Retractable Keel Sailboats – How They Work

Last fall I sailed one of our 46RK models from the Southern Bahamas back to our plant in Stuart, Florida. We had the keel fully retracted, and the wind was generally off the quarter and blowing between 12 and 20 knots. I would have arrived about a half-day later if I had the keel and rudder down all the way, because if you lift the keel when you don’t need stability, you’ll gain speed. It was a good lesson in what eliminating unnecessary drag can do for a boat’s performance.

Because our keels lift, our boats are not just great in big wind and waves. They’re great everywhere – in serene shallows, in the too-shallow slip, and at the launch ramp on a trailer. Our moving keels adjust vertically to be at their best in every sailing circumstance.

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The keels are housed in a trunk, and move vertically with a 12-volt winch that’s mounted in a watertight box on deck. An ultra-high strength synthetic cable – 1.4 times stronger and 15 times lighter than comparable stainless cable – is routed from the winch drum through a series of stainless turning blocks mounted in recesses on the keel’s sides, to a termination point on the deck.

All components are designed to far exceed any load placed on them, and are durable and maintenance-free in a saltwater environment. Keel position is controlled with a toggle switch from the cockpit. All models have backup apparatus so the keel can be raised in the event of battery failure.

For best efficiency, immerse just enough keel and rudder to maintain a comfortable amount of stability and control on all points of sail.

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