A Review by John Vigor

The Vega is the second boat listed in John Vigor’s Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere, a little book that is not gospel but nonetheless keeps popping up as reference. Here’s what he says about the boat:

Albin Vega specifications
L.O.A. 27′ 1″
L.W.L. 23′ 0″
Beam 8′ 0″
Draft 4′ 3″
Displacement 5,070 lbs
Sail Area 341 sq. ft.

She’s Modest, but Plenty Tough
You’d hardly guess by looking at one that the Albin Vega has earned herself a reputation for being an outstanding offshore cruiser. She’s a modest–looking little fiberglass sloop, totally lacking the massive fittings, bowsprits, and laid teak decks that most people associate with real deep–sea boats. In fact, if you didn’t know how tough she is, you might judge her to be rather frail. The slight reverse sheer gives her a humpbacked appearance from some angles (though not an unsightly one) but otherwise her general appearance is quite unremarkable.

Like so many of the world’s seaworthy boats, the Albin Vega has Scandinavian origins. She was designed in Sweden in 1964 — the early days of fiberglass construction — by Per Brohall, who obviously admired the long keel and skinny beam of the Folkboat. The Vega was given a short counter stern with an inboard rudder, however, instead of a transom and an outboard rudder, and her cabintop, raised in two sections, gave her more room below. Well over 3,000 Vegas were built in a production run that extended more than a decade, and thousands of them are now sailing all over the world.

Brohall set out to design a boat that was light, fast, roomy, seaworthy, and relatively cheap. This was a seemingly impossible task because sailboat performance is the distilled essence of a series of compromises. What is seaworthy, for example, is not usually fast. What is roomy is not necessarily cheap. But Brohall succeeded in producing one of those rare designs that exceeds most people’s expectations in most areas. The one obvious thing the Vega lacks, in comparison with more modern designs, is space down below. But, as we mention frequently in this book, the comparison is unfortunate because modern designs deliberately sacrifice ultimate seaworthiness for interior space. The understanding is that today’s roomy coastal cruisers will never need to fall back on the resources of seaworthiness an ocean voyager needs. Per Brohall never had to make that compromise. From the outset, he aimed for seaworthiness.

It’s the Vega’s comparatively narrow beam of exactly 8 feet 0 inches that makes for snugness down below, of course. Nevertheless, the accommodations are comfortable for two adults on a long trip, and perhaps even for two adults and two children on a shorter vacation.

Basic Design
The Vega has a shallow hull with narrow beam and fairly hard bilges. Her keel is long, but not full–length, running for only about half the waterline length, from about the mast to the after end of the cockpit well. While there is more than sufficient length for good tracking, especially downwind in the trades, this keel reduces the surface area (and therefore friction) of the “traditional” deep–sea keel, and helps the Vega perform better in light airs.

The rudder is attached to the aft end of the keel, and while this is a very strong way to support it, the rudder itself has revealed some weaknesses. There is no cutout in the rudder for the propeller, which, unusually, emerges from the deadwood under the counter but above the rudder.

The hull is solid fiberglass, said by the builder to be 3/8–inch thick at the sheerline and 1–inch thick at the base of the keel, but the deck and cabintop are cored fiberglass for lightness. . .

The caulked, internal flanges of the hull and deck are bolted together with 5/16–inch stainless steel bolts every 5 inches, which makes for a reassuringly strong joint and few leaks. The sheerline, as mentioned above, is reversed slightly to improve headroom below. It is actually almost a straight line from stern to bow, but the eye increases the humpback effect because it is trained to see a concave sheer in that spot. The bows therefore look lower than usual for the size of the boat and appear to lack buoyancy, but there is no evidence that such is the case.

The low topsides cut down on wind resistance, but mean that the coachroof must protrude more to provide adequate headroom below. Brohall resisted the temptation to create a high, unsightly superstructure that would accommodate a standing 6–footer anywhere below. Instead, he placed a low cabin trunk over the head and the aft end of the V–berth, and then stepped it up another story to give 5 feet 10 inches of headroom in the main saloon and galley. The result is a fairly large superstructure, but one that blends pleasantly with the hull and avoids boxiness. The cockpit is self–bailing and small enough not to cause concern about pooping, but big enough for two people not to get in each other’s way on long trips.

