Freedom 44

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Illustration by Jim Ewing

Illustration by Jim Ewing

Throughout the centuries, sailors have rigged boats in countless ways. Besides sloops and schooners and square-riggers, there’s the lateen rig, the lug sail and the leg-o-mutton among the myriad spar-and-canvas configurations. In the 1970s, American naval architect Garry Hoyt drew on one of yachting’s oldest rigs, the cat-ketch, to create the Freedom series of cruising sailboats.

The cat-ketch has two tapered masts, usually with no standing rigging and no headsails. The design, used in Pacific proas and smaller Chinese junks, came into use in America in the 19th century on working craft. With the simple, inexpensive cat-ketch rig, boats such as Connecticut’s New Haven sharpie and New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay garvey became popular as one- and two-person fishing and shellfishing boats.

Hoyt grew up seeing those boats on Barnegat Bay. As an adult, the ad executive-turned-yacht designer (and Olympic sailor and Sunfish class world champion) set about creating a cruising sailboat using the cat-ketch rig. He collaborated with naval architect Halsey Herreshoff; Hoyt designed the spar and sail plan, while Herreshoff drew a hull to go with it. The result was the Freedom 40, which debuted in the mid-1970s.

It was revolutionary. The keel-stepped, unstayed masts carried a wishbone or conventional boom. Proponents cited the lack of shrouds and stays in reducing weight aloft, while the unstayed masts were said to flex in strong winds, depowering the sail and lessening heel. The design also performed well: A Freedom 40 was the cruising class winner at the ensuing Antigua Sailing Week.

The Freedom 44 debuted in the early 1980s as the ultimate expression of the type. Its flush-deck design added room to the cabin, which had a V-berth master stateroom, a salon with berths, and a galley. As one reviewer wrote, the Freedom 44 “makes for a wonderful, short-handed, fast passage cruiser that can easily be handled by two, but also has room for the whole family.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue.