My little place on the web

Vanguard Nomad Sailboat

Image of Vanguard Nomad Sailboat
Vanguard Nomad

The Vanguard Nomad is a 17' dinghy from the desk of designer Bob Ames, who also designed the Vanguard 15, and Vector. It is a beamy boat at 8', and carries 185 sq ft of sail. The boat was first built in 2003, and fewer than 300 hulls were built. The last were sold in 2009. Dave Reed in Sailing World Magazine described the Nomad as follows: "The Nomad was designed by Bob Ames, with input from Vanguard chairman Steve Clark. Both of them have speed on the brain, which is obvious in the Nomad. In his designer’s comments, Clark says, “Day sailing should equal pleasure sailing, and that demands an even better boat than a racing boat.” We wholeheartedly agree.

Ames’ answer was a hull and rig combination that’s “all about performance”—a boat with a fine entry, long waterline, super-wide beam (8-feet max at the deck), high-aspect rudder and centerboard, tapered mast, asymmetric spinnaker, and a 175-square-foot North 3DLrm sail inventory with roller-furling jib. Ironically, each of these raceboat attributes also make a great day sailing boat as well—the fine entry cuts through chop, the wide beam provides stability at the dock and when sailing, the deep blades enhance control, the tapered mast is easier to step and de-power, and rolling a jib is much quicker and easier than reefing a main."

The Nomad is supplied with a trailer, allowing easy transportation to your favourite launching area, but it can also be tied at a marina dock or left on a mooring. It takes about 20 minutes once you arrive at the boat ramp to set up the Nomad, and while it can be done yourself, having a second person speeds setup and launching. The self-bailing cockpit allows for worry-free mooring, even during a rainy period.

The Nomad can be single-handed, or five friends can comfortably join you. Solo sailor 'Nomad Tom' states: "I don't want complications as I'm usually sailing solo. I was out today in 10-15 kts of wind under main alone as I didn't want to be overpowered. While beating north the boat handled very well. It tracks beautifully with little to no weather helm. It slaps some of the waves, depending on the frequency and steepness of the boat that made them. It doesn't appear to be slowed down by them. It's a very dry boat with only occasional bow spray.

After twenty minutes of main only, I unfurled the jib and noticed an immediate increase in boat speed. The wind was strong enough that I had to luff the main to keep from burying the rail. I don't want to go over in this boat as I would not be able to right it. It will turtle fast, however, there are sail floats available to keep it from turtling.

Sailing solo is quite easy, though your hands are full, one hand on the main sheet, one on the tiller. Being able to douse/furl the jib with the pull of a line is worth the price of admission. I usually sail into and out of the launch area under just the jib. If I had crew with me, I'd probably raise the main at the launch dock and sail out with both sails flying. But single handling this boat, and hauling the main up the mast is a little bit of work."

Another anonymous owner stated: "I bought my Nomad new in 2005 but just sold her. Someone once referred to this boat as "The Lexus of Daysailers" and that's pretty appropriate. I had my boat out in 25mph winds several times in Tampa Bay and was never afraid. She's an incredibly stable boat as long as you don't fly the spinnaker in winds over 15 - 20mph. I've sailed this boat with 6 adults aboard and it was tight but comfortable.

If anyone is looking for a great family daysailer that's easy to rig and sail? You can't go wrong with a used Nomad."

The Vanguard has since been orphaned by its manufacturer, and, as the only other resource about this boat at YachtPals.com has been overrun by spammers, I felt it time to build a resource here. Over the next few months, I'll add a variety of resources and information about this boat.

See more Q & A in the blog.


Nomad specifications

 Dimensions Imperial Metric
 LOA17.20  5.24
 Beam Max 8.00 2.43
 BWL (Beam on the Waterline) 5.39 2.43
 Lightship weight 665.80 257.18
 Optimal Crew Weight 560 254
 Race Weight 1225 511
 Cruising Weight 1325 552
 Mainsail Area 122 11.33
 Jib Area 53.18 4.85
 Spinnaker Area 196 18.20

Links and information

Bob Ames website

    Designer's notes

Sailing World Article


- by Bob Ames 

- San Francisco Owner

- Everglades Challenge (in 7 parts)

Kinder Industries, makers of Nomad tents & covers, sail floats, and sail covers.

Selden Masts, Mast, Boom and Gnav

North Sails should still have the patterns for both the 3DR and the Dacron sails.

Glenmore Sailboats acquired all the NOS parts when Laser Performance ceased production of the Nomad.

Rigging Guide - electronic copy of the original paper manual.

Sailing Anarchy - A tale of righting a Nomad


Sail Tuning Notes

Here is some info on rigging the Nomad from Seve Clark who co-developed the boat along with Bob Ames. He basically said to rake the spreaders a bit aft of straight out board. I'm not sure exactly what holes things were happiest in, but the boat is pretty tolerant. Things that are "standard" work pretty well.

That is to say, you want plenty of rig tension as the breeze builds. This keeps the luff of the jib from sagging, which is how you keep the jib flat. The mast should be set up with a bit of pre bend. That is to say when the rig is pulled on snug there is a little fore and aft bend induced by the spreaders. You do not want the mid panel of the mast to sag to leeward, so if that is happening, you will want to shorten the spreaders. Try 3 holes showing  If the mast looks like it is bowing too far to windward, then you will want to move the tip s out a hole or two. This is usually something that you can judge as you are sailing, and if things look abnormal, you can almost always sheet it soft and get home.

Try putting the shrouds someplace in the middle of the range on the hole adjusters. You should be able to pull pretty hard on the jib halyard and still have the mast raked aft by a fair bit. The lowers should be put such that they not really slack, but no where near as tight as the uppers when there is no vang on.
In a breeze, you want to flatten the mainsail. You do this by pulling hard on the out haul, hard on the down haul and by setting the vang pretty hard as well. Mast bend flattens the sail so you want to let it bend. One way is to let the lowers off a hole or two and by pulling harder on the vang tackle. The strut pushes the mast forward and thus induces a bunch of bend. You can, as a result ease the mainsheet quite a bit and still have a flat sail.

The Nomad is a pretty stable boat, but it is a center boarder and we wanted it to be pretty responsive. So you should expect to have to trim and ease the sails and to feather in puffs. This isn't a big heavy keel boat, so some agility and dexterity is necessary in response to changing conditions. If you stick with it,  you will become more confident and comfortable with the capacities of the design. The thing to do is to take your time, recognize that it is a challenge and work your way forward.

TIP - tie a knot in the jib halyard once the mast is raised to prevent the mast falling should the halyard slip in the clam cleat.

See information on mast stepping below as well.


Frequently Asked Questions

How many people can sail in a Vanguard Nomad? You can comfortably sail single-handed or with up to 6 adults. There is also plenty of room to have up to 3 adults and 4 children. 

Can one person rig and launch a Vanguard Nomad? One person can rig and launch a Nomad. You may wish for one other person to assist with putting the boat in the water either via a launch ramp or hoist.

How long does it take to rig and launch a Vanguard Nomad, from parking lot to water? You can be sailing in 20 minutes.

How can the Vanguard Nomad sailboat be stored? The Nomad can be stored on a mooring or on the trailer.

What size car is needed to pull the Vanguard Nomad sailboat? The combined weight of the boat and trailer is about 1000 lbs which most cars have the capacity to tow. You should always check your car manual prior to towing.

How many storage compartments are there on the Vanguard Nomad sailboat and how big are they? There are four lockers in all. Under the seats in the cockpit are two 9 foot long lockers accessed by tipping up the seats.


What size engine can it have? 2-horse power. 

Is the Vanguard Nomad a dry boat? The Nomad is an extremely dry boat and comfortable. 

Is the Vanguard Nomad sailboat self-bailing? Yes.

Does the Vanguard Nomad sailboat capsize? Is it self-rescuing? Any boat can capsize, but Nomad with its generous beam, innovative deck, and lightweight rig is harder to tip over than most boats her size. The Nomad is unsinkable, and can be re righted after capsize.

Can you reef the Vanguard Nomad's main sail? No. To shorten sail, furl the jib. The Nomad sails well under main alone.

Can you trapeze from it? The Vanguard Nomad does not include a trapeze. 

Information contributed by Nomad sailors

Many thanks to those who contribute bits and pieces of useful information about our boat.

  • Boarding Ladder
  • Jib Halyards
  • Mast Step
  • Duckboards
  • Mainsail Reefing
Boarding Ladder
Boarding Ladder

One of the challenges many Nomad sailors have faced is getting back aboard having capsized.  Ron Dejesus from Northern California shared some photos of the installation of a Garelick Compact EEz-in II Transom Ladder, and it looks to be a slick ladder and a very neat installation. Here are his comments:

"I’m not saying this was an easy installation. I did a lot of head scratching to make the teak “gaskets” to accommodate the 15 degree angle they put on the ladder. It appears this the standard angle on most transoms. Anyway the Nomad transom is vertical so some custom fabrication was in order.

Another complication is the liner, so I had to put a spacer to fill the space between the liner and the transom. More head scratching to get the bolts to line up because of the added distance between parts, but it is doable. A Dremel tool was super handy for making interior cuts on the boat.

You can see that I also made a reinforcing bracket on the interior of the hatch for added support. Probably overkill. I sealed the unit, but since this is all above the waterline, that’s probably overkill too.

It took a few days to install, but I think it looks pretty “salty” and it sure came in handy for a couple of chilled, drenched, 70 year olds to get aboard."

Ron also indicated he broke his mast during this escapade, so hopefully he will be back on the water soon. Thanks for sharing, Ron!

Other options

Safety Ladder

Here is another option I found thanks to Ron's encouragement. A rope ladder stowed in a similar transom-mounted tube, manufactured by Osculati in Italy. It will fit in a vertical transom, and was a straightforward installation. As it appears only to be sold in Europe, I purchased it from a chandler in England.

As you can see from the photos below, it was a fairly simple installation. Care was necessary to determine the position of the hole, and filling the annular space between the liner and the hull took a few batches of 'kitty hair' fibreglass mix, and a little sanding.

Now I just need to wait for warm weather next summer to give it a test drive.

Jib Halyards
Mast Step
Mainsail Reefing

Photos of Nomads from all over.....