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Old 08-02-2009, 12:41   #1
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Cat Ketch Pros and Cons

We're looking for a good boat to do a circumnavigation over 2 or 3 years. Among all the other boats we're looking at we have a couple of Cat Ketch's in our price range. We have no clue what the pros and cons would be sailing a rig like this. They're both full keeled. I've read they don't point well at all? Easy to balance? No rigging(stand olone masts)? Any thoughts would be great.
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Old 08-02-2009, 13:39   #2
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We're looking for a good boat to do a circumnavigation over 2 or 3 years. Among all the other boats we're looking at we have a couple of Cat Ketch's in our price range. We have no clue what the pros and cons would be sailing a rig like this. They're both full keeled. I've read they don't point well at all? Easy to balance? No rigging(stand olone masts)? Any thoughts would be great.
You might wish to start here.

Overall, what strikes me the most about ketch rigged cats is you rarely see them; most are old boats. If this was an old mono, I woudn't be concerned in the same way I would be with an old catamaran. My reason for this has more to do with the fact that hull shape and width for multis has progressed greatly in the last 40 years or so.

So, perhaps you could tell us a bit more.
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Old 08-02-2009, 14:07   #3
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Yes, as Maren asks, what do you mean?

This sort of thing?

Or a catamaran that has a ketch rig?


Resale value is important. The value of our boat is a considerable portion of our wealth and needs to be able to be turned over at the end of its use, or in a financial emergency. I doubt if you could sell a boat like this easily even in good times.

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Old 08-02-2009, 14:37   #4
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Yes, as Maren asks, what do you mean?

This sort of thing? Or a catamaran that has a ketch rig?

I doubt if you could sell a boat like this easily even in good times.

Yeah no wonder! It lost the other hull!
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Old 08-02-2009, 14:57   #5
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If a mono........

......I recall that in the late 70's / early 80's the Freedom range of boats was big on the unstayed cat rigged ketch thing......never been on one, but I don't recall them being regarded as "bad" boats - just that they never really caught on with Joe Public. Back then Carbon Fibre masts, let alone an unstayed rig, were "exotic"......so I would factor resale value into buying price.........

Sticks in my mind cos' I always fancied one of the Freedom 40's.....possibly because the aft deck looks a bit Piratey



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Old 11-02-2009, 04:55   #6
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yes I'm talking about free standing, two masted monohull. I guess the financial thing I should consider for sure. I wonder about the rig. Are they really strong? Do they get overcanvased easily. I would think balancing a boat like that would be easy. I think the strength is my biggest consern for long passages. What's the likelyhood you could roll and have the masts survive?
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Old 11-02-2009, 12:27   #7
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Aloha MAG1,
This is not from experience and is just off the top of my head. What I remember about the Freedom Cat Ketches is that they were extremely easy to sail. To tack all you had to do was put your helm alee. No jib sheets to worry about. I had one acquaintance who had one and had no complaints. I think they were not more popular because they looked a bit off and unstayed masts were a bit scary. I've never heard of one failing.
I hope some other folks will chime in on this subject especially some with experience with Cat Ketches. It is an old design started by Herreshoff so its been around quite a while.
Kind regards,
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Old 12-02-2009, 21:00   #8
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I was talking the other day to a couple who have an Australian version of the Freedom. I think it's called a Revolution 38. They had sailed more conventional rigs most of their lives, but were very happy with the cat ketch setup. They found it easy to handle and commented that the boat's general performance was very good. It has a centreboard which they retract to go into their shallow home waters. I was talking to them because I've always been curious abut the rig, although I've never sailed one.
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Old 13-02-2009, 00:55   #9
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I have a Freedom 39 Express (Cat Ketch). Brilliant boat, simple to sail, less maintenance with no standing rigging. Easy to single hand. I crossed the Atlantic in 2006 and had winds up to 50 plus knots. If you have any questions PM me, a good resource is FreedomYachts.org • Index page or FreedomOwnersGroup : Freedom Owners Group
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Old 13-02-2009, 07:27   #10
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My long time best friend has a 1980 freedom forty...not the "piratety looking one"..I would doubt he has less than 40,000 sea miles, he bought it new. I have sailed and cruised many months on this boat, and along side for many more. Erasmus draws 4-1/2 feet board up and around seven down. It is by far the easiest sailing boat (almost lazy if you ask me) I have ever been on, you just turn the wheel to tack. It is extremely sea kindly and although Siren can cut inside of him upwind he walks the dog on me downwind. Cat Ketch Is Cat rig meaning the main mast is right there at the bow of the boat. I would not hesitate for one second to take his boat around the world...I would not say that about a catamaran for myself. I am not bashing catamarans, I have sailed them, I like them, fast, stable. Just some places I would not go with one.
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Old 13-02-2009, 19:00   #11
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The Freedom series of cat ketches, iirc, originally had sleeved luffs which had some severe chafe issues in dedicated cruising mode - quickly fixed in later boats and by minor rig adjustments by owners.

