There’s more to the modest-seeming Albin Vega than meets the eye. This little fiberglass 27 footer from Scandinavia can strut her stuff as a serious offshore cruiser and has become a multi-continental favourite with an army of fans. Created in 1964 by Swedish designer Per Brohall, builders Larsson Marine were looking for a bigger version of Brohall’s successful Viggen 23. Designed to be inexpensive but also light, spacious, fast and seaworthy, the Albin Vega’s popularity is a result of Brohall’s success in meeting his brief.
Like many boats of the time the Vega’s design gives a nod to the skinny lines and long keel of the Scandinavian Folkboat and in comparison with modern designs the term spacious might be misleading but unlike modern boats there was no trade off in seaworthiness for interior space. The Albin Vega is no longer in production, but during her ten year production run over 3000 boats were built. She has earned the reputation as an inexpensive all weather cruiser and an ideal starter boat.
In 1964 Lars Larsson, of Larsson Trade AB (in 1971 to become Albin Marin AB), commissioned Swedish designer Per Brohall to build a 27 foot version of his previous successful design, the Viggen 23, reputedly in the hope of increasing sales of their Albin engines. Brohall was one of the pioneers of early fibreglass construction in Sweden and published a number of books on small wooden boat building. He paired up with Larsson to design several boats, including the Albin 25, 21 and 30, but the Albin Vega was probably the most popular and widely known. Larsson Trade AB managed to produce 3450 Vegas at their impressive shipyard in Kristinehamn, Sweden before production ceased in 1979 and the shipyard closed down. Many of the Vegas unsurprisingly were sold in Scandinavia but a good proportion were shipped out to the rest of Europe and places as far away as the USA, Greenland and Hawaii.
The Vega has earned her reputation as an offshore cruiser by completing numerous offshore voyages and circumnavigations, the most famous being the voyage of John Neal whose book Log of Mahina chronicled his voyage from Seattle to the South Pacific.
More recently were voyages to Antartica and the Arctic made by controversial Norwegian Adventurer Jarle Andhoy and his crew in Berserk (and later Berserk II). These expeditions were filmed for Norwegian TV. According to their account of their Arctic voyage, they set a world record “as no other sailing vessel had ever sailed as far north in open water”.
In 2012, Matt Rutherford completed his solo, nonstop circumnavigation of the Americas via the Arctic’s Northwest Passage and South America’s Cape Horn. His 309 day voyage earned Matt two Guinness World records and has been captured in a documentary film called Red Dot on the Ocean.
The Vega is a modest displacement masthead sloop with a cutaway stern and inboard rudder. She’s a bit lacking in classic cruiser curves with an almost straight sheerline from bow to stern which gives her a slightly hunchbacked appearance from certain angles. Her keel is not the traditional full keel of an offshore cruiser but, modified to half the length of her waterline, it’s enough to keep her tracking well while creating less friction and giving better light air performance. Her rudder is firmly fixed to the rear of the keel and uncommonly, the propeller exits under the counter stern above the rudder. She has an unusual bow pulpit configuration which allows for step through disembarking and is typical for Swedish boats which often have to be moored bow forward off rugged coastlines.
Her interior layout is fairly standard for a boat this size with, from bow to stern, chain locker, v-berth, head, single berths either side of the saloon and a galley split either side of the companionway stairway. With her 8ft beam there is not a lot of space to work with below but she can carry two adults comfortably on long voyages plus perhaps two children on shorter trips. The four berths are a decent size (6′ and 6′ 6″) and the table in the saloon screws in and can be unscrewed and relocated to the cockpit. There is no designated chart table so improvisation is required here. Headroom is not over generous with 5′ 10″ in the main cabin. The cockpit is considered to be the right size for offshore work and has good drainage and tall coamings for protection. One owner points to its use as an enjoyable cockpit bath with the drains plugged.
Built in the early days of fibreglass construction, the Vega’s hull is solidly constructed fibreglass up to one inch thick in parts, however the cabin top and deck are cored fibreglass which, while not necessarily weak, is prone to flexing and could do with reinforcement to withstand lengthy offshore work. The joints are strong and waterproof with good sized stainless steel bolts, spaced 5 inches apart, holding hull and deck together.
By all accounts the Vega under sail handles easily and is a well balanced creature with no weather helm. Despite her shallow draft she is reported to point well to windward and while tender initially up to around 10 to 15 degrees of heel she carries full sail easily up to 20 knots. She’s a fast boat downwind but offshore cruisers would do well to carry a large spinnaker or drifter for light airs.
While the rudder is well supported by its attachment to the keel the rudder itself has some weaknesses. The rudder fittings should be carefully examined and the play in the rudder tested. The deck and cabintop are cored with PVC foam and may be subject to ‘oilcanning’ so reinforcement is advised for offshore work. With her deck-stepped mast the Albin Vega is susceptible to compression damage at the mast foot but this is often remedied by adding supports below. The large window’s in the hull are a weak point for offshore work and the stem fitting at the bow has been deemed inadequate. The Vega is also known to be difficult to control under power in reverse.
More than 3000 Albin Vegas were built and there are generally a number for sale on the used boat market, the majority of which can be found in Europe and the UK. A search of the current boat market shows prices around 9,000 to 12,00 Euros depending on condition. There are eight different national Albin Vega Associations, each with their own website as well as a worldwide umbrella organisation Vega One Design Association (VODA). Prospective owners have a wealth of contacts here and there is also an owner’s group on Yahoo (link below).
» Albin Vega 27 Boat Review by John Vigor
» Albin Vega Owner’s Site
» Albin Vega Yahoo Group
» Albin Vega Worldwide Database
» Nick and Jenny Coghlan’s circumnavigation in Tarka the Otter (1985-89)
» A Swedish circumnavigation by a young group of friends (2005-2007)
» Red Dot on the Ocean, a documentary film capturing Matt Rutherford’s circumnavigation of the Americas in his Albin Vega 27