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Sabre 28

It was an instant hit among those who wanted a modest-sized sailboat that was seaworthy and easy to maintain.

The Sabre 28 was introduced to the sailing public at the 1971 Newport Boat Show by Sabre Yachts, a relatively new builder from Raymond, Maine. The company was founded by Roger Hewson, who was also the boat’s designer. The new racer-cruiser was an instant hit among a growing public that wanted the benefits of a strongly built, easily maintained, modestly sized sailboat for a couple or a small family.

Success for Hewson’s new company and design was not just happenstance. His affinity for boats stretched back to the day he held the wood screws his father used to build a boat for the family summer home north of Montreal. He built his first boat of his own design, an outboard powered hydroplane, at age 14 and cut his teeth sailing competitively on International 14s at the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club. Eventually he designed and built a dozen Sabre Scows, whose bottom shape Hewson likened to the curve of a military sabre.

Hewson and his wife Charlotte—called Charlie by everyone who knew her—moved from Montreal to a property her family owned on Lake Sebago, Maine, to focus on a new business. Hewson’s goal was to build a small sailing cruiser using modern fiberglass techniques, finishing it with the skills of craftsmen immersed in the Maine tradition, and pricing it at a reasonable level by using production line efficiencies. He was methodical about research, and the design of the Sabre 28 emerged out of countless hours of measuring the competition—literally carrying a tape measure aboard every boat in the market segment.

Outwardly, the Sabre 28’s hull lines spoke of excellent performance and seaworthiness. The straight stem was raked for good wave penetration and transitioned to a bottom profile with a slight rocker. It had a swept-back fin keel and a spade rudder that was protected by a long centerline skeg. The deckhouse was kept low for good visibility forward, and the cockpit was large enough for a crew of four and for an optional Edson steering wheel, which most customers elected to install.

Down below, the layout from the bow to the stern included a bow cabin with vee-berth for two, an athwartship head compartment configured for privacy, and a main cabin with a pilot berth as well as a cabin bench that pulled out to form a double berth. Hand-crafted teak bulkheads and furniture warmed up the white interior.

Until 1975, when a 10-hp Volvo diesel became an option, all Sabre 28s came with Universal Atomic 4 gas engines. In 1978, the 13-horsepower Volvo Penta MD7A replaced both, and in 1981 the Westerbeke 13 diesel engine replaced the MD7A. On very early models, the propeller shaft was centered, but to improve handling characteristics, the shaft was offset to port for the right-hand turning Atomic 4s and to starboard for the left-hand turning Volvo diesels.

Between 1971 and 1986, the 28 had a production run of 588 boats. Today, Sabre only builds powerboats.

This article was originally published in the January 2023 issue.


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