Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Swing keels over fixed
Swing keels have a number of advantages. They allow comparatively easy loading on a trailer and of course can allow youto slip into shallower venues. They are comapratively inexpensive to build and so often show up on value oriented boats.
Of course as with most things in sailing there is also a downside. Generally swing keels have to be kept light enough that they can be hauled up with a reasonable size winch and so are substantially lighter than a comparable fixed keel. As a result swing keel boats generally have less stability than a fixed keel boat. That significantly hurts heavy air performance and safety. This is an important consideration in Tampa where the thunderstorms appear like magic on the best of sailing days.
This lack of stability is typically partially offset by having less sail area on a swing keel boat. And of course that significantly hurts light air performance relative to a well designed fin keel boat.
The worst problem with a swing keel is that they can slam shut in a knock down (something that I have experienced first hand in the Atlantic off of Savannah) and that generally occurs at just the worst time and can do a lot of damage to the boat.
Still and all, while a swing keel is more of a compromise that I would prefer for my own use, if used as designed, swing keel boats allow access to a lot of shallow venues pretty inexpensively.