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I know the 424 is a capable cruiser however I’ve never sailed a ketch so would like to hear from those who own 424 “cutters” and “ketchs” and get a feel for the sailing characteristics of the two.

I own a 1981 Pearson 424 ketch rigged sailboat. I have sailed it through much of the Bahamas, Caribbean, Houston, Tx to CT, Offshore Stamford, CT to Ft Lauderdale where I kept it for the winters, then back to Stamford, CT for the summers, Stamford, CT to Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, etc.

Single-handed from Ft Lauderdale through parts of the Bahamas & back to Ft Lauderdale, Stamford, CT to Camden, Maine & return, Stamford to Nantucket & return several times, etc

The Pearson 424 ketch rig is delightful for short handed sailing! My experience is I usually sail with only the furling genoa & mizzen most of the time, except when on on a broad reach in heavy winds winds in excess of 25 – 30 knots, or on a run. Then the mizzen is usually lowered when on a run. When sailing in heavy winds I partially furl the jib as necessary. This system has worked well for me in winds up to 50 kts. Usually I use the main only in winds from 8 – 20 kts.

The beauty of using the mizzen with the jib is the vessel remains balanced with little loss of of hull speed in winds from 15 – 20 knots. The 424 is extremely seaworthy and handles well. The cockpit is extremely comfortable which allows two people to sleep freely (one port & one starboard) while the third person is at the helm, For a day sail there have been as many as ten people in the cockpit.

I have a storm staysail track mounted on the main mast ( which I have never needed) The Pearson 424 has been designed by the architect (Shaw) to allow for a staysail in front of the mast to be added if so desired.

Since my wife is now suffering from arthritis, particularly her hands, I have reluctantly listed my vessel (Ketch Ya Later) for sale with a broker in Ft Lauderdale; namely, Voyage Atlantic Yachts, Inc.

If you have any interest, it is well maintained and updated.

Good luck with whatever you choose! New England was one of my favorite sailing grounds.It is the best and most varied sailing in the US.

Irin Paris,
Ketch Ya Later
10 Dec, 2001

Well I’ll take a stab at it. Hopefully there is someone on the list who has significant sailing experience on both cutters and ketches in the 40-45′ range, but that is unlikely. Most everyone will have experience with one of the rigs on their Pearson, and likely a sloop on their prior boat. I’ve only been sailing my ketch for two seasons, so I’m not a great authority on that rig and I have even less experience with a cutter.

To me the major trade-off between the two rigs is better windward and light air performance (cutter) against more easily managed sails and more boat trim options (ketch). The cutter does have one advantage that these folks took advantage of on their cruise – the staysail on the inner forestay for heavy air sailing. However the ketches can be retrofitted with an inner head stay as many current owners have done. With the P424 cutter you have the advantage that the rig was designed by the manufacturer rather than a retrofit. With a retrofit you must assess the quality of the installation that may have been performed by the owner. Of course manufacturers are probably more motivated to cut corners than the owners, so maybe that is no advantage here after all. Hope this helps.

John Stevenson,
10 DEC, 2001

I thought John’s comments were right on target and, just to add a few that relate to the 424 ketch rig:

Pearson’s marketing hype made the point that Bill Shaw designed the 424 with its original ketch rig for older (guess that includes Pat & I), short-handed couples to sail the East Coast & down thru the Caribbean, where winds can be strong but also variable. As I remember it, he designed the 365/424/530 split rig sail plan (I’ll omit the 323 for this comment) when large overlapping genoas & thin, tall mainsails were the more common rig de jure for new boats, believing the lower profile & split sail plan would be more easily handled by the small crew. The equipment & gimmicks available today to ease sail handling were far less in use at that time. I’d say he accomplished this goal, as Pat & I aren’t great physical specimens and we manage to handle the boat & its sails okay in the conditions we’ve seen to date. Our one ‘gimmick’ is a roller furling Genoa; we don’t even have lazy jacks.

To amplify just a bit on John’s comments about ‘more boat trim options’ for the ketch rig, I’d point to three useful features of our 424 ketch rig:

1. In heavier airs when not beating, we might find the jib & mizzen combination almost as fast & decidedly more comfortable and are very pleased we have this choice. Balanced, the remaining sails are easily handled and this sail plan is better prepared for a further increase in wind (e.g. when approaching a Cape or exiting one island’s lee for an open channel).

2. In light(er) airs, being able to fly a mizzen staysail (from approx. 60 degrees off the wind) adds a knot or more. It’s easily handled, you can tack the sail in the bag to the rail and semi-rig the halyard & sheet in advance so that the only action needed is to attach them and hoist the sail out of its bag – or the reverse.

