… for the Max from your sailing!

A Tale of Two Keels – A Maxi 1100 has a keel transplant!

A comparison between a long and shallow keel by Chris Wildey


We first saw the Maxi 1100 when it was launched at the LBS but were disappointed it was not available with less than a 2m keel – even though the brochure listed a 1.5m option! As our home cruising ground is in the East Coast’s shallow waters, we carried on looking for our ideal boat over the next year or so. Then in Autumn 2000 as we were trekking around Hamble Point’s brokerages, we were accosted by Roger who said of course we could have 1.5m and with the same rig! Although we are not normally keen to be "guinea pigs", after a few days hesitation and a test sail in the 2m version, we put our trust in Maxi’s hands and promptly ordered Vouvray.

Our plan was to take delivery just before our summer holiday, and then to cruise the Channel Isles to give Vouvray a thorough shake down before taking her back to the River Orwell. However, due to Maxi’s quality control rejecting the first keel casting, we agreed our boat would be delivered with a full fin keel to allow Roger time to commission her before performing a keel transplant immediately prior to our holiday cruise. As events turned out, we ended up on holiday with the deep fin, with the operation being carried out immediately we returned.

Hence we had 4 weeks or so deep fin experience, plus the worry of whether we would then notice any loss of sparkle or performance with the shallower draft. We really did not want to know what sacrifice we were making. During our holiday, we certainly revelled in her fast performance, and made an excellent Cherbourg- Brixham passage in 14 hours – an excellent way to avoid the monotony of crossing Lyme Bay! Would all this be lost with the new keel?

Roger arranged Vouvray’s delivery to our berth in the Orwell, and that was where we nervously tried out our new keel. We need not have worried. Vouvray still sailed beautifully, and handling differences were not apparent although by careful watching of the GPS track, the wake, etc., we have been able to make a few quantitative observations. She sails just as close to the wind as before, but inevitably, there are a couple of degrees of extra leeway: before, leeway was barely noticeable whereas now it is perhaps as much as 5 degrees, especially if trying to pinch a little too much.

The new keel features a huge long torpedo with a couple of small winglets aft. The lead keel is around 300kg heavier and thus she sits just over 1cm lower. So maybe she’s a tad slower in lighter winds as a result, but we haven’t noticed any difference in passage making. In terms of stiffness, Maxi’s own curves show the two keels as yielding the same righting moment but our impression is that the shallow keel’s initial stiffness is actually higher: whether this is real (due to sitting lower perhaps, or greater inertia) or just our imagination, we’ll never know!

The rudder is also slightly shorter, but just as well balanced as before. In marinas, she handles just as tightly although we’ve not yet dared to mimic Mike’s knack of parking backwards in a tight berth. We’ve already had the benefit of the shallower keel, getting into and out of the Deben, Ore/Alde, and Southwold entrances, and over the sills at Titchmarsh and Tidemill at times that suit us. We haven’t yet tried sailing through the mud as we used to with Tamarisk, our ten year old Moody 31: maybe with the big torpedo cross section, it might prove just too sticky!

We’ve already had a lot of fun sailing along the coast and up the river Orwell, smugly overtaking all the other boats in sight, even a few bigger ones, by consistently being faster and pointing higher! In fact, one warning to give anyone helming the 1100 is to keep a sharp lookout in front of the mast because its amazing how quickly you overhaul other boats when you’ve got a 1 knot advantage compared to many others in the 30 ~ 40 foot range! For this new year, we’re hoping to explore more of the Dutch coast, especially since the North Sea seems to be much smaller than before!