Number 141 / February 2003

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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Sails And Rigging (DaveP)

Lugsails are not quite good enough to windward to win races against Bermudan rigged boats but they do have advantages that we think make them more suitable for serious cruising. The spars are comparatively short so the rigs fold up nice and small. Because the sails are rectangular you can get the same sail area lower than if you were using a triangular shape and most importantly in a ketch, the mainsail can be lowered remotely. You can't get up and walk round in a canoe. This becomes more significant when cruising, when two masts are preferable. They

leave the middle of the boat clear either for two people or for gear and the mizzen is very useful holding the boat head to wind when you are raising or lowering the mainsail. It looks good too.

A Bermudan ketch rig has some disadvantages, unfortunately. Our Bermudan sails have no halyards; the sail is reefed, set and furled by rotating the mast. This is very efficient and tidy but you have to be able to reach the mast to turn it. There are ways of doing this remotely but they introduce a lot of extra complication. If you could guarantee that you were always going to sail two up so that the front person could get at the mast, then a Bermudan ketch would make a lot of sense. It also makes sense in a trimaran where getting forward to the mast is not so alarming. A reefing drum might work but for the kicking strap which controls twist in the sail, important not only for performance but also in reducing heel and preventing the 'death roll' in downwind sailing.

Boomless sails seem to have something going for them in our small craft. Booms are a terrible nuisance, they hit you on the head from time to time and they're an extra piece of gear. Nearly everyone has them but perhaps they are masochists or else they have been hit on the head so many times that they have got too stupid to do anything about it. On the other hand maybe they know what they are doing. An unboomed sail will only set well close hauled if at all. On any other point of sail the bottom of the sail will be over sheeted and the top will be under sheeted. The sheet will be harder to hold, there will be a lot of heeling effect, the boat will be slower than it should and it will be more prone to rolling and the sail will need more fiddling to try and get the best out of it (and the best won't be very good).

Now, many traditional boats used this type of rig but a boom on these boats would have got in the way of what the boat was for - say fishing. There is no point being able to sail efficiently to and from the fishing grounds if you can't fish when you get there. Also these boats were beamy and stable and they weren't trying to keep up with better-rigged boats. A boom doesn't stop us doing what we want to, which is just to sail fast and be comfortable.


Musings (RoyB)

Having a space to fill on the last page, I thought I might try your indulgence with some general thoughts.

1. The notion, occasionally expressed, that our boats, varying so much in shape and rig, constitute a 'class' seems far-fetched.
2. Let's not attempt to create an OCSG 'class'.
3. New venues that suit our requirements, though difficult to find, are refreshing. Hooray for Rother Valley and wherever we're going in Scotland! I look forward to re-visiting Derwentwater, too.
4. If one wants to learn how to sail, a canoe is probably not the best craft to do it in. A 'Topper', for example, is more stable and can be righted much more easily. Kids seem to be able to mess about in them with little bother.

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