By Paul Howard
Love and Anarchy, Mirage 26 hull #51, was launched June 3, 1978 for a new sailor, Diane Wait, who had previously sailed “two or three times with friends.” “I went to the Toronto International Boat Show to find a boat I could handle,” remembers Wait. “I also wanted a boat I would be content to sail indefinitely. I didn’t want to be looking to trade up for something two feet longer in a few years.” She went to the show three times that year, looking at boats in this size range over and over again. On the third visit she left a deposit on the Mirage 26.
Since 1982, Wait has sailed her Mirage 26 (PHRF 216) in the Monday evening women’s race series sponsored by the Harbour City Yacht Club in Toronto. She finishes well up in the fleet, with an occasional first place. Love and Anarchy races with a crew of five or six women onboard, and her owner draws on a crew bank of seven women sailing friends. For Wait and the boat’s builder, Mirage Yachts Ltd., the boat was a happy success story.
Mirage Yachts Ltd. was founded in 1972 by Dick Steffen at Pointe Claire, Quebec. The company successfully produced many different models until the doors were closed in 1989.
The lines for the Mirage 26 were drawn in 1976 by Robert Perry. The Seattle-based naval architect’s design accomplishments are numerous, and he has designs in production around the world. At the time his reputation as a designer of fast family boats was already firmly established by the Valiant 40, a fully fitted-out cruiser that has made impressive finishes in shorthanded trans-ocean races.
The first Mirage 26 was launched in 1977 altogether about 150 were produced. The first few boats were outboard engine powered, then the OMC saildrive was installed as inboard auxiliary power.
In 1979 Perry lengthened the design to incorporate a reverse transom with inboard rudder. The overall length became 27ft. 2in., and it was then called the Mirage 27. There were no other changes in dimensions or displacement.
Most of the Mirage 27s were powered by a single-cylinder Yanmar or Volvo diesel engine with a conventional propeller shaft installation. A few had two-cylinder diesels. Three hundred Mirage 27s were built through 1986, for a total production run of about 450 boats.
Mirage Yachts dealerships sprang up in the Windsor, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal/Lake Champlain areas, with fleets concentrated near those centres. About 20 per cent of the production run was sold in the Chesapeake Bay area. Company founder Dick Steffen told me that one of the Mirage 26s he built sailed to Europe and back.
The Mirage 26/27 is a roomy boat for her length, with nicely laid out accommodations. The interior of Diane Wait’s 26 has gelcoated liners under the decks, against the hull above hull above the berths, and on the overhead. There is a little wood trim inside; the furniture is made of fiberglass moldings which some feel is stark but is a feature I like. The white surfaces brighten the interior, giving a feeling of spaciousness, and the gelcoat surfaces are easy to keep clean.
The traditional interior layout has settees to port and starboard (Wait’s boat does not have the optional pull-out feature which converts one settee to a double), a V-berth forward, and a head to port and hanging locker to starboard just aft of the V-berth. Between the companionway and the main saloon the galley spans the cabin, with an icebox and sink to port and two-burner stove to starboard. A drop-leaf table stands at the centreline of the saloon but can be removed and stowed against the main bulkhead, clearing the central living area. The saloon has 6ft lin headroom near the companionway hatch in the galley area, with headroom decreasing as one moves forward.
Mirage 27s were built with more wood trim inside than the 26s, eventually evolving to an all-wood interior with a varnish finish. Steffen admits he preferred the gelcoat interior, but felt compelled to change to the more expensive wood treatment because of the trend set by European boats toward elaborate interior woodwork. But while his rational was primarily to compete for sales against imported products, wood interiors were becoming the market preference.
I went sailing on Love and Anarchy on a mild, late-summer day. The wind was offshore at about 10 knots, so we set the fully battened mainsail and hoisted the No. 1 genoa. Reaching into Lake Ontario, we maintained an easy five knots.
Two hours later the wind increased to about 15 knots, and became gusty. We double-reefed the mainsail with the owner’s new jiffy reefing system but kept up the No. 1. The boat was still balanced nicely and sailed with little weather helm, though was slightly overpowered in the stronger gusts. We beat our way into Toronto Harbour’s Eastern Gap against the fluky northeast wind. The boat carried her way through the lulls in the wind, then accelerated, without excessive leeway, as gusts heeled her sharply. She tacked positively when we neared the breakwalls in the narrow gap, whether we were heeled to a gust or drifting in a lull.
Wait improved the sail handling hardware on the boat after she began racing. She shifted one of the original small halyard winches from the coachroof to the companionway hatch to help control the spinnaker sheet. The original jib sheet winches (Lewmar 10s) were moved from the cockpit to the coachroof to act as halyard winches, though she through-bolted them as the original halyard winches screwed onto the coachroof – one of the Mirage’s few design flaws – had worked loose. Wait installed two-speed Lewmar 16s as sheet winches at the cockpit coamings, but I would prefer larger self-tailing sheet winches; sheeting home that large genoa as we short-tacked in the stronger winds was hard work – harder than I like to work during my leisure time! The anchor roller incorporated into the bow fitting is inadequate. At one inch in diameter, the rope would easily jump off. But aside from that and the previously noted winches, the hardware is of good quality and of substantial size.I liked the solid feel of the Mirage 26, and her sail carrying ability. She was responsive, sailed well, and held her course well. The molded fiberglass components are of high quality and have weathered the years very well. The inboard shrouds leave wide side decks, and give good sheeting angles. The single-spreader, masthead rig is simple to set up, and the split backstay with a tackle to tension it gives keen club racers a rig adjustment to play with. The cockpit is deep, felt safe, and was comfortable during the entire five-hour afternoon sail.
“I’m going into my fourteenth season with Love and Anarchy,” notes Wait. “I feel comfortable on her whether I’m racing or cruising around Lake Ontario during my summer holidays. I’m happy with her manageable size and see no reason to trade boats.”
Diane Wait’s story is not unique and just goes to show that a quality, performance cruising sailboat, even a smaller one, can lead to a long and happy ownership.
Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s March/April 1992 issue.
LOA 26 ft. 2in.
LWL 21 ft. 8in.
Beam 9ft. 3in.
Draft 4ft. 4in.
Displacement 5,200 lbs.
Ballast 2,200 lbs.