3. Tho’ requiring a bit more effort – the damn bag is heavier! – flying an MPS/asymmetrical/cruising spinnaker up forward also has benefit in lighter winds…and you could say both it & the mizzen staysail are almost required for offwind sailing in lighter airs, as the ketch rig’s lower profile & small SA/D ratio is underpowered in lower winds, IMO.

We’ve had very little opportunity to hear from other 424 owners re: sail handling; what do you find & what are the best attributes of the rig in your opinion?

Jack Tyler
aboard WHOOSH
11 DEC, 2001

What follows is part of an evaluation that I did for a prospective owner. I didn’t copy most of the group; partly because I don’t want to get flamed. Jack asked for more opinions. Most people would say that I’m not short on that…

snip… Performance – The 424 is not a greyhound, but it is not a dog either. It is typical of vintage cruising boats. Performance under sail is similar to most 32 footers. She rates a PHRF 199 (cruising). There are several ways to improve sailing performance, but the ketch rig causes problems. The lack of a backstay tensioner prevents proper tuning of the rig. I don’t know of any way to add an effective backstay tensioner to a ketch rig. Without proper backstay tension, windward performance is mediocre. A sloop or cutter rig may be a better choice, but some people prefer the classic look of a ketch. If you expect to do a lot of upwind work in light air, expect to run the engine a lot. Relatively few sloops or cutters were made. The cutter was offered with a taller rig, and is probably faster than the ketch. I own a sloop, but she is really a ketch without the mizzen. I think they made a sloop with a taller rig, but I’ve never seen one. Many owners consider the mizzen useless. One owner even removed his. Others will refute this, claiming that the mizzen has advantages. I don’t have a mizzen and have no trouble balancing the boat. I considered adding a mizzen, but my rigger advised me to avoid it. He believes that the stick supplied by Pearson is too short to be effective. I put my money in better sails and a backstay tensioner.

The small rig is ineffective downwind in light air. The addition of a spinnaker or cruising spinnaker can significantly improve downwind performance. I use a cruising chute and am quite satisfied. The cruising chute adds a knot or more in speed downwind. Directly downwind is tricky to drive, and a broad reach is impossible. Remember that the apparent wind moves forward as boat speed increases though. There’s about 20 degrees on each side of downwind that you can’t sail with a cruising chute.

The 424 will move quite nicely under power, allowing you to plan 7kt cruising speeds. When mated with the correct propeller and a good engine in calm seas, she will drive the boat at hull speed under power (8.4kts). The huge propeller reduces performance under sail. Significant improvement under sail can be achieved by replacing the fixed propeller with a feathering or folding prop. I have a two-blade folding prop. I estimate that I gain a knot under sail, but lose a half-knot under power.

Rich Carter
Black Sheep, #47
12 DEC, 2001

I would add one comment to the windward performance of the Pearson 424. Given the underbody and keel configuration, coupled with the rail sheeting angle, the boat will never be a star to windward. As for utilizing a backstay tensioner, I would do so with caution. The stern attachment point for a sloop/cutter rig on the Pearson 424 occurs at a relatively weak spot in the hull/toe rail. As a matter of fact, on the Pearson we own, a true cutter, the stern toe rail oil-canned inward ( and stayed there) during a 45 knot downwind passage from Curacao to Cartagena. This has since been repaired, including new teak, and an incredibly strong aluminum grid attached/bonded to the inside of the stern to strengthen. I have elected (so far) NOT to install a back stay tensioner, instead opting for new sails and self-adjusting lead cars from Garhauer to optimize the 424 to windward. To mirror others, my experience with the staysail is that it gives a considerable boost in lighter airs when going to windward.

Tom Bartley

11 DEC, 2001

Good point about the backstay chainplate attachment being a weak point. I reinforce mine. I glassed in a plywood backing plate. Your experience has me wondering if I did enough.

Using the standard turnbuckle, you can only get about 2,000 lbs of tension on the backstay before damaging the threads. This is not enough tension for proper windward performance. In moderate winds (approx 15kts apparent), you need about 3000 lbs. In heavier air, you need about 4500 lbs. Proper tuning can improve windward performance by about 7 degrees. I occasionally race my boat, so I’ve had an opportunity to experiment. Seven degrees may not sound like much, but it is the difference between tacking within 95 or 81 degrees. You’ll only get 95 degrees with good sails.

Black Sheep