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Types of Sailboats and Rigs


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Ketch rig sailboat

Photo © Tom Lochhaas

A popular rig for midsize cruising boats is the ketch, which is like a sloop with a second, smaller mast set aft, called the mizzenmast. The mizzen sail functions much like a second mainsail. In all, a ketch carries about the same total square footage of sail area as a sloop of the equivalent size.

The primary advantages of a ketch are that each of the sails is usually somewhat smaller than on a sloop of equivalent size, making sail handling easier. Smaller sails are lighter, easier to hoist and trim, and smaller to stow. Having three sails also allows for more flexible sail combinations. For example, with the wind at an intensity that a sloop might have to double-reef the main to reduce sail area, a ketch may sail very well under just jib and mizzen. This is popularly called sailing under “jib and jigger”—the jigger being an old square-rigger term for the aft-most mast flying a triangular sail.

While a ketch offers these advantages to cruisers, they may also be more expensive because of the added mast and sail. The sloop rig is also considered faster and is therefore used almost exclusively in racing sailboats.

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