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Derek Kelsall designed the Tango 23 trimaran. Derek Kelsall, of course, it much more noted for his big catamarans. But like many multihull designers, he is obviously very familiar with trimarans.

A couple weeks ago, sailor Mike Ramsay sent me some great old ads featuring the Tango 23, including the fact that he used to own & sail one in South Africa. I asked him to share a little about his old sailboat (which he still wishes he could take out on the water nowadays).

This small trimaran hit its level of popularity during the mid-1970s. And it’s not hard seeing why — given Mike’s enthusiastic summary of the boat when he first emailed. He wrote, “They are fabulous to sail, full headroom, [and had] swing wing amas.”

Mike now shares more about the Tango 23 trimaran he once had below (many thanks Mike!) …

I got into sailing in South Africa with my dad when I was a small kid in the 70’s. We had an old wooden graduate dinghy, and then moved up to a bigger day boat.

Years later, my father and I ended up buying the boat when we saw it for sale at a local dam in South Africa. The boat was kept on the yard on its trailer and looking at its design, thought it would be a great all rounder.


As stated we bought the boat and found out that the hulls and deck had been imported to South Africa from Kelsall in the U.K by the original owner in 1976. He finished her off and used it for dam sailing.

After my dad passed away, I upgraded the boat to include offshore day sailing around 1989, by putting in heavier rigging, chain plates, pushpit / stanchions etc. For a trailer-sailer she performed very well in sea conditions. In Durban, ones boat had to be inspected by a committee for sea clearance on behalf of the Port Authority, which she passed first time with flying colors.


The only slight problem later experienced, was a little play in the aluminum arms where the main stainless steel bolts attached them to the main hull. We pressed in isolated stainless steel bushes, which eliminated the play for good.

I kept the boat on a harbor mooring for most of the duration, but found her fast and very easily handled when sailing solo. I barely used the outboard, as she was so responsive under sail.


Her shallow draft meant you could beach virtually anywhere. My depth sounder measurement was to lift the keel and when you saw seashells over the side, it was time to furl, as you knew you were close to touching bottom. I also used to always marvel on the fact that I could leave a glass on the table with no fiddles whilst belting along and nothing would go flying around the cabin.

The great thing with this boat was the fact that you became very tuned to her handling habits. For solo sailing, we had constructed an automatic catch hook, which was like a small grappling hook mounted on top of a danbouy attached to the mooring. Before entering the mooring trots, the drill was to string a rope between the floats and the main hull up forward.

Depending on the wind direction, you then sailed in on a close beat and turned into the trot space at the last minute, overrunning your catch hook which would automatically tether the bow of the boat (Bit like a plane catch wire on a carrier deck!). You, as the single-hander, would then casually walk up to the bow and secure the mooring at your leisure!


This gave me great club credit due to the fact that many observers at the bar watching this activity were disappointed at the lack of pending chaos, as they gleefully anticipated a pending disaster. This method of mooring worked faultlessly every time without any danger to neighboring yachts and with the trimaran’s nimbleness and predictability, you always looked like a pro for mooring under sail! :-)

I now have a heavy deep-keeler here in the United Kingdom, but still find I miss the versatility of a smaller multihull and the sheer excitement of sailing such craft.

— Mike Ramsay

You can click here to visit Derek Kelsall’s website and see his current multihull designs.