Built as the Jaguar 27 in the UK, the Catalina 27 was the model that took on the might of the Westerly Centaur, writes Rupert Holmes
Part of Catalina’s long-lasting success is based on a refusal to follow passing fashions. Instead models have a very long production life and are constantly refined to improve finish and ergonomics, above and below decks.
Two years after the launch of the Catalina 22, Butler teamed up with Bob Finch to design a 27-footer that would be proportionately larger, with full standing headroom, as well as a separate heads and forecabin.
The Catalina 27 was an instant success, with 1,500 orders taken in the first three months and in total, including the UK-built Jaguar 27 and other variants of the design licensed around the world, more than 7,000 were built.
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Production continued in the USA for 20 years, when the boat was replaced by the more modern Catalina 270.
With its slightly longer overall length and wider beam, the Jaguar 27 proved a formidable opponent to the Westerly Centaur, which had been launched two years earlier.
UK boats were mostly fitted with diesel inboard engines from new, however early US versions were only offered with outboards.
The civilised accommodation by the standards of the time wasn’t this model’s only key selling point. It was also a boat with excellent handling characteristics that could achieve respectable speeds and, if properly set up, take heavy weather in its stride.
The design’s potential in capable hands was proved when Patrick Childress completed a 2.5 year circumnavigation in his Catalina 27.
An unusual feature is the very wide main hatch, which makes the boat one of the best of its era for use in hot climates as this arrangement helps boost both natural light and ventilation.
Many have therefore found their way to the southern USA, Bahamas and Caribbean, while on this side of the Atlantic there’s a good number in the Mediterranean.
Many of those are former Sailing Holidays flotilla boats – the company ran a fleet of Jaguar 27s for three decades, repeatedly refitting the heavily-used boats and proving just how solid the basic structure is.
Catalina 27 specification
LOA: 8.27m / 26ft 10in
LWL: 6.50m / 21ft 9in
Beam: 2.70m / 8ft 11in
Draught (twin keel): 1.10m / 3ft 8in
Draught (fin): 1.35m / 4ft 4in
Displacement: 2,540kg / 5,600lb
Sail area: 26.5m2 / 306ft2
Current market value: £7,000-£10,000 / $9,500-$13,5000