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Old 06-06-2024, 06:00   #1
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Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

I'm looking for opinions on cutter vs. ketch rigged boats. I am talking to the owner of a Mauritius 43' center cockpit ketch, and also a rear cockpit cutter rigged boat in the same size range.

We've sailed our 36' sloop around the Northeast (Maine to New Jersey), Gulf of Maine and Block Island Sound being the most open water we've done; but we'd like to do more coastal cruising in the next few years, and maybe take the boat to the Caribbean at some point, for a few seasons. I have no experience with these other rigs, and I'd like to hear what people's experience and advice is for a fairly agile couple with extensive sloop experience, when transitioning to the handling these other types of rigs.
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Old 06-06-2024, 06:12   #2
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

I cruised a ketch for most of my time aboard. Given all considerations, but one; I would have selected the cutter. My choice of the ketch was to have clearance under the 55' bridges which are a common restriction on the US east Coast. I past times, before the mechanical innovations of sail handling, a ketch may have been favored due to the smaller sail sizes, but that is no longer an issue.
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Old 06-06-2024, 06:32   #3
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

Switching from a sloop to a cutter is simple, its basically the same rig. A ketch is a bit more effort as the sail dynamics are a bit different. Trimming the main has more "consequences" on a ketch as you have to balance the main with the genoa AND the mizzen. A cutter will typically tend to point a bit higher based on the same hull. A ketch will be more costly to maintain as essentially you are maintaining 2 rigs worth of standing rigging. My ketch (as an example) has a total of 14 stays between the main and mizzen masts. The costs for that adds up.

The reality is that ketches were developed as a way to manage sail handling. Allowing you to set more smaller sails, making them easier to manage, reef, etc. With today's powerful winches and other gear, you can manage larger sails more easily.

BUT a ketch still looks better sailing, and you can set 2 spinnakers on the right day and everyone likes the way that looks!
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Old 06-06-2024, 06:53   #4
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

Don't forget that as long as the rigging layout and implementation on each boat is generally done well and is usable, the decision is probably not going to be strictly based on the rig, but on other aspects of each boat or the boat layout options that come with each type of rig.
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Old 06-06-2024, 07:53   #5
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

My previous boat was a ketch, and my current boat is a cutter. And of course, before this I sailed sloops. I like both kethc and cutter. As was mentioned, sloop to cutter transition is more obvious. But for sheer versatility, ketch wins in my books. But that versatility comes a the cost of added rigging, and therefore added costs. A slight counter-balance is that the sails and rigging tends to be smaller, so it’s not quite as expensive.

I wouldn’t hesitate to move to either rigs if I were looking at a new boat. As long as they were designed with their respective rigs in mind, both are great.
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Old 06-06-2024, 07:57   #6
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

I'm particularity fond of the ketch rig.
It takes some experimenting to understand and fully utilize this rig.

I owned a ketch for around 15 odd years, and clocked many 1000's of sea miles on it.

My primary reason for having the ketch rig however, was the thought that if I ever lost the main mast for any reason, I'd have a backup in the mizzen, especially so if I found myself in the middle of nowhere.
Though this never came to pass.... fortunately.

I often sailed with with just the jib and mizzen up. This way I could throw a cover over the main boom to provide shade, while I was just doodling along.
Equally, I would fly only a spinnaker and mizzen staysail when the wind went aft of the beam, With neither main nor mizzen sail up to influence the wind, both these sails would pull like a freight train.

Finally, though neither here nor there, to my eye, a ketch rig looks very sexy. Okay, sexy is probably not the right word, but can't think of another word at this time.

I've owned two cutter rig boats since that one, but comparing them all, would choose the ketch as my favorite.
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Old 06-06-2024, 08:01   #7
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

I have thought it interesting that some designs, such as the Pearson 365 and the Pearson 424, were available either as ketch or sloop-rigged. There may be others, but basically the same boat just rigged differently. I suspect choice of rigging for the serious cruiser would be for the intended use—i.e., to what destinations and with what crew capability. I envision that in long passages where one would encounter much variation of conditions, including harsh ones, more sail combinations that are relatively easier to “manhandle” into position would argue in favor of the ketch-rigged boat over a sloop. Back in the days when one might have to change out a hanked-on headsail to reduce sail, the ketch gave the option of dropping the mainsail and riding on the mizzen and jib or Genoa—“jib and jigger” they called it. Or use another combination. Unlike the sloop, the cutter rigged permits sail reduction by riding to a smaller headsail which on a shorter stay that brings the CE closer the boat’s CLR, in combination with reefing the mainsail. Relative to the sloop, both the ketch and the cutter would seem better designed for long passages in greater comfort. As others point out, today one can furl (or even reef) a headsail without going forward and then deploy a cutter’s staysail, plus reef the mainsail if needed. However, with the ketch you’d still have that headsail out at the bow, even if roller-reefed or smaller (#4).

If intending to go afar for long passages, my choice would be the cutter rig over a sloop or ketch. If hanging close to shore (coastal), I’d pick the sloop b/c I could better avoid the really nasty stuff, and not suffer through it for days under much reduced sail. If this were 1975 - 1980, I’d likely pick the ketch as the compromise between all three riggings—i.e., the ketch-rigged Pearson 424-if cruising afar but infrequently. Very pretty boat! But I’ve sailed only sloops along nearshore waters in mild conditions.
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Old 06-06-2024, 08:24   #8
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lou-In-NJ View Post
I'm looking for opinions on cutter vs. ketch rigged boats. I am talking to the owner of a Mauritius 43' center cockpit ketch, and also a rear cockpit cutter rigged boat in the same size range.

