Wing keels were injected into the mix as a means of gaining lift when constrained by draft. Anyone who sails the Chesapeake and it's gunkholes with a monohull is dealing with draft constraints regularly.
In the last eleven years I have experience with both the wing and fin designs on my own vessels. I've found the wing to work well sailing upwind, but one definitely pays a performance price from the unused wetted wing surface once the wing levels as you go off the wind. To compensate for this I don't sail the wing as deeply off the wind and that seems to help with VMG, similar to the racer that doesn't sail the extreme example of dead downwind in less than heavy winds.
As for grounding issues, I have come up with some interesting observations from my own groundings in the muddy Chesapeake. I find a grounded fin is easier to back out, whereas a wing is harder to back out but has another escape route not as easily available to a fin. I've discovered completely on my own that under power and helm a grounded wing can be precisely and easily pivoted deirectly towards deep water, and then "walked" off by slowly applying helm back and forth. A grounded fin is much less maneuverable.
Though shallower draft, a wing is most vulnerable to grounding when level and the fin is most vulnerable to grounding when heeled. I've grounded a wing when heeled under sail and as soon as I dropped sail, the wing leveled and I floated free. Another time I simply fell off the wind a little and the wing cleared as it leveled somewhat. Now if you ground a fin when heeled, the only way to reduce draft is to heel, but what if you're were already heeled ? I've been there and it's a tough one.
I've only called a tow boat once and it was for a fuel problem. However IF I did need a tow off of a grounding with my current wing keel, I'd insist as part of the contract that it be pulled off by towing somewhat side to side as I've done successfully using power and helm.
It's silly to simply brand a wing a bad grounding risk. Whether you've got a wing or a fin, you need to be aware of it's capabilities. Unfortunately for those inexperienced with wing keels, intuition doesn't bridge the knowledge gap. From Jeff H's towboat operator conversations, it sounds like the inexperience extends well into the towing fleet. Last year I read about a tow boat operator who spent a few hours trying to heel a wing off of a grounding !
Whatever you're sailing, don't ground at near high tide or you may really need that tow.
For my headstone:
If I'd only listened to those guys about that wing keel...
Last edited by captnnero; 11-14-2007 at 12:37 AM.