Different Kinds of Keels and Centerboards by Greg Rutkai

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    Different Kinds of Keels and Centerboards by Greg Rutkai

    I consider a K/C (pocket shoal keel/center board) as a boat with a fairly long, shallow, ballasted keel that has a rather light centerboard housed within, which is lowered on a pivot by a line or cable. The main ballast is the keel, not the centerboard housed inside. Examples would include the Precision 18, 21, and 23, Aquarius 21 and 23, the Ofday 222, the Starwind 19, 22, and 23, and the similar Spindrift. The Starwind and Spindrift are predecessors of the Precision, all designed by Jim Taylor. It should be noted there are larger boats with this same set up, e.g. an Alden 50.

    The shoal keel boats have only the long shallow keel and no centerboard e.g. the Com-Pac 16, 19, 23, and older O'day 22. The Com-Pac 16 did have a K/C for a time.

    A swing keel boat would have no molded or bolted-on shoal keel, just a swing keel that provides the main ballast to provide self righting capabilities. e.g.. Catalina 22s and older 25s, Macgregor 17, 21, 22, 2-22, 23, 24, and 25s, and Santana 21s.

    A dagger board boat (a drop keel) has a vertical lifting keel that only goes up and down, no swing. These also have the ballast in the board for the most part but some boats also carry some ballast inside the hull around the dagger board trunk. Examples would include the S-2 6.9, merit 22, mirage 236,the S-2 7.9 and the early Macgregor 26 Ds and the new 26 Ms.

    The S-2 grand slam 6.9 is one of my favorites. These had a dagger board that retracted almost flush with the hull. They made a few with a wing keel but only about 50 in the middle late 80s.

    Merit marine built a very fast 22 footer that was like the S-2 (dagger board). I know Merit built a few merit 23 "sprints" that were the same basic boat but had a dagger board with a wing. Very fast but delicate.

    Dagger board boats don't like to run aground, since the keel does not have anywhere to go and can damage the hull. A swing keel simply kicks up with no trouble unless it is locked in place.

    The Beneteau 235 is a great example of wing keel vs. fin. They came both ways and I have raced both models. The wing is notably slower in racing situations up wind (I think at least 20 seconds a mile but the rating doesn't give you that much), but under normal sailing conditions they feel much the same and the wing does draw less. A plus where you sail in shallow waters. Even the wing keel B-235 can be a pain to launch from a trailer since they still draw a bit much for normal launching, but can be done with an extension though and much easier than the fin keel version .

    That is why I like the S-2 with a drop keel, they can practically be launched on a wet lawn! @

    With all this discussion on keels and which boat performs best, it is a good sailor who really makes all the difference. I know a captain who can take an old boat with a dirty bottom, old blown out sails and still come in with the top group on the course. I also know other captains who spend a lot on sails, other gear and still finish dead last.

    They seem to pinch the wind too close and miss the mark. Funny as heck.


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