In April of 1975, Charlie Britton, owner of Tartan Yachts, sent a letter to Sparman & Stephens with a request to design a new 37-foot boat. Charlie wanted a design which, with various modifications, could be marketed as a cruising sloop or ketch. (Although the ketch was considered, it was not produced.) Correspondence between Charlie Britton and Alan Gilbert of S&S shows references to a racing version and a cruising version; finally, the name for Sparkman & Stephens design #2253 was narrowed to the Tartan 38 for the racing version, and the Tartan 37 for the cruising version.
The first few hulls out of the mold were built as the racing version or Tartan 38, with a deep fin keel and tall rig. The racing success for these boats was not as good as Charlie Britton had desired, but the cruising aspects of the boat were very marketable. The line continued and all boats were produced as the Tartan 37 with standard rig, whether they had the deep keel or the keel/centerboard. Some later boats were produced upon order in the fin keel or keel/centerboard configuration, but with the tall rig.
Of the 486 hulls produced, approximately 10% were thought to be deep keel boats, with most of the remainder keel/centerboard models. This feature makes the Tartan 37 ideal for areas with a lot of "thin water" such as Southwest Florida or the Chesapeake Bay. A few of the last hulls to be produced were fitted with a Scheel keel.
The Tartan 37 has done well in club races and larger events. Steve Pettengill sailed a deep-fin Tartan 37, Ambergris, to a class record in the Port Huron - Mackinac race on Lake Huron. Many Tartan 37s take part in offshore events such as the Marion/Bermuda race and the Marblehead/Halifax race.
The excellent sailing manners, pleasing lines and rich interior joinerwork of the T37 have become Tartan trademarks. The current line of Tartans being built by Novis Marine still bear much of the look of the T37, and carry on the quality and performance the Tartan name has come to signify.
There are many other Tartan classics to choose from. Earlier and later S&S Tartans and the later designs by Tim Jackett, such as the Tartan 372, Tartan 3800 and Tartan 3700, all exemplify the Tartan reputation, which is founded in solid, seaworthy boats with good speed and a fine finish.