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  #1  
Old 02-04-2014
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Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

I know the theory when it comes to low vs. high freeboard, but how does it actually affect sailing in general, and sailing in heavy weather in particular.
Low freeboard = less windage, less weight (potentially faster).
High freeboard = more room below, drier boat, and so on.
Input from sailors experienced with both respectfully sought.
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Old 02-04-2014
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Re: Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

I think a higher freeboard allows a wider beam. If you figure that you want to be able to heel at least 20 degrees without dipping the rail then you'll also need additional freeboard as you make the boat wider. If I'm not forgetting my basic trig that means that for each foot of beam you'd want about 2" more freeboard, everything else being equal.

My Pearson 28-2 has about 3" or 4" more freeboard compared to the Yankee 30s that I also sail on. It is also about 1' wider. It seems like this relationship holds true on these boats, we both dip our rails at a little over 20 degrees of heel.

You could compare the freeboard on the very similar Tartan 30 and Yankee 30 to see if S&S also raised the freeboard on the Tartan 30 to match it's wider beam. There are drawings for both:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-OhceXLWL18...%2Bplan300.jpg
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-xue6-fbVnP...%2Bplan300.jpg
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-MkZqmZQo85...%2Bplan300.jpg
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Z3Co4aPHki...%2Bplan300.jpg

The boats were designed 2 months apart from each other and have a lot of design elements in common except for the beam. It looks to me like their freeboard is pretty similar, but I haven't fired up Gimp to measure.

Edit: I did measure in Gimp. Measuring at two points (front of cabin, and top of transom) it looks like the Tartan 30 has 2.5" to 3" more freeboard to go along with the 1' wider beam.
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Last edited by Alex W; 02-04-2014 at 11:14 AM. Reason: fixed freeboard calculation by beam: radius/diameter error correction
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Old 02-04-2014
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Re: Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

storms i experienced in low freeboard sloops have been wet in boat.
my high freeboard formosa is dry in weather. can make the difference between comfort and endurance..
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Re: Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

We've pretty much stuck with low freeboard boats. Yes, they are wetter. Yes they have less windage. Yes, they have less interior volume for their size. Lots of traditional boats have low freeboard. Lots of newer designs don't, but I think they show better at boat shows when you go below and imagine living on them.

Overriding these concerns is, well, IMHO they are just better looking boats. Too much freeboard on too short a boat just doesn't look right to us. So to me at least, it's an issue of proportion. You can have more freeboard on longer boat, but in general there is some ratio that works best to the eye.

Pretty superficial I guess, but it is what it is. Life's too short to have an ugly boat, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We like low freeboard. It's a tradeoff.
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Re: Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

Quote:
Originally Posted by capecodda View Post
Overriding these concerns is, well, IMHO they are just better looking boats. Too much freeboard on too short a boat just doesn't look right to us. So to me at least, it's an issue of proportion. You can have more freeboard on longer boat, but in general there is some ratio that works best to the eye.
Never really thought about it in terms of aesthetics, but a lot of times natural beauty also translates into safety and/or performance. I think that boats with too much freeboard have a higher center of gravity and thus have to compensate for it with more ballast and more beam, something that Alex brought up earlier.
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Re: Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

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Originally Posted by zeehag View Post
storms i experienced in low freeboard sloops have been wet in boat.
my high freeboard formosa is dry in weather. can make the difference between comfort and endurance..
That would be especially important when sailing in higher latitudes and colder waters.
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Re: Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

The major performance downside is extra windage. This can be painful when close hauled, and doubly so since many high freeboard cruising boats also have dodgers with a lot of windage. I also find the windage annoying when docking in a blow.

The interior space advantages of extra freeboard and beam are nice. A beamy ~10' wide 30' boat gives up a little performance but gains a lot of interior space compared to a narrower one. The extra freeboard allows the settees to be placed closer to the edges of the boat without crowding shoulder space and usually give room for storage along the inside of the gunwales.

I prefer the lines of a lower freeboard with a nice shearline and reduced beam. My wallet prefers the $80 cheaper moorage that I get by having the interior volume of a 31-32' boat in a 28.5' envelope, and that only happened by increasing beam and freeboard by a few inches. When it is 35 degrees out and blowing I also do like the drier ride.
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Re: Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

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Originally Posted by krisscross View Post
I think that boats with too much freeboard have a higher center of gravity and thus have to compensate for it with more ballast and more beam, something that Alex brought up earlier.
I think you misunderstood my point about beam, though it can help with form stability.

As you make the boat wider the leeward gunwale gets closer to the water for a given heel angle. You need to raise the freeboard to compensate if you want to keep the rail out of the water. For a 20 degree heel angle (excessive on most boats, but not so excessive that you want the rail under water) you need to raise the freeboard about 2" for every foot of beam that is added.
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Re: Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

Low freeboard boats can be an advantage docking as well. Not only are they blown around less, but the step off on a high freeboard boat can be a problem, especaily if you visit other marinas often.
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Re: Low vs. high freeboard - benefits and drawbacks

For an extreme example of how beautiful (again by my taste) a low freeboard boat can be, google images for sailing yacht Rebecca. Extreme low freeboard with extreme size. Wow. Much nicer looking than say a Perini but I'm sure the interior would be small by comparison for comparable length. We've seen her a few times, never invited aboard

A B40 yawl has the same effect on us. It just looks right.
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