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Old 10-12-2010, 10:33   #1
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Gaff Rig and Junk Rig - Controling Twist

I have been doing a fair amount of research on different rigs and found a book where the author has less than no use for gaff rigs, but likes the junk rig.

My question it if one put a second sheet on the gaff similar to the sheets on the battens of a junk rig, would you get better performance than either of the others (ability to control twist, better sail shape, less weight aloft)?
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Old 10-12-2010, 10:54   #2
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For whatever it's worth, I was pretty interested in junk rigs for a while. I love the look, including more modern vessels with modern hull and deck designs.

After a good deal of research it became apparent (for me personally) a couple of facts:

- The modern sloop (and its variants, like a ketch and a cutter) are popular for very good reasons in regards to the combinations of flexibility, cost, ease of use, and performance. This is not to say that more exotic (and at one time more common) rigs do not have their merits (like reefing from the cockpit), but that when you analyze a variety of factors, a three pointed sail hauled up on a single halyard, tacked to a boom or the deck, and with a single clew on line with a knot on the end, is hard to beat.

- I'll get a junk when I'm a shipwright and/or rigger. With something exotic and different, you are on your own. You're on your own when it comes to boats in general, but your ability to find anyone who can work on it, build sails for it, rig it, inspect it, and insure it, go down dramatically. It's also harder to find crew because 99% of all sailors on the water have no idea how to work a junk. And even if you can master the basics, how much heavy weather knowledge is there in regards to junk rigs? Of the annals covering heavy weather and storm management I don't think I've come across a single page that documents proven strategies for non-standard rigs.

- I just bought a used sail (drifter) for $295 from Minny's in Long Beach. Try to find a used (or even new) junk sail, anywhere. Don't even bother trying to find a high quality used one for a good price.

In no way would I discourage you from getting the boat you want, but sailing around a big ocean has plenty of problems and challenges even if you're on something standard and plane-jane. Every complication you make creates one more obstacle and unless you are really good in that area (like a gasoline engine mechanic preferring to have a gasoline engine, etc), I'd vote to stay on the side of what everyone else is doing. Especially when it comes to things as critical as your rig and hull design.
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Old 10-12-2010, 11:33   #3
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Apart from alot of extra sheets and more weight aloft (but shorter masts),the junk rig has alot going for it.Its true you need to do more rigging on your own,but don't let that stop you.The advantage of more sail area higher up is that it catches the wind better when in the troughs of the swells( a disadvantage of smaller marconi rigged boats).To control twist its a matter of setting the sheetlets at the right length through the euphroe blocks.If the sail tears it is limited to the one panel only,just keep sailing.Heavy weather sailing is easier with a junk as you never need to leave the cockpit.I sailed a junk rig to Mexico,across to Hawaii and back to Vancouver with no previous experience with junks,as a teenager,and it was as easy it can get.Check out Tom Colvin and Hasler for rigging setups.
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Old 10-12-2010, 12:32   #4
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Thanks for the input.

My question was more about adding a sheet to the gaff and how it would affect performance.
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Old 10-12-2010, 17:05   #5
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It matters whether you are talking about a loose footed sail without a boom or whether you are looking at something with a boom. With a boom, sail shape is dictated by the tension in your peak halyard. The goal is to have a sail without a wrinkle between the throat and clew or between the tack and peak. Some gaff rigged boats will have a downhaul or a gooseneck combined with throat halyard tension which can be used to adjust your luff tension but many older boats do not have one and rely on the weight of the boom. In my opinion, the best results would be had by adding a traveler so that you could drop it to leeward and pull in the head of the sail. Some schooners actually have a sheet running from the end of the gaff of the foresail to the mainmast head but that is really rare. It is worth noting that many older offshore vessels used 2 sheets which allowed them to hold the boom firmly in place on most points of sail and can be used to control twist somewhat.

If the rig doesn't have a boom, it will typically be setup with 2 sheets, one a side. I have sailed a boat that had 2 sheets a side, one that acted like a typical sheet and another that was simply used to pull down on the clew. This provided much better sail control but it was a complete pain to tack.
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Old 10-12-2010, 17:43   #6
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It is not uncommon for gaff rigged schooners and even some gaff ketches to have a gaff vang. It is essentially the second sheet you ask about. Roger Taylor was a strong proponent of a gaff vang. They do require some distance aft to lead effectively as their natural pull is mostly down (to the deck) rather than laterally like a sheet. I often wondered about their effectiveness but if it's twist control that is desired, then they seem to have some beneficial effect (at twist control if not sail efficiency).
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Old 10-12-2010, 18:10   #7
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High seas!! cool to hear kind words about the junk rigs abilities.
many unkind words have been said about the rig by people who havnt put the sea miles on them. Im not trying to win the world over on Junk rigs... although the world would be a more interesting place with more traditional sails and less plastic sloops with blue sail covers...
"Make no mistake, the lash feels the same in any navy"
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