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Old 17-02-2009, 11:32   #1
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Ketch rig - utilizing its full potential

We are preparing for our second season with our 1996 Stormwind 40 - a cutter rigged steel ketch. We did some serious cruising last summer, however, we are still far away from mastering our vessel. The boat weights 12 metric tons (26400 pounds) and has 108m2 (1162 square feet) of sails, so she is not exactly surfing with the wind. She was purchased as a vessel to withstand any weather, and she is indeed doing a good job when in gales. However, there are so many days with only light or moderate winds, so we would very much like to be able to trim her better to get her going as fast as possible in those days as well.

Anyone more experience with a ketch rig? Anyone raced with a ketch? Any tips what to do and what not to do to make her going faster? Our limited sailing experience is with a sloop, so all performance and handling related advices are most welcome.
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Old 17-02-2009, 11:46   #2
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Aloha Heikki,
Too weather performance in 15k winds can be enhanced a bit by each sail from fore to aft being sheeted a little tighter than the one ahead. Watch the telltales on the yankee to determine whether you have proper headsail trim then trim the main in just a little tighter and the mizzen just a little tighter than that. I used to have my mizzen boom on the centerline when beating.
Lighter fuller sails in lighter winds can help. Sailing from close reach to broad reach is the time to launch a mizzen staysail and a gennaker. A light mizzen staysail can get you up and moving in fairly light winds.
The only racing I did with my old wood Mariner 35 ketch was against a wood Marco Polo 55 Schooner and a plastic Cheoy Lee Offshore 41 yawl so I wouldn't call it racing. Just goofing around with different sail options.
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Old 17-02-2009, 14:59   #3
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There are two sails for which a ketch is ideally suited. A mizzen staysail and what I call a fisherman, which runs up the mainmast backstay and sheets to the top of the mizzen. In other words an upside-down jib. Both are set flying and ideal for light airs.
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Old 17-02-2009, 15:31   #4
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Heikki, thank you for this thread! I am refitting a 42' ketch we bought as a basket case, and your stats are very similar. I hope more ketch sailors chime in and make this the mother of all ketch sailing threads!
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Old 17-02-2009, 16:20   #5
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Nahhhhh... my mother wouldn't know a ketch from a kettle.

Good info above. Large Genoa as your number 1 (maybe a 150) and make sure you can take it down to around 120. With your number 2 (90?) that gives you a good bit of sail fore of the COE. I don't have an inner forestay to make a cutter rig, so I have to rely on just the one Genoa - mine is only a 130, and I wish that I had purchased the 150 instead.

A good Asymetrical can really get you moving in lighter airs (beam reach to run) along with the mizzen staysail. Both of those are light to mid air sails for downwind sailing.

With my boat, 33k# and ~1100 sq. ft. of sail (Main, Mizzen, and 100% jib), I need about 15 knots beam to broad reach to get up to hull speed (about 8.3 knots STW). Since I do mostly short handed sailing (me, myself and I), if the winds start heading to 20+ knots, I'll completely drop the main, and sail jib and jiggers - may not get the same speed as reefing the main, but the handling is much easier and controllable.
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Old 18-02-2009, 05:42   #6
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Thank you all for your comments. It sure is a pleasure to hear the voice of more experienced ketch sailors.

For more even more precise comments, I suppose one needs to understand the relative sizes of our sails: genoa 51m2, jib 14m3, main 34m2, and mizzen 9m2. The boat has a fairly deep and full hull with quite a long (5m/16ft) fin keel. (For more information, please visit www.elisanet.fi/clsailing/ColumbaLivia/Main.html).

When running or reaching, a mizzen staystail or an asymmetric would sure add some speed. An issue here is our main mast that has double backstays . Itís a nice thing to have on an extended downwind gale - one left if one goes. However, that should be replaced before mizzen staysail could be used. Fortunately that is not a major cost, we are talking about Ä500/$700 + the price of the sail (roughly Ä1000/$1300).

A gennakker or asymmetric would be a much easier extension to our sail plan. It would be fairly large, almost 150m2/2500 square feet, so from a viewpoint of a just a couple cruising, we are talking about extreme forces. However, I assume that the added speed/cost ratio would be dramatically better with an asymmetric than with a staysail. Of course the cost is higher.

But how about sailing close hauled? Do you really found mizzen useful? Does it add up speed or just heeling? We are currently unable to sheet it to centerline due to a lack of mizzen traveler. As it is currently set, mizzen seems to be merely a decorative thing. However, it would be easy to add another sheet so that sheet lines would lead from the boom to aft corners. That would make it possible sheet the mizzen tightly to centerline or even over that. I assume that is a sensible thing to do. Any comments on that?

How do you feel about double headsails when close hauled? We use that setup and are under the impression that we gain both speed and are also able to point higher to the wind that way. But is that real? Is there a risk of just messing up the air flowing to the main? Is there a general rule on the trim, that is, should the jib be sheeted more tightly or loosely than the genoa?

--heikki
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Old 18-02-2009, 06:47   #7
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My boat sails close hauled very well using the staysail and the gen. furled. Down wind I use my spiniker with a tacker with the mizzen down.
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Old 21-02-2009, 12:34   #8
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Hey Guys! Here's an article I have been trying to find for a while: Tor Pinney's Homepage - A Cruising Sailor's Homeport

Good general mizzen info!
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Old 21-02-2009, 21:47   #9
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I found my Ketch to sail down wind with just the gen and mizzen, one on each side. I have a 130 gen. She like to wallow allot on me so I have to work the helm all the time to keep her down wind. On a cool day with sunlight it's rewarding to be with the wind and the sun on your face
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Old 25-02-2009, 04:08   #10
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Thank you all for your contributions this far - just do not hang up yet. I have one further question regarding the sails, more specifically the storm sails:

Do you carry separate heavy weather sails for your ketch or do you rely on your mizzen and jib on your cutter stay? Small mizzen (10m2/ 110sq ft) + small strong jib on a furler (14m2/150sq ft) is the setup our boat has as an inheritance from the first owner. They actually survived two days with no damage wahtsoever running in 65 knots full gale without going to even that - the just took second reef on main and rolled genny to its minimum and dropped mizzen and jib - which sounds fairly bold to me. Any recommendations?
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Old 27-02-2009, 15:12   #11
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Thanks for the string. I just bought a floating condo( 42 ketch), trying to make a sailboat out of it. Don't have much to offer, but I am all ears.
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Old 27-02-2009, 15:15   #12
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Chad, what boat is it exactly?
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Old 28-02-2009, 08:42   #13
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Boat type

Thanks for asking. Pearson 424 1980 hull 97 Needs TLC and buckets of money. Send either.
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Old 28-02-2009, 11:26   #14
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Heikki - when I had them make my mizzen, I had them put a 2nd reef point way the hell up - about twice as far as they were going to. Using that I can heave to, or use it as a steadying sail while at anchor.
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Old 02-03-2009, 13:45   #15
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The mizzen staysail is very nice; most times the forward staysail will work as mizzen staysail too. The secret weapon of a ketch is a mizzen spinnaker (see my avatar which is actually our bigger brother Beowulf).

But, before playing with all that, it's more important to find out about what sailplans work on your specific boat. Do the following tests:

Start with just the main on a reach. Is the boat balanced? Our boat is perfectly balanced with just the main, but our mizzen is 70% of the surface of the main, while yours is closer to 30%. So your main mast might be further aft compared to ours, giving you less or no balance on just the main.
When it is balanced, try sailing upwind, incl. tacking. If you can do that, you will want a heavy mainsail with 3 reefs for use in storms, skipping trysails, but check your rigging (I'll come to that).

Next is mizzen + jib. You really should be able to find a balance here, use full mizzen and furl jib as needed. Measure/mark the jib in that furled size as you might want one made like that!

Next is all hoisted. Under full sails, see how the jib does and try furling it to the size of the previous test. Many ketches use jibs/genua's that are too big, maybe your perfect everyday use working jib is the size that balances the mizzen without the main. That is what we have as our only jib (but we have a spare one).

Now try these three combinations reefed. You need more wind for that to check upwind behavior. Change jib for staysail for reefs 1, 2 and even 3 if you have that many. Is the staysail too big for all reefed down config? you'll need a smaller one! We have a hank-on staysail that can be reefed!!

A mizzen spinnaker might have trouble with your main backstay. The Sundeers have no backstays (roached main and mizzen can't pass backstays) so I can't advise. Also, the gap between the end of the main boom and the mizzen mast determines possibilities. But at least a reacher (free hoisted with furler) should be possible. This will be the light-wind sail there and the main staysail can be used as mizzen staysail for medium wind broad reaching.

It all depends on where you will sail too. Don't bother with spinnakers or reachers when you will spent your time in the Caribbean. Use them means loose them here ;-)

About the rigging and the capshrouds in particular. Many, many ketches are designed to share the load over both masts. This assumes you will always use the mizzen so that part of the load is taken by the mizzen capshrouds, many times 30% for mizzen, 70% for main. When they take a 30% safety margin you would just get away with only using the main in high winds but you really need to upgrade the main capshrouds (and thus lowers). A good way of achieving that is using same diameter wire but switching to dyform. Same norseman terminals can be used, just different cones. Rigging books tell you how to calculate that. When using just the main in high-wind situations, your main capshrouds must be sized to handle the full load! This load is equal to the "pull masthead to waterline" test (you don't need to do that really because it can be calculated but it is done for new designs!).

Ask me anything you need, I studied this a lot, incl. rig tuning. (ask to be allowed to help when changing your standing rigging, most riggers are okay with that and you learn a lot. I did swages, norseman and full tuning. The rigger even ordered me to buy and study a specific book ;-) )

cheers,
Nick.
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