We've sailed our 36' sloop around the Northeast (Maine to New Jersey), Gulf of Maine and Block Island Sound being the most open water we've done; but we'd like to do more coastal cruising in the next few years, and maybe take the boat to the Caribbean at some point, for a few seasons. I have no experience with these other rigs, and I'd like to hear what people's experience and advice is for a fairly agile couple with extensive sloop experience, when transitioning to the handling these other types of rigs.
I really like the cutter rig on larger boats. It is so easy to get control in a blow or squall. Some great sailing under staysail and reefed main even in 30-35 knots of wind. The boat flat and moving like a freight train!

I came out of a harbor in my 47 footer and didnt realize how hard it was blowing outside the anchorage. I couldn't make way off a lee shore with the headsail, even with the motor on, going sideways too much. I was able to quickly roll up the headsail and deploy the ready staysail and soon was doing 7 knots+ to windward. Boat flat.

I had my staysail setup in a special deck bag hanked on. It could be deployed in a few minutes really. I loved sailing that rig in a blow in my 44 and my 47 footers.
No cockpit clutter like a ketch either.
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Old 06-06-2024, 10:27   #9
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

This discussion really should include the use of roller furling.

Back in the day, my day, that is, roller furling was not yet a thing. Sails were hanked on, all of them, and pretty much all halyards, reefing lines, etc, were done from the base of the mast.
Spinnakers were still considered as part of your sail inventory, which off course, included the spinnaker pole.

I think this where the ketch came into it's own. Hoisting, dousing, reefing, etc, was all done from the mast or forward deck, and smaller sails made this a manageable job under most any conditions.
I could...and did...manage all my sails by hand and never had any issue doing this, doing most all of it on my own.

Fast forward to today. Ketch rigged boats are all but gone. Roller furling is off course pretty much on every modern boat, but in the same breath, jib sizes and main sizes have grown and manhandling some of these larger sails on a sloop/cutter requires some effort. Full length battens, all lines led back to the cockpit, etc. further complicate this setup.

For a newbie sailor, this is all the " norm", but for an old geezer like me, having experienced both setups, for me, hands down, the hanked on sails ketch rig is far more manageable.

Leaving the cockpit, for me, is nothing to be terrified about, not even in inclement weather, and I'm curious to know how much all the " modern" conveniences is more of a marketing ploy than a necessity.
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Old 06-06-2024, 10:29   #10
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

Is anyone going to discuss tacking a cutter rig with a full Genoa flying and trying to stuff it through the slot? It’s a pain in the butt.
I vote Ketch.

P.S. we have a cutter rigged Ketch with a self-tacking Staysail. I love the versatility of a Ketch. Imagine tacking with a mizzen, main and self-tacking staysail. “Look Mom, no hands!”
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Old 06-06-2024, 10:32   #11
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

As a footnote, was walking by a catamaran the other day, and noted the halyard for the main is a two part, block and tackle affair, attesting to weight and size of the sail.
Fully battened off course, with some expensive looking roller bearing sail lugs at each batten location.
I'm curious to know how much such a thing weighs ??
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Old 06-06-2024, 11:11   #12
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

My boat is a ketch, but the aft mast is so far back and the sail so small it is closer to a yawl. Frankly, I have hardly used the mizzen in some 18 years of ownership. Yes, when headed offshore on long passages it goes up and is mildly helpful in light airs, and when going to windward can balance the helm. However, it really doesn't add much drive except off the wind. But, in reality, my boat could just as well have been a sloop for the amount I've used the mizzen. OTOH, a cutter rig can be really nice and is superior to windward. Again, when I had a cutter (small 30 footer) we generally sailed as a sloop, with either the outer jib up or the inner jib. Both together didn't really help things, but it was really cool to be able to drop the outer jib and keep going under staysail and reefed main. We didn't have rollers on those sails, so they stayed very efficient.
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Old 06-06-2024, 11:57   #13
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

Simply put, the problem with a cutter rig is they are harder to tack around the inner forestay. Ketch gives you more sail configuration options, particularly in Heavy weather. JMHO
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Old 06-06-2024, 12:01   #14
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

Many years ago when I was thinking of building or buying a good boat for the California Delta and SF bay I was thinking of a flat bottom, shallow drafted, high center of gravity hull like a Sharpie, that needed to have a low center of sail area and pretty much required a ketch rig. Aside from a shoal or shallow drafted boat, I don't know of an advantage of a ketch from a performance standpoint.
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Old 06-06-2024, 12:38   #15
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Re: Cutter vs. Ketch rigs

Don’t forget the staysail ketch [sometimes called a cutter-ketch.]

Over time I’ve owned and sailed [all monohulls…] two sloops [29 & 37ft], two cutters [37 & 47ft], and now a staysail ketch [43ft].

We only use the mizzen when the wind is abaft the beam [and sometimes reefed as a riding sail when anchored in high winds.] The staysail is great when close hauled.

And if considering a ketch, also be aware of the mizzen staysail…

I enjoyed all my boats. I find the staysail ketch the most versatile, if not slightly more complicated [more standing and running rigging- and sails…]

Best wishes finding what best suits your needs.

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