A yawl is a two-masted sailing craft whose mizzen, or aft-most mast, is shorter than the mainmast. The word yawl was first recorded in the 1600s and derives from the Dutch jol. Historically the term was also used for a ship's boat with oars.[1]

A yawl is similar to a ketch, but a yawl's mizzen mast is set further aft and its mizzen sail is smaller,[2] about one quarter the size of the mainsail,[3] compared to the mizzen sail of a ketch, which is about half the size of the mainsail. A boat with a mizzen sail sized between that of the ketch and the yawl was called a dandy, although this term has fallen out of use.[3] An advantage of the yawl's aft-positioned mizzen mast is that its boom does not swing across the deck.[4]

The yawl was originally developed for fishing boats, for example the Salcombe Yawl.[5] While the classic looks of the rig is considered attractive, it is less efficient than a ketch,[6] and is rarely seen on modern yachts.[7]

Yawls were built for yacht racing in the 1950s and 1960s because of a handicapping loophole where boats were not penalized for having a mizzen sail. The design became popular with single-handed circumnavigators like Francis Chichester and Joshua Slocum[8] because the sail-plan was advantageous in a tail wind and helped keep the boat on course, although the latter function is today better performed by modern autopilot systems.[8]

Concordia yawls have been successful racing vessels, as was Dorade, Stormy Weather, and Olin Stephens' Finisterre.


  1. "Yawl". dictionary.com. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  2. "Yawl". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  3. Dear, I. C. B.; Kemp, Peter (2007). The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191727504. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  4. Folkard, Henry Coleman. Sailing Boats from Around the World : the Classic 1906 Treatise. Dover Publications. p. 62. ISBN 9780486311340. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  5. "History". Salcombe Yawl Owners' Association. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  6. "What's in a Rig? The Yawl". American Sailing Association. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  7. "Sailboat Rig Types: Sloop, Cutter, Ketch, Yawl, Schooner, Cat". Jordan Yact and Shop Co. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  8. "The Magic of the Mizzen". Yawls. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
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