Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Fairfax, VA
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We have a Bristol 32 with a swing keel. Our draft with the centerboard up is 3' 6". With the centerboard down we draw over 7'. Bristol 32s with a fixed keel draw 4' 7". On the positive side, we can navigate shallower water. A plus on the Chesapeake Bay. The weaknesses include having to raise and lower the centerboard via a cable running to the cockpit, a slightly slower boat, and more parts to care for (we're having our centerboard cable tube replaced now due to a failure in a previous repair).
My limited experience is that fin keels and wing keels are better for racing because they concentrate the ballast deeper in the water and closer to the center of the boat. I believe Sabres and Persons use fin keels and wing keels.
Shoal keels, as the name implies, provide a shallower draft to better navigate shoals. Most I've seen are full keels, running all the way to the stern. These keels tend to be better for cruising. Bristol 32 and Tayana 37 are good examples of full keels.
Take a walk around your local yacht clubs on a weekend and I'm sure many sailors would love to talk to you the strengths and weaknesses of their keels.
1972 Bristol 32, #64
"Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt."