Keel Myths

The truth about keels and sloop and ketch rigs

18th July 2001.
By Staff

Q: What’s the truth about full keels? Skeg rudders? Shoal-draft centerboards?

George S.
San Francisco, California

A: All the bar talk can’t be true, or the full-keel boats would be hopeless downwind, the fin keels would fall off and the center-boarders would spend most of their time upside down. Those things simply don’t happen. In fact they all work well. They are all reliable and safe offshore. Modern designed full keel boats such as the Island Packet line have demonstrated respectable performance. Many large cruising boats use centerboards to improve upwind performance while avoiding deep draft keels that would severely limit their cruising grounds. Many of the myths that abound are based on a small number of problems that occurred early in the life of many designs and no longer have any validity.

Q: The boat I have my eyes on came in both sloop and ketch rig, and I’m having a hard time getting a rational opinion on the usefulness of mizzens vs. the larger sailplan.

John M.
Watertown, New York

A: As usual there are advantages to each. It may take some skill and practice to get the most out of a ketch, but their fans enjoy handling smaller sails. The shorter rig height may allow the boat under more bridges, and many like to balance the jib and mizzen in heavy air. Advantages of the sloop include fewer sails to set and buy, considerably less weight aloft for a stiffer (less tippy) ride, and less hardware and clutter on deck and in the cockpit.


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