These days much of the talk at places like the Newport and Annapolis boat shows is about “mini-megayachts.” But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of small-boat builders out there coming out with all kinds of fresh new designs as well—and one of the best is the new Sage 15.
An evolution of the Sage 17, which won a SAIL magazine Best Boats award a few years back—and which was also drawn by veteran small-boat designer Jerry Montgomery—the Sage 15 boasts a number of those same features found aboard her big sister, including a molded-in lapstrake to provide additional hull stiffness; a small but very workable cuddy cabin; a ballasted centerboard that retracts using a simple line-and-winch arrangement for easy trailering; and a springy sheer that, in addition to being cute as a button, works with the lapstrake to provide a drier ride when sailing through a chop.
One thing, though, that the 15 boasts that big sister can’t is the option of a cat rig in place of the more commonly found jib and main—an arrangement that not only makes the Sage 15 (in this guise called the “Sagecat”) easier to rig and sail, but makes it a “yare” looking little vessel in the truest sense of the word.
Not that the Sage 15 is about looks alone—far from it. Vacuum-infused, with a mix of fiberglass mat, cloth, vinylester resin and an end-grain balsa core, the boat is as carefully constructed as any raceboat. The hull-and-deck joint is also secured with both chemical adhesive and a series of through-bolts on 6in centers, which are then capped with a teak toerail. Based in Golden, Colorado, Sage Marine is owned by the same folks who manufacture the exquisitely engineered Spyderco line of knives, and the same attention to detail is evident in the boats they build.
In this same vein, the boat also comes well equipped with everything you need to go either daysailing or cruiser-camping—including nice big cockpit benches, equally large berths belowdecks with plenty of storage underneath, and a smattering of wood trim.
As for the Sage 15’s performance under sail, it’s as impressive as its build quality. I had an opportunity to try the boat with the cat rig, and while Sage Marine’s head of production, Dave Scobie, and I were concerned with how light the conditions were, the boat did just fine. After dropping her in the water at a public ramp at the head of Back Creek in Annapolis, the two of us immediately took off—ghosting our way through the moored and anchored boats in a breeze that would have left any number of other boats standing still.
Tacking, of course, was a piece of cake, with the main taking care of itself. And whenever we found a puff, the boat immediately dug in its shoulder and surged ahead, quickly translating the additional pressure into forward motion. The boat even did well off the wind, a challenging angle of sail for any kind of boat in those conditions. Scobie said when doing so, he likes to heel the boat to windward to get the sail up nice and high above the water, the same as you would with a racing dinghy—how cool is that?
An argument could be made that the best boats out there are those that don’t just sail well but look good doing it. If so, then the Sage 15 is a very fine boat indeed.
SA/D RATIO 24 (cat rig); 25 (sloop) D/L RATIO 110
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios