Originally Posted by SurferShane
Owning a ketch I really don’t agree with this part of your comment. Please don’t take this offensively, but I would argue that the savings on the smaller sails makes up for any extra cost of rigging. As far as no back stay I seem to have three, one connected to the mizzen and two others port and starboard. The later being adjacent the mizzen stays are great to hang onto when relieving yourself overboard (sorry ladies). A very important safety feature? Once upon a time the mariners of old would even fly and extra sail somewhere in between while reaching to make up for that “lack of performance”?
The other thing I would add is that with all the modern auto pilot and furler technology ketches are often considered outdated and unnecessary, so you can get the odd bargain?
Nonetheless, as is said above, “I would still buy a cutter etc if a real bargain of a seaworthy boat landed in my lap. Sometimes while you can have your heart set on something you never know what might happen?”
But please, argue away. Why would I take it offensively? I have not owned a ketch and so of course I defer to your knowledge, and it's good to hear, as I kind of have in mind a ketch for my next boat some day.
I'll explain a little more why I'm thinking about ketches, as it could be interesting to someone.
I went from a somewhat old-fashioned sloop with a longish keel
to a more modern cutter with a bulb keel
and much higher performance. The difference is incredible and exhilarating. I do love speed. A great deal of the speed comes from the longer waterline, but the underbody is also a big part of it (upwind, at least).
BUT -- with the high aspect bulb keel comes a loss of directional stability, and suddenly balancing the sails becomes much harder and much more important. It's a lot of work. I love the speed on long passages (just did the Channel, 80 miles, from France
at an average speed of over 9 knots; that's a pace for over 200 miles a day) but at the expense of constant sail trimming. I've only had the boat for a year so maybe there are still some tricks I haven't learned.
It is usually recommended that ketch rigs are better suited to longer keel boats, because you won't notice the loss of performance because you are held back by the underbody anyway, but you will notice all of the advantages of the ketch rig.
Well, it seems to me that, on the contrary, it is exactly on a modern underbody boat where the ketch rig would shine, because it is that kind of boat which is hardest to balance. And on the contrary, you will get a lot of performance out of the underbody, so won't so much miss the loss of performance due to the rig.
So that people understand why it is so great to have your sail plan broken up, let me explain:
On our sloop, we started to reef around 18 knots of wind. The more you reef, the worse the shape of the sail is, especially the head
sail, which was an overlapping genoa
. By 25 knots the shape of the headsail is pretty much shot, and you could forget about going to windward.
On our cutter, we use both headsails up to about 20 knots. Then at about 20 knots (depending on gusts and sea state), we take in the staysail, reducing the area of the sail plan, but leaving the yankee unreefed and so with its optimum shape. At about 25 knots, we start to reef the yankee. We can sail up to 30 knots with just one reef in it, still on the luff pad so still a good efficient shape. We sail very well and very fast in 30 knots of wind because of this.
After 30 knots of wind, the staysail alone has enough area to drive the boat. So at around 30 knots of wind, we take in the yankee and put out the staysail. The staysail is not reefed at all, so it has its ideal shape (but in such conditions we do harden up the running backstays
to tension the inner forestay). And we don't need to reef the staysail in any wind force, so even in 50 knots of wind we have an efficient headsail and we can go to windward. A bonus is that the staysail is self-tacking, so in a real gale tacking is one whole activity less in your workload, very welcome in a gale.
Another bonus is that the sail plan is now concentrated around the mast (the main is reefed, too, of course, and has moved forward and down, while the staysail obviously is far aft and lower than the yankee was) and it is no longer difficult to balance anything.
That is a huge advantage, and it means that although a sloop is theoretically more efficient, the cutter has a much wider range of conditions in which you can put up a sail with an efficient shape, so in reality in many conditions you will sail faster than a sloop can.
You have even many, many more options in your sail plan, with a ketch, which sounds really good to me.