Contessa 26 anchored off Lambay Island
|Crew||1 to 5|
|Hull weight||5,400 lb|
|Main & Jib area||304 ft2|
|Mainsail area||120 ft2|
|Jib / Genoa area||184 ft2|
|Spinnaker area||440 ft2|
The Contessa 26 is a 7.77 meter (25.6 ft) fiberglass monohull sailboat, brought about when Jeremy Rogers, with a background in traditional wooden boatbuilding along with one of his Folkboat customers, David Sadler, created a modified version of the same boat in GRP. Rigged as a masthead sloop, with a deep keel and a hull-mounted rudder, the Contessa 26 was launched in 1966 and early boats proved to be very successful racers, including long-distance events. Jeremy Rogers went on to produce the classic Contessa 32.
The design characteristics of the Contessa 26 comes from the Nordic Folkboat which was conceived by the Royal Gothenburg Sailing Club in 1939 as a new one design class for the masses which would provide more accommodation for the cruising family than the traditional Dragon Class. This idea effectively spawned a competition organised by the Swedish Sailing Association in 1940 that attracted 58 entries. Choosing one winner proved difficult so the final design was effectively decided by committee and Tord Sundén was commissioned to draw a boat based upon designs from Sweden's Jac Iversen and Denmark's Kned Olsen. Sometimes named the VW of the seas, the Folkboat concept was the same as Porsche's Volkswagen: to make a car/boat that was appealing across a wide section of society. In 1942 the Folkboat was as much a creation of the century of the common man as the bicycle. It's one of the most popular designs of all time and Loibner says there are more than 4,000 still around. With her graceful lines, acutely raked transom and easily handled rig, she proved almost as fast as a Dragon, and considerably more seaworthy.
The Contessa 26 was first manufactured by Jeremy Rogers in Lymington, England in 1966. The Rogers boat works built approximately 350 Contessa 26s from 1966 to 1977, after which the moulds were sold to Chris Carrington of Maclan Marine, Lymington, who produced a few more during 1977/8. Another set of moulds was shipped to Canada, where they were built until 1990 under licence by J. J. Taylor & Sons Ltd. of Toronto. J.J. Taylors built another 400 or so boats, originally being sold as Contessa 26s, but after 1984 being called J J Taylor 26s - some of these later boats had a slightly modified deck moulding with an enlarged 'hump' by the hatchway to give greater headroom, and a slightly revised interior layout, although the hull always remained the same.
Major race results
1970 Round Britain
Mike McMullen with Martin Read as crew took Binkie, the smallest entrant to 1st place in the Handicap Class in the Observer/Daily Express Round Britain Race after 27 days and 15 hours of racing.
1972 Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR)
Richard Clifford completed in Shamaal, taking 38 days and 25th place out of 55 starters.
1974 Round Britain
Richard Clifford with David Barrie as crew sailed Shamaal ll to 14th place out of 61 starters, after 25 days and 20 hours of racing.
1976 Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR)
David Sutcliffe skippered St Anne of St Donat’s to a 43rd place finish in a time of 44 days and 3 hours.
In the same race Richard Clifford sailed Shamaal II, finishing in 33 days and 12 hours to take 18th place in the J Class, 30th Overall out of a starting field of 125 of which 73 finished.
2006 Round the Island
On corrected time, Jeremy Rogers' Contessa 26 Rosina of Beaulieu, took the Gold Roman Bowl trophy for an impressive third time, crewed by his sons Simon and Kit
Noteworthy voyages in the Contessa 26
Peter Hancock tells of his travels in Kylie in Sailing out of Silence, Sailing into Sunshine, and Sailing Home. Several transoceanic voyages have been completed, including two circumnavigations: by Tania Aebi in Varuna, as described in her book Maiden Voyage, and by Brian Caldwell who in 1995 aged 19, began a journey of 27,000 miles (43,000 km) in Mai Miti Vavau to become, at the time, the youngest person to sail around the world alone.  These latter two sailed in the J. J. Taylor built Canadian version of the 26.
Norwegian couple Henrik Nor-Hansen and Nina Kristin Nilsen are currently undertaking a circumnavigation in their Jeremy Rogers 1976 Contessa, Bika having set-off from Norway in Spring 2005.
Australian Nick Jaffe sailed singlehanded in his Jeremy Rogers 1972 Contessa 26 named Constellation, to Sydney, Australia. He set off from Monnikendam, Holland on the 17th of September 2007 and arrived in Sydney in the early hours on 1 February 2010.
Canadian Stéphane Tremblay, sailed singlehanded & engineless from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Spain via the Azores & back against the trade wind, aboard his J.J. Taylor Contessa 26 Joshua III on May 15, 2008.
Thomas Höckne did two single-handed circumnavigations in a Jeremy Rogers Contessa 26 named "Tai Fun". The first lasted between 1981 and 1985,and went via the Panama Canal and the Cape of Good Hope. The second lasted from 1987 to 1998, via the same general route. Both started and ended in Helsingborg Sweden. “Tai Fun” had no inboard engine.
- Peter de Jersey The Contessa 26 - A Brief History (Contessa 26 Class Association).
- Sailing Today January 2007.
- Classic Boat December 2004.
- Loibner, Dieter Folkboat Story: From Cult to Classic - The Renaissance of a Legend ISBN 1-57409-122-0.
- Yachtsnet http://www.yachtsnet.co.uk/archives/contessa-26/contessa-26.htm .
- Royal Western Yacht Club 1970 Round Britain Results .
- Royal Western Yacht Club 1972 OSTAR Results .
- Royal Western Yacht Club 1974 Round Britain Results .
- Royal Western Yacht Club 1976 OSTAR Results .
- Hancock, Peter. Sailing out of Silence. UK, :Waterline, 1995 ISBN 1-85310-529-5.
- Aebi, Tania. Maiden Voyage. Simon & Schuster: 1989 ISBN 0-671-66653-3.,
- B J Caldwell http://holoholo.org/caldwell/bj_96/oldindex.html.
- Bika http://www.freewebs.com/sybika-eng/index.htm.
- Nick Jaffe, S/V Constellation http://www.bigoceans.com.
- Stéphane Tremblay, S/V Joshua III http://www.peacefuljourney.ca