A ketch is a two-masted sailboat whose mainmast is taller than the mizzen mast (or aft-mast), generally 40-foot or bigger. The name ketch is derived from catch. The ketch's main mast is usually stepped in the same position as a sloop.
Its sail-plan is similar to that of a yawl, on which the mizzen mast is smaller and set further back. The addition of headsails can makes a cutter-ketch. In New England, in the 1600s the ketch was a small coastal craft. In the 1700s it disappeared from contemporary records, apparently replaced by the schooner.
A ketch rig has an advantage over a sloop downwind, and in heavy winds where it has more variety of setups than a sloop, but is less efficient than a sloop upwind. Staysails can also be hoisted between the top of the mizzen mast and base of the main mast to help downwind performance, and in heavy winds the mainsail can be dropped altogether leaving the boat stable under foresail and mizzen alone. Dropping the mainsail and operating under mizzen and foresail or even mizzen alone, leaves the central area of the boat free for working without intrusion of the mainsail boom.
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