Traditional long keel yachts were often yawl- or ketch-rigged to improve the balance of the sail plan. Especially in heavy weather the foresail alone struggled to keep the boat tracking on course: increasing speed and heel pushed the centre of lateral resistance forward dramatically, generating substantial weather helm that had to be balanced out with a mizzen.
Yawl-rigged boats are always easy on the eye; this beautiful, tradinional yacht was moored in Newport, Rhode Island in 1996
Blue water sailing today is dominated by fin and skeg boats (separate keel and rudder) on which the rudder and skeg are quite far aft. Their centre of lateral resistance does not wander to the same extent in response to rising boat speed or greater heel; they hold a course well and have no need of a second mast. Indeed all the hull configurations used today are able to deliver good all-round sailing performance without a second mast.
A mizzen which extends over the transom causes problems for a windvane
A mizzen staysail may well be a trouble-free and effective sail, but second masts cost money and increase the weight aloft. Not only that but they are seldom used anyway because on typical trade wind courses the mizzen contributes more weather helm than drive. Most mizzen booms and sails will impair the functioning of a windvane, which prefers undisrupted air flow, and interfere with its turning radius. Most arguments for a second mast rest on other, unconnected factors: a mizzen mast provides a good site for antennas and radar and, most important of all, two masts look better in photographs!
The cutter rig probably provides the best compromise between good steering and uncomplicated boat-handling. It can be trimmed to balance just about every kind of boat and the distribution of the sail area over several relatively small sails makes boat-handling fairly straightforward even for small crews. Cutter-rigged masts also have a considerable safety advantage: the two additional stays, the backstay and the cutter stay, significantly reduce the risk of dismasting, a real confidence-booster in extreme conditions.
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Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.