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Old 19-12-2014, 14:10   #1
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It's About Cutters

Billed as the fastest of the sailboats, the cutter with pulling power dead center of the hull, a bowsprint to ad to the reach, mostly interesting to me is the gaff rig with possibly two topsails; who can extol the virtues of the 40 to fifty foot cutter, gaff rigged sailboat?


Especially the circumnav. comfort of it.


I'm worried that by the time I sell my house, that schooner I'm watching will be sold.
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Old 19-12-2014, 14:32   #2
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Re: It's About Cutters

I don't have a Gaff, but I love my cutter. Fast, easily reefed and balanced.
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Old 19-12-2014, 14:40   #3
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Re: It's About Cutters

Other than the traditional look I see very few virtues in a gaff. Definitely not enough to justify the additional: weight, chafe, rigging and lower windward performance.

Cutter rig on the other hand is my preferred cruising rig. Almost as many sail options as a ketch, just as easy to shorten sail and maintain a balanced sail plan, but simpler rig and better upwind performance. Plus downwind you don't have a mizzen blanketing the other sails.

NOTE: Yes I know that these statements are generalities and one can certainly say for some specific boats that Ketch X points better than Cutter Y or Ketch A sails better downwind than Cutter B.
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Old 19-12-2014, 14:47   #4
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Re: It's About Cutters

Love my cutter. Not gaff rigged. Main, staysail and Yankee is a great combination for cruising. Easy to sail, easy to tack, easy to reef and keep balanced. Could use a larger down wind sail.


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Old 19-12-2014, 14:57   #5
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Re: It's About Cutters

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tayana42 View Post
Love my cutter. Not gaff rigged. Main, staysail and Yankee is a great combination for cruising. Easy to sail, easy to tack, easy to reef and keep balanced. Could use a larger down wind sail.


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Got the same sail combo and love it but yes you do need something more for downwind or light airs. Have a new 135 and a big gennaker/drifter/reacher type sail that takes care of those situations.
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Old 19-12-2014, 15:41   #6
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Re: It's About Cutters

I see you are interested in a gaff rigged cutter for circumnavigation.

What follows is written to share, and is not posted to diminish your interest or desire for that kind of boat. I would happily sail on a gaffer, and if I found the right one, would be happy to sail it far.
____________

A matter of taste or visual appeal.

First I want to address the reason I would be happy to have a gaff rigged boat today.

To my eyes, the gaff rigged boats have a special appeal.

I suppose it is something about the traditional designs, mostly wood boats, and my appreciation for the history of sail.

There is also something about the sails. I find the gaff rig, with the large main, and several jibs AND a gaff topsail to be beautiful.

When I see a gaff rigged boat flying more than one jib, I like to count them and marvel at them as they line up in a duo or trio of "wings" for the boat. Lovely!

_______________

A matter of performance or technical shortcomings.

I don't claim any expertise in gaff rigged boats (I only like them and admire them) nor in rigging in general. But I have picked up a few things here and there that may answer some of your question about the rig, or address why they are not selected or seen on more boats today.

What follows is what I know or have learned from others I consider knowledgeable, and some of it or all of it could be debated by others who have more experience with gaff rigged boats or a different opinion of what is important.

The issues I know of regarding traditional (wood) gaff rigs are mostly in comparison to modern Bermudan rigs (Marconi rigs) that we see on most modern recreational sailing boats:

1. The extra weight of the gaff spar up aloft
2. The windage of the spar aloft
3. The windage of the external halyards that lift the gaff spar
4. The windage from the way the sail is bent on the mast (laced on or with wooden hoops)
5. The "dirty air" from heavy masts (big timber) and the way the sails draft behind the mast at the luff.
6. There is torque induced by the gaff spar.

Another way of looking at the issue is this:

Bermudan rigs are considered simpler (than a gaff rig) and are said to allow the boat to sail closer to the wind.

Since most sailboats now are used infrequently by people for recreation (rather than working boats), and usually shorthanded,it is obviously preferred by most to have the most simple and efficient rig and sail plan.

Since a lot of recreational sailors engage in racing (club or beer can or otherwise), they want to have boats that have the best possible performance to beat to the weather mark (rounding the bouys in a race).
__________

On subjects like this where I say something about the visual appeal of boats, I like to include at least one photo to illustrate and for others to enjoy.

Note:
The first photo shows a classic racing gaff cutter.
The second photo shows a modern gaff rigged boat with high tech sails. Something rarely seen.
The third photo is posted because I think the boat image is beautiful.
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Old 19-12-2014, 15:46   #7
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Re: It's About Cutters

Interesting boat. Link to page with photos en francais-
http://users.skynet.be/p.balta/etoilehori2.html
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Old 19-12-2014, 16:12   #8
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Re: It's About Cutters

Here is a photo of a lovely Gaff Cutter that looks fantastic. I sure would love to go for a sail on this one.

I do hope you will click on this thumbnail to see the image as large as possible. It is a beauty.