What I loved about the early boats was the simplicity of the systems, but I seem to recall that most owners and eventually the company pretty quickly moved away from that KISS approach. But I dreamed about someday having enough money for one...
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Old 14-02-2009, 11:50   #12
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But I dreamed about someday having enough money for one...
Yeah, that is one other thing I also recall about them - they weren't cheap.
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Old 20-02-2009, 08:12   #13
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I have a Hereshoff 45 cat ketch that is a joy to sail. Upwind performance is acceptable, off the wind she excells. Tacking and gybing are just a matter of turning the helm. I had a Freedom 25 cat before so I am a fan of freestanding rigs with no headsails or small headsails. Perhaps I'm just lazy and don't like grinding winches anymore.
Pros: easy to sail, less maintenance, fewer sail controls, mast bend depowers sails automatically in gusty conditions, fast off the wind.

Cons: Probably won't be the first to the weather mark if you race, but you may catch up before you get to the leeward pin.
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Old 20-02-2009, 14:40   #14
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The resurgence of the Cat Ketch rig in the 70's was driven by Dr. Gerry Milgram's Cascade, a 37' or 38' racing boat designed as an IOR rule beater.

Gerry was a professor of Naval Architecture at MIT, and later did a lot of work on America's Cup boats for Bill Koch.

Garry Hoyt, who later came up with the Alerion Express boats grabbed the cat ketch idea for cruising and ran with it. The early Freedoms were built by Tillotson Pearson, who were also building the Aldens and J boats. Most of the hulls were balsa cored, but TPI did a very good job of it. A good survey can allay any fears regarding a particular boat. The freestanding masts were retained by a urethane collar to keep them from falling out of the boat in a roll. One of the guys from TPI explained to me that they built the masts plenty strong enough to pull the boat horizontal with a halyard from one mast. I was on one of the early 40's with a guy from TPI who just kept throwing the helm over downwind in about 25 knots, crash gybing repeatedly, to show that the masts wouldn't break. They really dolled one up with teak decks and dark paint for the actor Donald Sutherland, I can't remember if it was a 40' or 44'.

Everett Pearson was a real evangelist for these boats for a while. He was really taken with the simplicity, and the fact that you didn't have a bunch of swages, turnbuckles, clevis pins, toggles, etc., failure of any one of which could drop the rig. I've got to admit, he had a point.

As I understand it, both Alden and Freedom were spun off into independent companies, although I had left RI by then.

A few Able 32's, Chuck Paine designs, were also built as cat ketches up in Maine, but I think most of those have by now been converted to conventional sloops, which have held their value much better.

As other posters have stated, these are not wonderful upwind, but they fly on a reach and downwind, and are exceedingly easy to handle. The rigs were not just tossed together, TPI did some serious testing and engineering. I still see a few of the 40's and, especially, the 44's around. I think the 44 in particular is a pretty good boat, and the owners seem to like them.

I know Yves Tanton designed some cat ketches too, but I have no idea who built them, and I think they sell pretty cheaply.
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Old 20-02-2009, 17:15   #15
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I too have been interested in the cat ketch rig for a long time, very close to buying a Freedom 28 but it was too much of a project for other reasons besides the rig, which seems so simple and easy to handle, but like so many other practical things, was never considered in "fashon" - thinking too far outide the box?
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