Pros/Cons of Wing Keel - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 04-05-2006
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Pros/Cons of Wing Keel

In looking at coastal cruisers in the 40-42 foot range, I have encountered a number of wing keel boats. While I think that I have a feel for the comparative advantages of a fin and a centerboard, I do not have a very good feel for the advantages and disadvantages of a wing keel.

Specifically, I am interested in their effect on pointing ability, speed, stiffness and anything else that you would like to opine on relative to other types of keels. Thanks in advance.
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Old 04-05-2006
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Not a lot of negative or positive here EXCEPT for grounding. If you get stuck in sand, or particularly mud, you won't be going anywhere with your own resources - i.e. you will need a someone to pull you off or will have to wait for rising tide.

Paul
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Old 04-05-2006
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I've owned boats with winged keels (two Pearsons) since 1989. They sail very well, and my current boat, a P-33, is quite good going to weather. I still want to sail her against a fin-keeled P-33 for comparison, but I am very pleased with how she goes to weather.

The grounding problem is a real one -- except that with such a shallow draft you aren't nearly as likely to run aground as with another boat. Also, my own experience in grounding situations is that the boat bounces on the bottom a couple of times giving you time to steer to deeper water. I have yet to require assistance to get off, whereas a fin keel would be more likely to dig right in.

In short, don't let the wing scare you off. It will do fine for you.
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Old 04-18-2006
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Its interesting that you say they point ok. I have heard that winged keels don't point worth a damn, especially in light air. I have been looking at a Pearson 27, which seems to be in great shape, but I have really hesitated because I would want to do some PHRF rating, and I have been told they don't go to windward very well.
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Old 04-18-2006
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The original premise supporting winged keels (Ben Lexen's AC "breakthrough") was to limit drag due to tip vortices formed around the end of a conventional keel. The same idea is behind the mini fins now seen on the ends of the wings of airliners and private jets. Winged keels became in vogue shortly after that
I think in the cruising sailboat world the major intent is to lower the CG by concentrating ballast at the bottom of the keel, keeping the CG lower without having to resort to the deeper draft otherwise required. A bulb keel does the same thing.
As mentioned earlier, the main drawback is the fact that where a regular keel reduces draft when heeled, a winged keel's draft actually increases, making sailing off a grounding more difficult.
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Old 04-18-2006
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CBinRI

Here's a pair of ratings off PHRFNE.org:
PEARSON 31-2 156
PEARSON 31-2 WK 165

So the handicapper credits the wing keel 9 seconds a mile. My personal experience is that crdit adjustments like these are usually inadequate, i.e. no one who has a choice will take the slower option and the rating bonus, even so its not a big difference.

However, the fact you ask the question implies you would be likely to care. Only go with a wing keel if you need the shallow draft, otherwise IMHO get a real keel as deep as gneral use permits. Also big winches...

Good luck...
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Old 04-18-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sid_w
Its interesting that you say they point ok. I have heard that winged keels don't point worth a damn, especially in light air. I have been looking at a Pearson 27, which seems to be in great shape, but I have really hesitated because I would want to do some PHRF rating, and I have been told they don't go to windward very well.
I owned a 1989 P-27 from when she was brand new until I sold her in 2004 when I bought my P-33-2. As I said before, both have winged keels. In fact, the P-27 was only produced with a wing. Of the two boats, the 33 is a much better performing to windward than the 27 even though the keel designs are identical (although the keel on the 33 obviously is larger and heavier.)

If you want to race the 27, I think getting really good sails is key for upwind performance. The really good part about the 27 is that the boat is a down wind rocket so you will certainly make up any lost ground when you head down wind.

If you're really interested in the boat, I can hook you up with a P-27 email list so that you can get the opinions of others who race the boat. There are lots of folks who do. Email me directly if that interests you. The 27 is a fine boat, very mannerly and it has one of the best cabin designs possible IMHO for a boat under 30 feet.
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Old 04-19-2006
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Pros/cons of winged keels

CB,

I know this is a late post but this may assist people reading it even now.

All the posts to date have made valid points. And your query is not uncommon. Ultimately the decision is determined by what you want and where you sail. Sorry to be corny.

I have sailed on winged keel yachts and found them to handle well. Ultimately tho the only way to determine the relative merits within the parameters that you want is to get comparative figures. That really is the only definitive way to determine whether they do what you want.

I know that sounds like a cop out but it is not meant to be. I have certain preferences as do most people but ultimately if it is just speed and pointing ability that you want to assess then really you need to see comparative figures for the same boat. And that's where the problem is. Manufacturers don't seem to want to make them available. In one instance when I pressed a manufacturer for similar information all I got was sales spiel.

Ben Lexcen proved that winged keels have their place and doubtless that is what made them so popular. Whether that is necessarily right for you is another matter. Without showing my preference what I suggest is that you look at what the current designers of gofast boats are doing if that's your thing.

A lot has happened even with AC yachts since Ben was there. And for what it is worth I knew Ben well. He was always prepared to innovate but even he was prepared to admit that some of what he did, did not always come off. The winged keel put him up there but don't forget it was designed for a particular yacht in particular race. Top marks to Ben and the guys who raced the boat but while I have never asked John Bertram who skippered the boat for his attitude on the winged keel the truth is that his response is likely to be that while the keel assisted them at the time things have now moved on and history of the AC has certainly shown that.

That's the way things go. Thankfully I am no longer into racing. I'm too old anyway but there is no denying that the winged keel has its virtues and has made an indelible impact on yacht racing. Hey and with so many manufacturers offering the option (Catalina just to name one example) there is still a place for it today even for cruising yachts. Especially in shoal waters.

So take that on board when you make your decision. That applies to anyone else in the same predicament.

Good on ya' Ben. RIP. You've part of yachting history mate and we'll never forget that.

Johnno
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Old 04-19-2006
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A couple of quick comments on the points Johnno makes:

Unfortunately, you can't compare performance specs for a winged keel P-27 with those for a fin keel P-27 because Pearson only produced the boat with the wing.

Wings on cruising boats definitely cropped up in the '80's based on the AC boats, which isn't to say the designs are even all that close. The main advantage of them for cruisers has been the shoal draft, which may not be important where sid w will be sailing. As Johnno points out, time has marched on and designers have gone more to bulbs for shoal draft, often with winglets of some sort but not like the bigger wings that were prevalent in the '80's.

Sid, you also said something about light air performance. The P-27 is an excellent light air boat. But as Johnno points out, if you want the emphasis on racing, a boat with a wing designed in the '80's may not be for you.
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Old 05-02-2006
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Many thanks for all of your input.
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