Hello Steve. First off thanks for writing the Encyclopedia. It was a driving force in getting my wife and I to buy a boat and sail the West Coast from Vancouver to Mexico.
We are now looking to move up in size from our Roberts 44 to potentially an Irwin 52. These boats are rare on the West Coast and abundant on the Southeast Coast. They have 2 keel configs – one has a centerboard and shoal draft of 5’6", and the other is a fixed keel with a draft of 7 feet. I have no experience with big boats with centerboards, and would value your opinion on their merit when going to windward? What do you think of Irwins?
Thanks a bundle, Tony
Hi Tony: Centerboards are an advantage where draft is concerned. But they are often a pain as far as maintenance goes, and tend to be noisy when sailing downwind in the trades. We prefer to avoid them where possible.
The other question is the design of the boat. In terms of ballasting and hull shape, it is very difficult to optimize for both fixed keel and centerboard design. A design that swings both ways is bound to have major compromises.
On the other hand, a lot depends on the price of the boat in question, where you are cruising (if you have the option of deeper draft, it is usually a better approach in terms of maintenance and performance), and the type of weather you want to be able to handle.
All of which applies to any design. The Irwin 52 was never intended as an offshore design, and this would not be our first choice in heavy going. On the other hand, for coastal work, they offer a lot of interior volume – an amazing amount. The Roberts 44 I am not familiar with.
Since you are on the West Coast, I am assuming draft is not an issue for you. At least, that would be the case in Mexico and the South Pacific, and the Pacific NW. Good Luck – Steve