern Ocean in the 275 but with its hand-laid fibreglass this boat feels stiffer than many popular production boats. The addition of Catalina’s trademarked impact absorbing bow chamber adds to its solid feel.

The fully battened mainsail and self-tacking jib make it a very easy boat to sail. As we set off across the harbour I hardly noticed the cockpit design and deck layout, everything felt logical and natural. Although I was pleased to note that the reef-line led back to the cockpit and the backstay was easily adjusted via a cleat under the traveler.

The helm or crew’s job was made easy with coarse and fine turns on the mainsheet and full-length traveler. A raised seat with convenient foot chocks gave me a secure position at the helm. I could also see over my crew’s heads without craning my neck.catalina 275-4

catalina-275-8The helm itself felt light and responsive when the boat was balanced nicely. Although the powerful mainsail was overpowering in some of the stronger gusts I still felt like I had plenty of control.

It’s downwind under the kite that I feel the 275 earns its sport title. In just 5 knots of wind we were able to achieve a similar boat speed and later in the day in more wind, the boat was a lot of fun. All the joy of sailing a skiff without getting wet.

With a retractable bowsprit and top-down furler, downwind sail handling and control couldn’t have been simpler. Better still, with a little co-ordination, gybing with the kite up is easily managed with just the helmsman and a single crew on board.

OVERVIEW

A lot has been packed into the Catalina 275 but the versatility doesn’t come at the expense of its enjoyment as a cruising boat or its sailing performance. Both the overall design and the clever little details of this boat are well thought out and practical in use.

It’s easy to see why this is an award-winning boat. My day on the 275 has me convinced that you don’t need a bigger yacht. Designer Gerry Douglas has created a versatile boat, perfect for a family or joining the local club races.

POSITIVEScatalina-275-7

  • Offers everything you’d expect on a large cruiser
  • Strikes a great balance between sailing performance and ease of handling

NEGATIVES

  • Limited headroom in the cabin

NUMBERS THAT MATTER

Price: (as tested) $159,000
Length overall: 8.38m
Beam: 2.56m
Draft: 1.52m
Displacement: 2268kg
Ballast: 850kg
Sail Area Actual: 35.95m2
Mast Height Above Water: 12.4m
Sleeping Capacity: 3

 

 

 

 

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