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Encyclopedia > Yawl
Yawl sailing vessel.
Yawl sailing vessel.

A yawl (from Dutch Jol) is a two-masted sailing craft similar to a sloop or cutter but with an additional mizzen mast well aft of the main mast, often right on the transom. A small mizzen sail is hoisted on the mizzen mast. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (577x638, 92 KB) Summary Yawl sailing vessel on port tack. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (577x638, 92 KB) Summary Yawl sailing vessel on port tack. ... Traditional wooden cutter beating. ... A sloop-rigged J-24 sailboat A sloop (From Dutch sloep) in sailing, is a vessel with a fore-and-aft rig. ... An American-looking gaff cutter with a genoa jib set This French yawl has a gaff topsail set. ... The mast of a sailing ship is a tall vertical pole which supports the sails. ... Transom (probably a corruption of Latin transtrum, a thwart, in a boat; equivalents are French traverse, croisillon, German Losholz) is the architectural term given to the horizontal lintel or beam which is framed across a window, dividing it into stages or heights. ... A gaff-rigged cutter flying a mainsail, staysail and genoa jib For other uses, see Sail (disambiguation). ...


The yawl is often confused with the ketch, which also has two masts with the main mast foremost. The common view is that a ketch has the mizzen mast forward of the rudder post whereas the mizzen on a yawl is aft of the rudder post. This definition is a relatively recent definition and the historical definition is likely to be quite different. Square Topsl Gaff Ketch Hawaiian Chieftain on San Francisco Bay A ketch is a sailing craft with two masts: A main mast, and a mizzen mast abaft the main mast. ... Stern-mounted steering oar of an Egyptian riverboat depicted in the Tomb of Menna (c. ...


In practice, on a ketch the principal purpose of the mizzen mast is to help propel the vessel, while on a yawl it is mainly used for the purposes of trim and balance. In consequence the mizzen sail of a yawl tends to be smaller, and the mainsail larger, when compared to a ketch of similar size. The mainsail of a yawl will be similar in size to that of a similarly sized and proportioned sloop.


The yawl was originally developed as a rig for commercial fishing boats, one good example of this being the Salcombe Yawl (a traditional small fishing boat built in Devon). In its heyday, the rig was particularly popular with single-handed sailors, such as circumnavigators Joshua Slocum and Francis Chichester. This was largely due to the remarkable ability of a yawl to be trimmed to follow a compass course accurately despite minor wind shifts. Modern self-steering and navigation aids have made this less important, and the yawl has generally fallen out of favor. “Devonshire” redirects here. ... To circumnavigate a place, such as an island, a continent, or the Earth, is to travel all the way around it by boat or ship. ... Joshua Slocum (February 20, 1844 – on or shortly after 14 November 1909) was a Canadian-born American seaman and adventurer, a noted writer, and the first man to sail single-handedly around the world. ... Sir Francis Chichester (September 17, 1901 – August 26, 1972), aviator and sailor, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for becoming the first person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route, and the fastest circumnavigator, in nine months and one day. ...


In the 1950s and 60s yawls were developed for ocean racing to take advantage the handicapping rule that did not penalize them for flying a mizzen staysail, which on long ocean races, often down wind, were a great advantage. Best example of this being Olin Stephen's Finisterre. Finisterre is an album by the British pop band Saint Etienne. ...


An Alternative View from Historical Usages

The Derivation of "Yawl"

The above is an accepted definition, but it may not be correct within a historical context.

YAWL, n. A small ships boat, usually rowed by four or six oars. (Webster's dictionary 1828)

The seminal American Yacht Designer of the first half of last century, Francis Herreshoff, reflected this traditional definition of a Yawl was as "a ship's boat resembling the pinnace" set up to be primarily rowed. 1888 advertisement for Websters Dictionary Websters Dictionary is the common title given to English language dictionaries in the United States, derived from American lexicographer Noah Webster. ...


To add a sailing rig to a rowboat the masts must not interfere with the rowers. The Mainmast is placed well forward and the mizzen as far back as possible. The mizzen has to be small in size to keep the sail area balanced around the hull's centre of lateral resistance to ensure the boat will sail in a straight line without excessive correction.


According to Herreshoff "yawl" had nothing to do with rudder placement relative to the mizzen - a yawl rig is the sail and mast configuration that suits a yawlboat.

The derivation of "Ketch"

Ketch was a "catch" or fishing boat.


