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Old 07-04-2011, 21:05   #1
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Cutter with No Bowsprit

I recently saw a cutter rig with no bowsprit. Correct me if I'm wrong but it seems like it's more common to have a bowsprit on a cutter rig.

If there is no bowsprit what would be the pros and cons?

Does this mean that there is less sail area?
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Old 07-04-2011, 21:54   #2
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Re: Cutter with no bowsprit

I think what makes it a cutter is that the forestays aren't structural. I think a bowsprit allows more foresail and therefore a reduced mast height. They've been used on sloops too. One of the cons of a bowsprit is that you have to go out there to bring the sail down and there's no deck to catch you or the sail should things not go right.
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Old 07-04-2011, 23:44   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gorilliamos
I recently saw a cutter rig with no bowsprit. Correct me if I'm wrong but it seems like it's more common to have a bowsprit on a cutter rig.

If there is no bowsprit what would be the pros and cons?

Does this mean that there is less sail area?
Some purists insist on calling such a rig a "cutter-rigged sloop," or even a "staysail sloop." Such rigs have a sloop's higher aspect. They seem to be becoming more common all the time, especially on larger boats.
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Old 08-04-2011, 00:10   #4
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Re: Cutter with no bowsprit

Right. And it's not so much the bowsprit as the placement of the mast - further aft in a traditional cutter than a traditional sloop (sloops usually had bowsprits, too).

I think it's overly pedantic, myself, to get all worked up about this terminology. It's true that what we call a cutter is quite different from a traditional cutter, and possibly this rig is not so much different from what we call a sloop today to need a separate term. But what we call a sloop is also quite different from a traditional sloop. So I think "double-headed sloop", "staysail sloop", and "cutter" are all approximately equally wrong, according to strict traditional definitions, when applied to our boats. So I, personally, am happy to say "cutter", as that is what most modern sailors understand.
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Old 08-04-2011, 00:19   #5
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Re: Cutter with no bowsprit

One other thing - the reason we have moved away from traditional rigs is (a) we figured out that high aspect ratios equal performance to windward; and (b) we developed ballasted keels and then fin keels and underbody shapes which balance a taller rig and develop hydrodynamic lift which allows us to get the benefits of that higher aspect rig. So masts got taller and bowsprits mostly disappeared.

Look at the keel and underbody of a traditional wooden cutter from the 19th c. There's nothing to balance a tall mast, so canvas is spread out more horizontally and as low as possible. And that worked fine because the underbody wouldn't produce enough lift to use the windward ability of a taller rig anyway.
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Old 08-04-2011, 00:40   #6
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Re: Cutter with No Bowsprit

Thank you so much for your replies! Again I'm blown away by the community and speed of response here on this forum.
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Old 08-04-2011, 02:08   #7
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Re: Cutter with No Bowsprit

My Bluewater-Blackwatch cutter had a bowsprit, but that's not necessary for the type.
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Old 08-04-2011, 02:35   #8
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Re: Cutter with no bowsprit

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
(snip to)

Look at the keel and underbody of a traditional wooden cutter from the 19th c. There's nothing to balance a tall mast, so canvas is spread out more horizontally and as low as possible. And that worked fine because the underbody wouldn't produce enough lift to use the windward ability of a taller rig anyway.
Pondering it a bit, if a vessel is making crossings, subject to heavy storms, it would make sense to keep the rigging lower, and to be able to dowse some of the sails. More control, easier for the heeling to spill off extra wind... Seems smarter, less stressful, safer than today's higher masts, while still allowing them to hang more cloth when the winds are light or fair. Or am I missing something?
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Old 08-04-2011, 03:57   #9
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Re: Cutter with No Bowsprit

Our bowsprit is 6 feet long and we do not go out there to douse the sail. We use a downhaul...some use furling.
One the one occaision someone had to go out on the bowsprit, you sit with your feet firmly planted on the sprit shrouds.
In any case some vessels have baby stays which gives the appearance of a cutter rig.
Fair Winds
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Old 08-04-2011, 04:31   #10
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Re: Cutter with no bowsprit

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Originally Posted by ProtectTheOcean View Post
Pondering it a bit, if a vessel is making crossings, subject to heavy storms, it would make sense to keep the rigging lower, and to be able to dowse some of the sails. More control, easier for the heeling to spill off extra wind... Seems smarter, less stressful, safer than today's higher masts, while still allowing them to hang more cloth when the winds are light or fair. Or am I missing something?
As stated above the only drawback is when trying to go upwind. The higher the aspect ratio, the taller the sail relative to it's width (there are different ways to measure this), the better the lift to drag ratio, which is what is important for trying to go upwind.

As you pointed out for crossings, optimizing your rig for upwind might not be your highest priority.

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Old 08-04-2011, 05:51   #11
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Re: Cutter with no bowsprit

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As stated above the only drawback is when trying to go upwind. The higher the aspect ratio, the taller the sail relative to it's width (there are different ways to measure this), the better the lift to drag ratio, which is what is important for trying to go upwind.

As you pointed out for crossings, optimizing your rig for upwind might not be your highest priority.
Agreed. High aspect rigs are important for racing vessels but don't make much sense for cruisers imho. For a start, cruisers are mostly off the wind where low down power is best, and when faced with a beat many choose to turn the switch anyway. Lower aspect rigs requires less draft and again, for cruisers, this is often beneficial.

As far as definitions of the cutter go (as opposed to a sloop with extra forestay etc), the one I observe is the placement of the mast step; on cutters, it's stepped at least 40% aft of the overall length on deck.
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Old 08-04-2011, 12:27   #12
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Re: Cutter with no bowsprit

Here is low aspect although probably not what you had in mind:

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Old 08-04-2011, 13:17   #13
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Re: Cutter with No Bowsprit

There is no relationship between the bowsprit or lack of one and the cutter rig.

But, historically, many boats had bowsprits and many boats were cutter rigged, so ...

Newer boats will use bowsprits to fly the asymmetric sail. Also, newer boats do not need the bowsprit as the modern mast can me built tall, light and stiff and, in some conditions, a tall sail is more desirable than the same amount of sail area spread fore and aft.

Some cruising boats will use "bowsprits" - very often in a form of ashort platform, to store gear - e.g. anchors.

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