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  #1  
Old 11-17-2010
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Ketch question

Do any of them actually sail well? They seem to be built with full keels and very heavy. Is this a "necessary evil" of the ketch design?
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  #2  
Old 11-17-2010
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Actually we had a local Jeanneau or similar boat - typical racer/cruiser underbody for sale here locally that was ketch rigged.. and for a short time most of the Whitbread RTW racers were ketches too..

I think the reason you see so many 'old shoes' as ketches is the old perception that for ocean cruising, full keel is better, and for shorthanded sailing the split rigs with their generally smaller sails were easier to handle while still providing reasonable sail area overall.

We often see ketch rigged boats beating without the mizzens hoisted, and sometimes see mizzens used as riding sails at anchor.. so the aspects and attributes of the ketch rig are, I suppose, debatable. A big advantage is the increased ability to 'balance' the boat's helm with the various options of sails set and/or reefed in a wide variety of conditions.

Overall the simplicity and reduced cost of the sloop rig seems to have taken over for the mainstream production boats today.
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Old 11-17-2010
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No connection at all, but the sailplan and typical hull forms come from a shared thinking about seaworthiness.

As a sailplan, a ketch will be less efficient than the same number of square feet of sail area in a sloop. But the smaller sails are easier to handle, and the mizzen can be a good setup for balanced centre-of-effort when things are blowing strongly enough to tempt you to sail under jib alone. I sailed in a drizzle this summer under genoa alone (had the dodger zipped up and I was outvoted on getting wet to raise the main). The lee helm was annoying, and could have been worse than that if the wind was harder.

Similarly a heavy-displacement full-keel design will be slower, but get you tossed about less when the chop gets up. The deeper vee of of the hull shape won't ever get close to a plane and has a lot of wetted area but will slam less when bouncing over waves. Same reason offshore powerboats have deeper vee's even though it's much less energy efficient.

It seems that offering a ketch or yawl option was popular for sloops on the market 30+ years ago.
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Old 11-17-2010
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I have and enjoy my ketch, but I see a few agruments that would favor a sloop or cutter. Certainly the mechanics of handling sails as reduced the advantage of the sinlge handed sailor dealing with the smaller sails of the ketch. The remaining advantage of the split rig is options of sail plan and bridge clearances. Ketches can sail very well, but nothing goes to windward like a 737!...there's always a faster choice! Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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I agree with all the above. I had sailed a 35 foot ketch in the Eastern Caribbean for seven years. I would do it again without second thoughts. The smaller sails, and the balanced rig are the main reasons. When it piped up, we simply doused the main and secured it on the gallows, and lost maybe a quarter of a knot, if that. With the roller furler for the forsail and the mizzen reefable right from the helm, we could handle any amount of air. The price to pay is windward performance. Not too great if you have the right sails and right hardware. Heavier boats do not have to be slow if properly canvassed. And again, on the Great Lakes I sail a sloop, more nimble and weatherly. In the islands I would not trade a ketch.
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Old 11-18-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cb32863 View Post
Do any of them actually sail well? They seem to be built with full keels and very heavy. Is this a "necessary evil" of the ketch design?
Depends on what you mean by "sail well" A fin keeled sloop will outperform my heavy ketch to windward in a moderate breeze. Make it a close reach in a fresh breeze and it evens out, or I pass him. My boat is 39' and 16 tons, but I can singlehand her easily and she holds her course without autopilot while I make lunch.
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Old 11-18-2010
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Laura Dekker's boat, the Jeanneau Gin Fizz 38 is a ketch IIRC, but not a full keel design. Just because many were designed as such, doesn't mean that a ketch requires a full keel. The real issue is that most more modern underbody designs were designed with a sloop rig, since the technology to allow the simpler sailplan of a sloop rig is now available, where it wasn't previously.
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Old 11-18-2010
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When you ask "Do any of them (ketches) actually sail well?" I guess I would have to answer "what do you mean by 'well'? ". In other words, what are your criteria.

A well designed ketch will generally have lower loads on its halyards and sheets. A well designed ketch will be no less and no more seaworthy than a well designed sloop or any other rig for that matter. A well designed ketch will have certain advantages in terms of less heeling for a given amount of sail area (which in part is offset by the need to have more sail area due to a ketches inherent inefficiency).

But if your question is 'will a well designed ketch offer the same performance as a well designed sloop?' then the answer is no. By and large the ketch rig is a one trick pony. Upwind and at deeper reaching angles, the downdrafting of the sails hurts performance relative to a sloop. And in that zone from a close reach to a deep reach (in other words one side or other of a beam reach), the ketch rig does not offer a performance advantage over a sloop.

Where ketches come into their own are on boats that have a lot of drag relative to their stability, which was often the case with traditional heavier displacement, full keeled boats. In this case, the drag of the keel limits the ability of the boat to sail to weather. And sheer amount of drag requires a large sail area but the lack of stability relative to drag limits the ability for a sloop to carry enough sail area to over come the drag at deeper angles to the wind. Since a ketch can carry a lot more sail area with a lower vertical center of gravity, it works better in this situation. To me this is one of those "it hardly sucks at all" situations where a ketch may be justifyable.

But if you are thinking of combining a ketch rig with an efficient underbody, the sail plan will limit your ability to take full advantage of the efficiencies of the underbody. There may be reasons why this is done (such as the Whitbread ketches which took advantage of rating rule loophole in a predominantly reaching race around the woold) but as a rule it is a bit of a non-sequator.

In the end, I think that the case can be made that in limited applications there may be some practical advantages to the ketch rig, but generally in day to day use there is a price paid for those in terms of lost performance.

Jeff
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Last edited by Jeff_H; 11-18-2010 at 12:34 PM.
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Old 11-18-2010
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I see the point on "does it sail well".... should've been more specific there but, Jeff you did answer my questions on that. I was thinking on how well do they point and perform. I was curious on performance as well as all I seem to see out there as far as Ketch's are concerned are the full keel versions. Though, I had no idea a Gin Fizz was a Ketch, guess I should look around more. Anyway, this information is great. Will keep it all in mind too. I do like the look of a ketch but I am not sure if it is right for me yet.
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By the way, a ketch with better performance is a yawl. (Kidding) But yawls provide better speed than ketches and great handling possibilities, including self steering.
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