Partridge
Cutter Partridge Designer(s): J Beavor Webb Type of Boat: Gaff Cutter Year Built: 1885 Built by: Camper & Nicholson, Gosport, UK LOA m / ft: 21.88m/71'7" LOD m / ft: 14.9m/49' 2" LWL m / ft: 12.7m/41' 7" Beam m / ft: 3.19m/10' 5" Draft m / ft: 2.58m/8' 5" Sail Area: 250msq. Displacement: 28 tons.
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Old 19-12-2014, 17:15   #9
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Re: It's About Cutters

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
Other than the traditional look I see very few virtues in a gaff. Definitely not enough to justify the additional: weight, chafe, rigging and lower windward performance.

Cutter rig on the other hand is my preferred cruising rig. Almost as many sail options as a ketch, just as easy to shorten sail and maintain a balanced sail plan, but simpler rig and better upwind performance. Plus downwind you don't have a mizzen blanketing the other sails.

NOTE: Yes I know that these statements are generalities and one can certainly say for some specific boats that Ketch X points better than Cutter Y or Ketch A sails better downwind than Cutter B.
The only advantage I can see on the gaf is lowering the center of effort of a lot of sail. More work, cost etc as noted. We have a cutter rigged Ketch. The mizzen is useful on certain points & provides the opportunity for a mizzen staysail. I find this way more effective than the mizzen sail itself. Up wind the mizzen is useless. Our boat was made to run on the trades.

With a good 135% jib we do well to windward.
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Old 19-12-2014, 17:30   #10
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Re: It's About Cutters

If you want a downwind circumnav, (coconut milk) a proper cutter with a small main, is not the most efficient rig. BUT if you look at that red boat you can get second thoughts, and they will be probably right. There are cutters and cutters.

Classic heavy gaff IS NOT a perfect downwind thing. Full stop. I would be the last to care, if I were to sail a beautiful boat that ticks off all other boxes.

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Old 19-12-2014, 17:33   #11
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Re: It's About Cutters

Nothing like going into 25-35 knots of wind with a staysail and a main... flat and fast...
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Old 19-12-2014, 17:52   #12
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Re: It's About Cutters

I own and cruise a gaff-rigged cutter, and can testify that for me it is far and away better as a cruising rig than any bermudian one. First off, as one of the pics above demonstrates, gaffers need not have heavy timber spars and wooden hulls. My hull is fiberglass, my spars mostly aluminum. That there is inherently more chafe in a gaffer than a marconi is a specious allegation. If carefully designed, and all lines led fairly, there needs be very little, if any, chafe at all. I have cruised for 5 years and over 12,000 miles without needing to replace halyards, and where there is unavoidable chafe, it is nothing that judicious modern chafe gear can't handle. The shorter mast contributes to not needing bowstring-tension on the shrouds, reduces weight an windage aloft, and gives her good bridge clearance. Weight aloft was also mitigated by using synthetic shrouds set up with deadeyes and lanyards. So my mast is 12 feet lower than the factory Cape George 31s, but carries 20 sq feet more main. Because of leech twist, you can carry the main safely lots farther downwind than you can a jib-headed main, and the mainsail makes a lovely driver, so that huge headsails are unnecesary unless in super light airs. So, lower mast, less rig tension, more sail area, lower CE, no need for halyard winches, cost savings (significant!), overall simplicity, and ease of repair make it the best option for me. I believe they lost popularity because everyone jumped on the jib-headed main bandwagon, and the fin-keeled, spade-ruddered, light-displacement racing boats that rig suits best. But for a proper full-keel sea boat, I believe there is no better rig, if done properly. Lots of photos and info on my boat, Ganymede, on my website and blog: zartman cruising dot com
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Old 19-12-2014, 19:42   #13
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Re: It's About Cutters

Wylo 35.5

Wylo 35.5 background
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Old 19-12-2014, 23:24   #14
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Re: It's About Cutters

We've been cruising on Avalon a 20 ton gaff cutter for the past 6 years. She is a close copy of Colin Archer rescue. The one thing that has yet to be mentioned is the rig as a whole is under a lot less tension
We always carry some main ( 1st reef @ 25-30) as it sits considerably lower given the square footage. As Cheech noted notin better than sheeting staysail & main hard in a blow ! So many combinations with staysail, jib, jib top , topsail & main . Switched to mast hoops from lacing & noted a improvement getting a reeef in a blow. All in all we have totally bought into the gaff rig . Granted sloging off a lee shore can be painfully slow but then everything aboard is carried about in a much relaxed manner , what cruising all about .
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Old 20-12-2014, 06:02   #15
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Re: It's About Cutters

As the owner of a classic design, the satisfaction is bound up in the appreciation of the elegance of traditional design. She's not go fast but she is certainly comfy underway. I don't have a gaffe rig on her but can see the utility of a lower aspect rig in winds over 15 knots. A gaff, cutter rigged ketch or schooner is a powerful rig on a reach. The necessary patience of operating a classic just harkens back to a slower more simple time in history. That said, my brother just dumped his classic woody for a hotrod jboat....now I will have to leave the anchorage a day ahead of him if we want to hang out with him.
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