Accommodations
The Vega has comfortable bunks for four, two 6–footers and two of 6 feet 6 inches, but it would be a mistake to plan on long ocean crossings with four adults. Two would be plenty.

The accommodation layout is logical for a boat with a 23–foot waterline, starting with a chain locker up forward, followed by V–berths and a toilet just forward of the main bulkhead. The head faces a hanging locker on the other side of the gangway and can be closed off from the main cabin, but remains open to the V–berths.

Aft of the main bulkhead there are transom berths to port and starboard, starboard being 6 inches longer than port. The table between the berths fits into sockets in the cabin sole, so it can be yanked out and stowed — or dropped into similar sockets in the cockpit for sunset drinks and snacks.

At the after end of the cabin, under the sliding hatch, the galley divides into two portions, one each side of the companionway steps/engine cover. The cooker lives on the port side, and a sink and icebox on the starboard side.

Cubbyholes and lockers in the galley and the main cabin provide ample stowage space for gear and provisions for two people on extended voyage.

As usual in a boat of this size, there is no dedicated chart table, and the cabin table supplied with the boat is unlikely to be steady enough for serious navigation in a seaway. Abut a removable or fold–down plywood table could be made to fit over one end of a berth or over the icebox/sink area.

All the deadlights are fixed in place with rubber gaskets, which means you can’t open them, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add a couple of Dorade ventilators, although the existing ventilation system works better than most. If you’re heading for the tropics, you’ll need all the ventilation you can get.

The Rig
The Vega’s rig is entirely conventional and easily handled. This masthead sloop has single spreaders and two lower shrouds on each side.

The mast and boom are aluminum, and neither is of excessive proportions . . .

The main boom is reasonably short, yet the mainsheet traveler can be placed just aft of the rudder head, so the sheet is at the helmsman’s fingertips. Single winches on the cockpit coamings can handle everything from the spitfire jib to a 150 percent genoa.

Performance
Initially tender, the Vega stiffens up at moderate angles of heel, and depite her shallow draft she works to windward reasonably well.

She is very handy indeed off the wind. A Vega called Little My III crossed the Atlantic from the Cape Verde Islands to Barbados in 14 days, 16 hours. [At the time, she held the record for a boat of her size and class.] Richard Henderson, commenting on the trip in his book Singlehanded Sailing (International Marine), says, “She reportedly surfed in the trade winds at speeds up to 13 knots, yet was dry, comfortable, and easily managed. Her excellent downwind behavior might be attributed to her well–balanced hull with flattish run, modest displacement, and moderately long full keel.”

Her working sail area, while correctly proportioned for an ocean cruiser, is too modest to give her scintillating performance in light airs, so it would be wise to carry a large nylon drifter and/or an asymmetrical cruising spinnaker if you’re not planning to motor through the doldrums.

In general she has a reputation for being extremely well behaved, being easy to steer and staying under control even when hard pressed.

Owner’s Opinion
Tom Currier, a software engineer in Pembroke, New Hampshire, got to know Albin Vegas well when he used to deliver them around the coast for his father, who had an Albin dealership. But he got to know them even better after buying his own Vegas. He owned two — Resande and Skidblanir (Little Liferaft) — for a total of seven years.

He has owned other boats, and sailed on many more, but his opinion after all those years of experience with the Albin Vega was very firm: “Out of any cruising boat I’ve ever owned, she has the best sailing characteristics. She’s a sweet boat, fast and well balanced. She has no weather helm; you can always balance her with the sails alone. She also points amazingly well.”

He said his Vegas felt stiff after an initial 10 or 15 degrees of heel, and didn’t need a reduction in sail area until the wind got over 20 knots.

In 40–knot winds, with 12–foot seas, Currier found the Vega easy to handle under a storm jib and rolled–down main. “She just kept sailing,” he said. “She’s a very solid boat — though she was very wet, of course.”

He didn’t think the cockpit was too big for safe deep–sea work. “I thought it was a perfect size, and its outstanding feature was the high coamings — it kept things inside the boat. There were good drains, and if you plugged them up you could take a bath in the cockpit.”