Long keel boats

This classic form dominated yacht building for many years. The long keel promised good course-holding abilities and great seaworthiness, and provided a sound structural backbone for any yacht. The rudder hung at the aft end of the keel. S frame construction combined with V shaped frames in the whole bow section ensured smooth passage through the water and a calm and comfortable boat.

The courageous rescue missions of Norwegian sailor Colin Archer, who took his unmotorised double-ended cutter out into the North Atlantic to rescue imperilled fisherman even in hurricane force winds, live on in legend around the globe. His experiences spawned innumerable new designs and are synonymous with virtually unlimited seaworthiness. The CA mark is familiar to sailors the world over.

Bernard Moitessier was also a fan of the long keel, as selected for his Joshua. This was the boat he was racing around the world when he famously gave up victory, dropping out and setting sail for the South Seas. The design is still built under the name "Joshua" in almost the original form.

Relevant to our purpose are the steering characteristics imparted by long keels. Boats of such design hold a straight course very well, but if they should get away, the unbalanced rudder makes the steering force required to bring the boat back onto course quite substantial. They require servo-assisted windvane steering systems and reasonably sized autopilots. Manoeuvring these boats in harbour requires strong nerves and a cool head at the helm (or a couple of large fenders!).

Whether long keel boats are safer and more seaworthy than boats with an shorter keel and a separate skeg-mounted rudder is a common topic of debate. The fact is that the relative stability in a sea at the same time makes rapid evasive action, for example to avoid breaking waves, considerably more difficult. The large lateral surface area of the long keel means that leeway is only slight in heavy weather, which increases the danger of capsize. The protected position of the rudder behind the keel and its solid attachment from top to bottom, however, could not be better from the point of view of safety.

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