6 Most Popular Types of Sailboat Keels


Keels - virginislandssailingschool

If you’re new to sailing, the world of keels can seem a little intimidating. But don’t worry! We’re here to help explain which type of keel is best for your needs and budget.

Fin keels

The fin keel is a popular sailboat design option because it offers maximum stability. The keel extends all the way to the bottom of the hull, which gives it more surface area and allows it to work more effectively in shallow water. It’s also good for sailing in high winds and rough water.

Wing keels

Wing keels are the most popular type of keel on sailboats. They provide superior performance and maneuverability, making them ideal for racing, coastal cruising and light-air sailing. Wing keels have a small surface area that’s closest to the centerline of your boat, so you can tack into or jibe (make a 180-degree turn) more quickly than with other types of keels.

Wing keels come in three different sizes: large, medium and small. If you’re looking for a fast sailboat with excellent agility that will perform well even when running downwind at high speeds (when no sails are set), consider purchasing a large winged sailing yacht that has two retractable rudders (one for each side).

Skeg-hung rudder and keel

A skeg-hung rudder and keel is a combination of a fin keel and skeg hung rudder. The fin keel is attached to the hull, not the rudder. This provides stability in the water for your boat and helps prevent it from “wandering” on its own during use. Since it does not require as much force to create drag as a full-keeled sailboat, this type of boat also moves fast when you want it too!

Bilge keels

The keel is attached to the hull by a pivot. The pivot allows the keel to swing up and down, but not side to side. This pivoting mechanism is located in the bilge of the hull and typically consists of two or more bearings (one at each end) that allow for this vertical movement.

The pivot is usually a pin that is inserted into holes in the hull, with an additional piece of metal called an “elevator” connecting to one end of said pin so that it can slide along it as needed.

Twin keels

Twin keels are used on sailboats with a shallow draft and a high center of gravity. They are often found on larger boats, such as yachts and other commercial vessels. The twin keel design can be used to help stabilize the boat in rough seas, but they aren’t ideal for speed or agility.

Depending on your sailing needs and preferences, there are many other types of keels available besides twin keels that may better suit you!

Lifting keels and centerboards

Lifting keels and centerboards are used in smaller boats, older boats, and boats with a shallow draft. Lifting keels and centerboards are also used in high ballasted boats.

A lifting keel is a large fin that is hinged at the bottom of the boat and can be raised above water level when sailing. This gives more flexibility to the boat’s motion so that it can move more easily through waves. A centerboard is similar to a rudder but has no hinge point—it slides up into the hull of your boat when you want it out of the way (to go in shallow waters or when docking).


Now you know what a keel is, but there are so many different kinds of keels that it can be hard to keep track of them all. The following types of boats will give you a good idea of how they work:

  • Deep-draft keels have a very large draft, which makes them stable and able to travel quickly in rough waters. They’re popular in racing boats because they provide stability and speed, making them easier to control than other types of vessels (which may not have been designed for racing).
  • Hull-mounted winged keels are similar to deep-draft models but with fewer moving parts; these wings act as fins that stay parallel with each other as the boat moves through water. They’re easy-to-use yet still provide plenty of lift and speed!
  • Fin hulls use rudders or hydrofoils mounted on top rather than at the bottom like traditional models do—this lets them go faster without sacrificing safety because there’s less drag on water surface area

In conclusion, there are many types of keels available for sailboats. The majority of keel boats have a single fin or rudder mounted at the bottom of their hull. Fin keels are usually found on larger vessels, while wing and skeg-hung rudders can be found on smaller boats. Bilge keels and twin keels have become popular recently because they’re effective at providing more stability while still keeping costs low through standardization across multiple sizes of boat design.

Takeaway: A lifting centerboard is an excellent choice if you like to sail in shallow waters where a fixed keel would be difficult or impossible.”


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