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Sadler Yachts – a brief history

Sadler Yachts – thinking the “unsinkable”

We take a look at the history of Sadler Yachts and bringing the concept of the “unsinkable yacht” to the mass market.

Sadler 29 sailing yacht

In the early 1970s, there were many people building their own boats or fitting out partly completed kits. Martin Sadler was one of those having completed a three-year course in Practical Boatbuilding and Boatyard Management at Southampton College in 1972.

The course included practical working experience, and Martin spent that time at Jeremy Rogers in his rapidly expanding Lymington boatyard, building Contessa yachts. Martin thought he was all set to join the management team once his college course was complete.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite to plan, and the position never materialised, so Martin decided to start his own boatbuilding business. Sadler Yachts Limited was incorporated in January 1973. Martin was Chairman and Managing Director; his wife Company Secretary; and his father, David was invited to be a non-executive Director.

Martin’s father, David Sadler, was already a well-respected yacht designer having designed the popular Contessa 26 and 32, and he agreed to produce some drawings for the new Sadler 25-footer.

Sadler 25

The Sadler 25 quickly became popular as a club racing boat and had many successes in longer races such as Round Britain and Transatlantic. Over 300 were built between 1974 and 1981 and the robust construction made it a firm favourite as a small family cruiser.

By the end of 1976, Sadler Yachts employed eleven full-time staff, and had built about twenty-five boats, 70 per cent of which were only part-complete (kit) boats.

Now that they were properly up-and-running, they moved into industrial premises in Dawkins Road, Poole, with its own suite of offices. It was around this time that David retired from his civil service job to join the Company full-time and start on his Sadler 32 design.

Sadler 32

The experience that David had designing the Contessa 32 was soon useful as towards the end of 1979 a Sadler 32 was added to the range. The Sadler 32 had a number of improvements on the Contessa 32, notably more accommodation room and one which would rate favourably under the current IOR rating rule.

The Sadler 32 was an elegant yacht that received immediate enthusiastic acclaim from the yachting press and clearly possessed all the desirable attributes of the modern cruiser/racer.

The boat was developed with a straighter sheer line, more beam, increased freeboard, a cambered deck and this gave greatly improved interior accommodation. The canoe type stern and small transom provided for a smooth water flow and easy motion at sea.

Just over 300 Sadler 32s were built between 1979 and 1989.

Unsinkable Sadler

Since completing his yacht building course, Martin had been interested in bringing the concept of the “unsinkable yacht” to the mass market. The idea proved to be a good one and was included on the popular Sadler 29, followed quickly by the Sadler 26 when they were launched in 1981.

This was the boat which gained immediate acceptance as a family cruiser with standing headroom right through the cabins, separate toilet, dinette in main cabin and this wonderful feature of “unsinkability”.

The Sadler 26 was rendered unsinkable by using an innovative set up during the manufacturing process. An interior moulding – which included the galley, bunk base, chart table and all manner of other features – was built completely separately and then bonded to the inside of the hull.

All the voids between the two skins were then filled with closed-cell expanded polyurethane foam, which meant water wasn’t able to absorb any moisture.

Sadler 26 unsinkable test

In order to prove its “unsinkability”, tests were carried out on a Sadler 26 by opening all of the seacocks, whilst sailing off Poole in moderate sea breezes.

Several yachting magazines picked up on the impressive results, since the boat could continue to be sailed, with the natural water level only coming up to the bunk bases. The little yacht was overburdened with water further using a remote fire pump. But despite this extreme test, the boat went on sailing and the water attained its natural level, allowing the boat to be sailed home.

This test alone provided many owners with a degree of security that their Sadler would still be sailable in the event of anything unforeseen happening.

Nearly 400 Sadler 29s and about 200 Sadler 26s were built.

Sadler 34 is announced

Sadler 34 sailing yacht

Being able to take the unsinkable concept to the next level was a natural progression for Sadler, and the design was introduced on a bigger yacht, the Sadler 34 in 1983. Some 260 of these cruising yachts were built until they ceased production twelve years later in about 1995.

The Sadler 34 was immediately popular with charter groups, sail training organisations and the Services. It provided all the sturdiness and comfort of a larger cruising yacht, whilst having a fair turn of speed and excellent seagoing capability.

The full standing headroom right through, separate heads facility to one side of the companionway, separate aft cabin, substantial galley, and a comfortable main saloon, meant the Sadler 34 soon became widely acclaimed by the yachting press.

Howards Way – Barracuda 46

Towards the end of the 1980s, Sadler launched its largest yacht with the unusually styled Barracuda 46.

This new yacht was full of technical innovations like a lifting keel, twin rudders, and a shifting ballast – ideas that were well ahead of any other boat builder at the time. The Barracuda became the epitome of 80s style as it was massively advertised as the boat used in the popular television show – Howards Way – and went on to become the best-known cruising yacht ever.

Sad day for Sadler Yachts

Only 19 of these yachts were built and amidst all the hype around the Barracuda, sadly in August 1988 Sadler Yachts went into receivership. The assets were very quickly acquired by another experienced marine team and relaunched under the new Starlight brand.

Drag Reducing Propellers for Sadler Yachts

Darglow have supplied drag reducing props for a number of models in the Sadler yacht range. We keep an expanding database of technical information on many of our installations along with feedback from our customers.

Read our FeatherStream & Flexofold Testimonials from Sadler Yacht owners 

Rope Cutters for Sadler Yachts

We have supplied rope cutters for various boats in the Sadler yacht range. We keep a database of technical information on many of our installations along with feedback from our customers.

Check our full list of Sadler Yachts we have supplied rope cutters for here.

Visit the Sadler and Starlight Owners’ Association

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