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The Cross 24 trimaran featured a keel — certainly an unusual thing among tris. But sailor Ian McGehee, who really loved sailing his Cross 24 years ago, was a fan of this particular feature. And he shares why (along with a few photos of his old boat) below.

Thanks for sharing these vintage photos (and the details that go with them) with us Ian.


Cross 24 Trimaran Keel
by Ian McGehee

Finally getting around to scanning some old pics and ran across these that may be of interest to small tri site readers … for all the pictures of various Norm Cross tris out there, I don’t recall ever seeing any pictures of his fixed keel design.

The boat is Cross 24 hull # 7 “Nomeke”, which according to the man himself was the first of his designs ever built using glass and epoxy over ply, in 1965.

As you can see, the Cross keel has a very low aspect ratio compared to fin keels commonly seen on similar sized monohulls…the boat’s draft was right about two feet. Not only did the keel make for exceptional windward performance that as far as I could tell was very comparable to almost all but the most high performance monohull designs, the boat tracked beautifully and could easily be steered with the sails after lashing off the tiller.

Cross 24 Trimaran with Keel

Cross 24 Trimaran with Keel (Another View)

Other things worth noting:

The extremely lightweight Ronstan rudder hardware that was purposely selected to allow the rudder to break away in extreme groundings, collisions with floating debris, etc. rather than letting the transom get seriously damaged…

I was always a little bit wary of these parts because they were exactly what you’d find on racing dinghys half this boat’s size, but they were original and never gave one bit of problem or showed any signs of movement or stress- not even when I pushed the boat hard enough once while extended surfing on a powerboat wake on a reach that the (non-original) laminated tiller literally exploded from the strain involved in keeping it in the pocket. This was coincidentally the only time I ever got close to burying an ama or ever had ANY concern about the boat staying upright- the water only just got up to the top of the shroud chainplate.

In the sailing pic (taken from a friend’s Searunner 31 as I passed him, mwahahahaha!) you can see that the mast is stepped a bit aft of where it might be expected on a similar monohull sloop…combined with crew weight and the relatively low aspect rig with big main (the boom was nearly 14 feet long) and small headsail, this gave the boat a slight bow-up attitude underway that kept any tendency to want to pitchpole or hobbyhorse when driven hard to a minimum and made for a lot of fun with any kind of following sea.

Cross 24 Trimaran Under Sail

Two more things worth mentioning- if you have a non trailerable small tri that needs to be hauled out in a traditional manner and you’re lucky enough that it will fit on a Travelift (this one had less than a handful of inches on either side and was the first tri this yard had ever hauled with theirs), be aware that the second it comes out of the water it’s going to naturally want to turn turtle…might seem obvious to some, but neither I nor the operator had anticipated it and it made for a few crazy moments involving boathooks and lots of yelling.

Also, anyone who sails a Cross 24 might want to know that those big white plastic mooring balls used all over the place are just about two inches wider than the narrowest part of the gap between the main hull and ama on this boat- something I learned the hard way while singlehanding off my mooring under sail one day, or trying to…

All in all I can’t say enough good things about this design, it is pretty much perfect as far as balance between predictability/safety and performance go and had tons of interior space for a 24 footer, not to mention plenty of lounging room for guests on deck…yeah, there’s more hydrodynamically advanced offerings out there nowadays, but I firmly believe that were one of these built today using modern lightweight materials and rig it would still be very competitive with many of the newer boats of this size, and would no doubt flat-out smoke some of them in certain conditions.

— Ian

PS – I added in the interior shot of my 6’4″ tall friend Joe to dispel the rumor that you just can’t get comfortable down below on a tri of this size :)