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Start Keelboat Racing

2: Different to dinghies

The ballasted keel means that neither keelboats nor Sportsboats will capsize in the conventional sense, except in very extreme conditions.

Therefore, keelboat sailors don’t expect to go swimming, even if they’re sometimes a bit tardy moving their weight across the boat — this is an activity that’s done on the water, rather than in it. Having said that, on a breezy day you can expect to get thoroughly drenched by spray. Positioning and movement of crew weight is still vital in a racing sense to extract the maximum performance from the boat.

These boats, and especially older, heavier keelboat designs, are much slower to accelerate than a dinghy. A largish keelboat might have an all-up weight of up to two tonnes, whereas most dinghies are less than 100kg. This means if the boat isn’t travelling at full speed — immediately after a tack for instance — you must work hard to build speed in an acceleration mode. There’s a parallel here with driving a car — you use different gears for pulling away than the ones you use once up to speed on the open road. With a boat, changing down into acceleration gear involves easing the sheets and pointing a little away from the wind.

Keelboats may not capsize, but some designs do lack positive buoyancy and will sink if they fill up. This is a sharp contrast to most dinghies, which have buoyancy built in so that they will stay afloat even if the cockpit is flooded. Two Dragons, for instance, sank in the Solent in gale-force conditions during the windy summer of 2007. In strong winds traditional designs especially are likely to need near-constant pumping of the bilge — when sailing upwind they tend to plough their way through, rather than over, waves.


Previous page:1 What are keelboats?

Sportsboats and keelboats are larger than dinghies, typically being around 20–30ft in length

Next page:3 Who are the crew?

Many keelboats are much less physically demanding than dinghies, making them ideal for those who are less active or who have disabilities

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