Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A yawl 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.
The yawl is often confused with the ketch, which also has two masts with the main mast foremost. The official difference 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. 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 conseqence 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. Also, on a ketch, other sails may be set from the mizzen mast such as staysails and even occasionally a second spinnaker, but these are never set from the mizzen of a yawl.
The yawl was originally developed as a rig for commercial fishing boats. 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.
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