The mizzen is bigger to hold the bow (front)of a boat toward the wind and oncoming waves. The mainsail at the front of the boat would have been dropped and the mizzen trimmed tight on the centreline. Set up this way most boats will point directly into the wind in a reliable way. It is also possible to ease the mizzen slightly to allow the boat to move slowly forward.


In a fishing boat this attitude allows the nets to be handled without the boat becoming "broadsides" to the waves allowing them to break over the sides of the boat. Fishnets can then be handled without putting the boat at risk.


For enough sail area to propel a fishing boat the mizzen mast has to move forward toward the middle of the boat which allows its sail to be bigger without upsetting the sail balance or distribution.


A "Ketch Rig" is simply the rig that matches the function of a "Ketch" or "Catch" or fishing boat.

The development of the rudder oriented definitions of Yawl and Ketch

The common definition of Yawl and Ketch using the rudderpost does not reflect the nautical tradition and was created by much more recent developments of a handicap system for racing yachts.


The CCA (Cruising Club of America) rating rule was developed following World War II to allow different styles of boats to race against each other with a handicap calculated from measurements of each boat. It was later combined with the RORC (Royal Ocean Racing Club) rule to become the IOR (International Offshore Rules) rule in the late 50s which was used to handicap international racing until the late 1980s.


The CCA and the following rules used the rudder post definitions of ketch and yawl so they had a cut and dried definition for measuring sail so boats could be handicapped with boats fulfilling their new and arbitrary definition of Yawl and Ketch receiving slightly different handicaps.


The rudderpost definition can be argued to be a relatively recent sailing handicap development rather than something that refers to traditional use.

The Humber Yawl Club

The Humber Yawl Club was created in England on the river Humber in the late 1800s. Its fleet of "Canoe Yawls" were primarily sailing boats that could be rowed effectively. Humber is also the name of one of the ranges of cars manufactured by the Rootes Group Humber is also the name of a river in Newfoundland, Canada, as well as a river and a college, both in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ...


The purpose of the boats and the group was for recreational cruises along the coast of England over several days, camping on beaches and riverbanks. Some of the boats were small enough to be taken to Europe by commercial steamer and then used for travelling the canal, lake and river systems of Europe.


"Canoe Yawls" had a pointed stern similar to a canoe. Rudders were usually placed on the back of the boat which allows the rudder to be raised to allow the boat to be landed on a beach.


Despite the mizzen sail being ahead of the rudder the boats were termed Yawls because of their size and their good rowing capability.


Famous yawls

Dorade Brief History of the Humber Yawl Club A page on historical Canoe Yawls - many with ketch and some with sloop rigs Restoration of a Humber Yawl Gipsy Moth IV is a 54ft ketch that Sir Francis Chichester commissioned specifically to race single handed around the globe racing against the times set by the clipper ships in the 19th Century. ... The Islander The Islander was the 34-foot yawl that Harry Pidgeon sailed around the world single-handed, becoming the second person to do so after Joshua Slocum. ... Joshua Slocum (February 20, 1844 – on or shortly after 14 November 1909) was a Canadian-born American seaman and adventurer, a noted writer, and the first man to sail single-handedly around the world. ... Finisterre is an album by the British pop band Saint Etienne. ... Sparkman & Stephens is firm of yacht designers based in New York, USA. They achieved great success in the middle of the twentieth century, particularly for their racing yachts. ... Kees Bruynzeel (1900 - 1980) was a Dutch businessman, timber merchant and yachtsman who owned and operated a company Bruply Doors, including a factory at Stellenbosch in South Africa. ... Sparkman & Stephens is firm of yacht designers based in New York, USA. They achieved great success in the middle of the twentieth century, particularly for their racing yachts. ... A Drascombe is a series of sailing boats designed by John Watkinson. ...


See also

Types of sailing vessels and rigs
Barque | Barquentine | Bermuda rig | Bilander | Brig | Brigantine | Caravel | Carrack | Catamaran | Catboat | Clipper | Dutch Clipper | Cog | Corvette | Cutter | Dhow | Fifie | Fluyt | Fore & Aft Rig | Frigate | Full Rigged Ship | Gaff Rig | Galiot | Galleon | Gunter Rig | Hermaphrodite Brig | Jackass-barque | Junk | Ketch | Longship | Mersey Flat | Multihull | Nao | Norfolk Wherry | Pink | Pocket Cruiser | Polacca | Pram | Proa | Sailing hydrofoil | Schooner | Ship of the Line | Sloop | Smack | Snow | Square Rig | Tall Ship | Thames Sailing Barge | Trimaran | Vinta | Wherry | Windjammer | Windsurfer | Xebec | Yacht | Yawl

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