Recently, a few customers of Balance Catamarans have considered catamarans with mini-keels rather than dagger-boards. After weighing the pros and cons of each, some clients decided that the reduced complexity, additional buoyancy, underwater protection for drives and rudders, and increased interior space outweigh—for them—the benefits of dagger-boarded designs.
The designers at Balance were initially reluctant to produce keel-only configured catamarans because the mini-keels make them point lower, increase leeway, and slow them down on all points of sail due to additional hydrodynamic drag. So the question for the design team became: Can we produce keels for our customers who request them that will reduce these negatives as much as possible? Balance creates high performance catamarans for voyaging and clearly did not wish to stray from that objective.
While no mini-keel design will enable a catamaran to point equally as high or inhibit leeway as much as one with dagger-boards, reports from Balance 526 Hull #2 with performance mini-keels is reporting surprisingly impressive results. Unlike the keels a sailor finds on a production cat, Balance keels are narrower, have a much sharper exit, and carry a foil shape that is not unlike their dagger-boards or rudders. With over 30 years of experience, designer Anton Du Toit took the time to design mini-keels that inhibit drag remarkably well. It is important to note, however, that the draft of the 526 is increased an additional 10 inches at full load when mini-keels are chosen over daggerboards.
In the end, sophisticated customers want to know what they are giving up when they choose a keel over a daggerboard, or vice versa. Because it is difficult to bring together both a dagger-boarded and keeled version of each model for on the water testing, the Balance team elected to engage the University of South Hampton in the U.K. to produce Polar reports for the Balance 526 and new 620 models in either configuration.
Once completed, these reports will be posted on the our website. To see a brief video on this topic, and an example of a recent performance keel crafted for a Balance 526, please go right here.