Kelt 7.6

By John Turnbull and Judith Wright Chopra

The Kelt 7.6 is a very French boat (reborn as a North American performance cruiser. Its Canadian builders surveyed the market, identified a need, and then developed the boat to fill it. Introducing the Svelte Kelt. 

On the French boating scene, the Kelt 7.6 has the reputation of an inexpensive but rugged boat-cheap and serviceable. In its North American incarnation as built by Kelt Marine in Aurora, however, it is still a very French boat, still rugged, but designed to please the North American taste for comfort. The Canadian-built Kelt is a boat upgraded, feature by feature, to compete in the market created and shaped by the likes of C&C, Hinter­hoeller and CS Yachts.

Canadian Yachting’s sail test of the Kelt 7.6 was done one cold, damp day last October. The wind was just picking up as we completed a preliminary inspection of the boat and prepared to set sail. Our inspection confirmed what we had seen in the nearby Kelt Marine plant. The boat’s shallow bilge, narrow fin keel, wide beam carried fur aft, its high freeboard, the absence of teak on deck and delicate use in the interior all shouted “European design!” But just as loudly, the changes from the French original proclaimed “North American market!” The interior, with its soft, short nap carpet headliner and light­ colored Aframosia trim, is very cozy. The secure interior had a lot of appeal that day, as the end of the sailing season proclaimed its arrival with bone-chilling cold.

From the V berth to the main saloon, the galley and enclosed head aft, the Kelt has the finish and polish demanded by boat builders on this side of the Atlantic. The foam cushions on the V berth and settees are four-inch, instead of three. The Aframosia is oiled, rather than varnished, for a warmer look, and fittings such as the stainless steel weldments on the saloon table bracket are impressively solid.

Under sail, the Kelt had an extremely sensitive helm. Because the keel is small with little lateral area, we found that with the right direction and sail trim was very fast. The Kelt’s speed, however, depends very much on the skipper’s know-how. It has the potential to be very fast, but it’s so sensitive to adjustments such as weight placement that it also has the potential to be slow. 

Kelt 7.6 - In gusty windsThe Kelt has a PHRF rating of 225, putting it in a class with the C&C 25, the Tanzer 26, and other 200-plus boats. Last summer, 7.6 owners made their marks in the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club in Quebec, where a Kelt won 1st overall for the season in 200-plus, and at Bronte Harbour Yacht Club in Ontario, Kelts took 1st and 2nd in a 19-boat fleet early in August. In experienced hands, these are the sort of results we would expect from the Kelt – but Kelt Marine President Ron Brooks explained that the company has not emphasized racing in its marketing approach. “Well over half our buyers are first-time buyers who want a boat that’d easy to handle. We emphasize that it’s a performance cruiser – but we don’t want experienced racers to be disillusioned. But properly sailed, the Kelt is very competitive – after all, it’s a Jean Berret design and has a good racing record in France.”

Kelt Marine in Aurora has been building the 7.6 for only two years now, and has survived an extremely tough time for boat builders. Brooks has won the confidence of his suppliers, however, by his determination to limit production to a maximum of two boats per week. “We don’t want to sacrifice quality – or have more boats on hand than we can sell,” Brooks explained.

A further indication of faith in the business came recently when S2 yachts of the US selected Kelt Marine to build their designs in Canada.

With eight Canadian dealers, Kelt can be seen from the Maritimes to Vancouver, and, as Brooks says, is attracting many first-time buyers. The Kelt is also attracting US buyers. Eleven dealers in the US along the eastern seaboard and the Great Lakes have found that the combination of a low Canadian dollar and the high quality of the Kelt are hard to beat in the American market.

The quality of the Kelt’s construction is a key factor in that market, where the trend to smaller boats is strong. Features such as the 7.6’s hull-deck joint are very convincing. The hull and deck are molded with interlocking flanges, or lips, which are bonded together with a lightweight polyester, making the hull and deck one piece – sealed against any leaks. The flange is then trimmed and bolted within. bolts every six inches, and mounted with its anodized aluminum toe rail. Brooks comments that the boat can even be suspended by the hull-deck joint.

Kelt 7.6 - Mast stepThe deck itself is a Divinycell sandwich with stress points reinforced by wire mesh.

Another construction feature worth noting is the Kelt’s ballast attachment. The cast iron keel, coated twice with coal-tar epoxy, is bolted into a recess in the hull using 111/2 inch studs and 2 inch by 2 inch stainless steel washers to create a larger bearing surface.

High quality fittings are the mark of the Kelt – from Isomat spars with internal halyards to Easy-Lock halyard stoppers and a stainless steel handrail on deck. The French-built Kelt has a wooden rudder, which has been redesigned for the Canadian boat. A molded fiberglass air foil rudder that adds lift and eliminates vibration replaced the European rudder.

In the French designer tradition, the Kelt also bears its name and trademark blue stripes molded into the fiberglass. Brooks adds that at the owner’s request, the “Kelt 7.6” logo can be left blank or replaced by the boat’s registered name. The Kelt’s price puts it on the high side for a boat of its size, but when other factors are considered there’s a good case for making the investment. If you plan to keep a boat for several years, as most Kelt owners do, then it makes sense to choose one that will hold its value; the design and construction of the Kelt indicate that it will.

The Kelt 7.6 is also a boat that will get the family out sailing – cruising comfort and low maintenance combine to keep you on the water instead of at the dock. Best of all, if you are new to sailing, it’s a boat that will continue to be challenging as you develop skills. And the Kelt’s potential will still be there when you ‘re ready to race.

Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s May 1983 issue.

Kelt 7.6 - cleatsSpecifications

LOA 27ft 3in.

Hull length 24 ft 11in.

LWL 21 ft

Beam 9 ft 5 in.

Displacement 4,500 lbs

Ballast (keel model) 1,765 lbs 

Ballast (centerboard) 1,950 lbs 

Draft (keel model) 4 ft 3 in. 

Draft (centerboard) 2 ft 5in./5 ft 3in. 

Headroom max. 6 ft 1h in.

No.of berths four to five

Water tank 15 imp. gal.

Kelt 7.6 - DetailCritical Sail Measurements

I. 30.45 ft

J. 10.16 ft

P. 25.73 ft

E. 9.18 ft

Main & 100% 282 ft2

Base price (1983) $26,500

Photo Captions

Photo 1 – A very French boat, eh?

Photo 2 – In gusty winds, the mainsheet must be played to keep the boat moving at top speed. 

Photo 3 – The mast step has integral sheaves for halyards and lifts. Three halyards, the pole lift and downhaul are run aft to stoppers.

Photo 4 & 5 – Cleats are recessed into the coaming for comfort.


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