Easy trailing, respectable performance, cavernous accommodation and a budget price – just how does the Polish-built Sedna 26 do it? David Harding climbs aboard to find out
Yacht design can be a challenging business, and nowhere is the balance between space, pace and safety harder to achieve than in the larger trailable sailers.
These boats have to be light enough to trail, launch and recover, roomy enough for a couple – or perhaps a young family – to live aboard for a week, and sufficiently robust to survive bouncing around on a trailer. Their owners might expect to be able to hop along the coast and probably will demand comforts that buyers of yesteryear wouldn’t have considered.
Back in the day, boats of this size that could be trailed included the Super Seal 26, the Evolution 25 and 26 and Trapper’s TS240. These were most definitely not trailer-sailers, however: only the seriously dedicated would hitch up and head off for less than a week’s sailing.
Then things changed. Along came the Macgregor 26 in its various incarnations, not only making a 26-footer a genuine trailer-sailer (British driveways, roads and slipways permitting) but also allowing the owners of later versions to motor as fast as a planing powerboat provided they had a suitably large outboard on the transom.
Other power-sailers followed, such as the Odin 26, Imexus 27, Legend Edge 27 and Tide 28 before the breed quietly disappeared. Is it likely to reappear? Watch this space.
A different approach was adopted recently by Swallow Yachts’ BayCruiser 26. While she uses water ballast to reduce her trailing weight, as did many of the power-sailers, she’s a far more capable and powerful sailing yacht than most of them. However, her introduction still leaves a gap for a simpler and less expensive trailable sailer of similar size for the less ambitious owner.
That gap, not surprisingly, has been filled by a new offering from Poland: the Sedna 26.
If any nation is keen on trailer-sailers and trailable yachts, it’s Poland. Go to a Polish boat show – or to Dusseldorf in January – and you will see stacks of such boats that never make it to our shores. Parts of north-east Poland are more lake than land and the country’s boating industry has taken full advantage.
But, as we have observed before when testing imports, conditions on a sheltered European lake generally bear little relation to those encountered off the coast of Britain. That’s one reason why we’re seeing fewer Polish offerings than we once did.
None of this stops established distributors seeking out Polish designs they consider promising, which is what Edge-Water Marine has done with the Viko and Sedna ranges. I tested the Viko 21 last year (see PBO April 2017), so when a Sedna 26 became available we thought I should put her through her paces.
Like the Viko, the Sedna is an enormous boat for her length (which is 25ft, or 7.65m before you count the rudder). At 9ft 4in (2.85m), her beam is generous but not extreme by modern standards. It’s greatest only a few feet forward of the transom, giving her an almost delta-shaped plan view – like just the forward half of a 35-footer from a few years ago.
In profile she could also pass for the chopped-off bow of a boat 10 or 15ft longer by virtue of her towering topsides: she has a serious amount of freeboard, to the extent that anyone who’s not reasonably nimble or long-legged will probably want to use a fender step to climb aboard from a pontoon unless she’s berthed stern to. From a tender you would be looking at the north face of the Eiger. It might even be snowing on deck.
The pay-off, of course, is headroom and internal volume on a scale that those accustomed to more traditional designs of this length might find hard to imagine. We will be going down the hatch a little later. For now, suffice it to say that beam at the waterline as well as at deck level plays a major role in determining the amount of space inside the hull. And since those towering topsides are not far off vertical, her waterplane is pretty broad.
Let’s look more closely at what we can expect from the Sedna. We know she’s high and fairly wide, on which basis you might imagine she’s not particularly fast. Yet she has a fine entry and a long waterline in relation to her displacement of a modest 4,400lb (2,000kg). The result is a displacement/length ratio of 143, confirming that she’s light for her length. She also has a rig that, while far from large, gives a sail area/displacement ratio of just under 19 – respectable for a cruiser.
Looked at together, the numbers suggest that she shouldn’t hang around given some breeze, particularly since the underwater sections look reasonably slippery.
What’s more, her profiled centreplate takes her draught to no less than 5ft 6in (1.67m). Most of the ballast is internal, keeping the plate light enough for easy lifting, though at 42% the ballast ratio is still higher than you might expect on a boat like this.
Does it all add up to a formula for both space and pace? Let’s find out.
Sailing a Sedna
We couldn’t have asked for a better breeze to see what the Sedna could do: a northerly 15-20 knots was blowing down Chichester Harbour’s Emsworth Channel, kicking up a modest chop against the flood tide. As this was the most wind in which the boat had ventured out, we erred on the side of caution and tucked in the first reef before leaving the pontoon. I had yet to sail a Polish trailer-sailer capable of carrying its full rig in such conditions.
Under our reduced sail plan we found life more than comfortable, though reefing did reveal something. Inside the stack pack, the mainsail had a bolt rope rather than being loose-footed. This was fine, if unexpected, but as there was no slot in the foot to allow the reefing pennant to pass under the boom it had to be made fast to an eyelet riveted to the boom’s top. I would reach for a hot knife (or take the sail to a sailmaker for a proper job) at the first opportunity.
Once we had knocked the sail into the best shape we could, the boat took the conditions in her stride so easily that we shook out the reef. Then we flattened the main as far as possible with the limited tools at our disposal and set about seeing what the Sedna could really do.
What she did was to sail far better than I had expected. That iron and concrete in the bilges really made its presence felt and she was far stiffer and more powerful a performer than most of her compatriots have proved to be.
To be fair, she had everything in her favour: a brand new boat with a well-set-up rig, sails that have hardly been used, a clean bottom and no gear on board or propeller dragging through the water has every opportunity to give a good account of herself. And the Sedna did just that. Also in her favour was the right amount of breeze (I would be interested to see how she goes in light conditions) and relatively flat water.
In short, she had no excuses and didn’t need any. She could be feathered and de-powered through the gusts to stay on her feet while making good speed to windward: across the tide the GPS recorded a consistent 5.6 knots and even up to 6 knots at times. Wondering whether my GPS was having a dizzy spell, I checked it against one on a phone and got the same reading.
Another big plus is the helming position. Whereas many designers make the cockpit as wide as possible, common sense has prevailed here: the coamings are well inboard of the gunwale allowing the side decks to extend all the way to the transom. The big benefit under way is that you can helm from the high and comfortably rounded coamings and lean back against the webbing that runs from the aftermost stanchion to the stern rail.
Balance of both boat and helm seemed good, though stiff rudder bearings would have tended to mask any untoward tendencies. Just make sure the hinge-up rudder is fully down when you’re sailing: there’s no purchase on the downhaul, so it needs to be properly tight. The blade gripped well, only letting go if the boat was sailed too deep in a gust and allowed to heel well beyond a comfortable angle. Inevitably the beam and the flat-sectioned hull meant that neither centreplate nor rudder was being much use by then.
Unless provoked like this she showed remarkable tolerance and obedience for a boat of her type, as well as being surprisingly fast and rewarding to sail. She hove to as comfortably as you would expect given her mainsail-driven rig, and had to be pinched mercilessly before the foils would stall. There was no clonking from the centreplate downwind and she felt far more taut and responsive than many budget cruisers.
Perhaps her weakest area is in the rig. It has to be light and simple for easy raising and lowering and, to this end, it comes with a system designed for single-handed use that looks similar to those seen on other Polish trailable sailers.
The rig’s budget nature shows in several areas, not least in the headsail halyard that comes back down the headfoil rather than down the mast, making it impossible to achieve enough luff tension. We tried our best. Neither did the reasonable amount of rig tension stop the forestay sagging more than we would have wanted.
On top of this the sails, while not a bad cut, were made from a fabric that I would expect to last little more than a season of typical use before stretching noticeably. There would be scope for making improvements if you wanted to get the best from the boat.
These sort of things tend to go with the territory on Polish trailer-sailers but can make an appreciable difference if you find yourself having to beat home against 20 knots of wind and a seaway, when the outboard on its transom bracket might be of limited use.
You will need to get used to handling the outboard in close-quarters manoeuvres, too. When you’re working the throttle and gear lever from the transom step (there’s no remote control) it’s not easy to steer and see where you’re going at the same time. That said, we had to turn around in a confined space with a fresh breeze and it was perfectly manageable. An electric outboard in a well with controls in the cockpit is now an option that should make life easier.
While we’re at this end of the boat, it’s worth mentioning the good-sized locker under the cockpit sole and two more of half depth beneath the seats. The mainsheet shackles to (and easily unshackles from) a stainless steel strong-point that doubles as a support for the cockpit table stowed in the stern locker.
Nothing else stands out on deck. There’s an anchor locker in the bow, the stainless steel-work is neat and robust and a teak toe-rail gives your feet a fighting chance of staying on the boat if you venture forward.
The Sedna truly is cavernous down below. Headroom is over 6ft (1.83m) in the saloon and you have a double berth across the full width of the stern. There’s a separate heads compartment and a small galley, plus the often-deemed-essential pressurised water, fridge and shore-power sockets (the latter two on the options list).
The layout is open-plan, with just a partial bulkhead separating the saloon from the V-berth in the bow. It’s all about space down here and the construction is highly modular.
A full-length moulding forms the interior up to bunk level. Stowage is under most of the bunks, though some areas are simply inaccessible and others covered by plywood panels that are screwed down. We undid a fair few screws here and there to see what lay beneath: the answer was usually not a lot. Another moulding is overhead, through which it’s good to see that most of the deck fastenings are bolted.
The finish is generally acceptable. My chief concern, as is often the case when boats have such extensive inner mouldings, would be reaching the inside of the hull and some of the structural elements should you ever need to.
PBO’s verdict: Sedna 26
The Sedna 26 combines extraordinary internal volume with surprisingly good sailing performance and the benefits of a fully-retractable centreplate. She was conceived as a true trailer-sailer and it shows. The enormous volume and freeboard, open-plan layout and simple rig mean that she’s likely to feel more at home in relatively sheltered waters than beating round exposed headlands in brisk conditions.
Every boat is a compromise, but the Sedna looks like one that will probably suit a lot of people very nicely indeed.