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Old 24-09-2021, 07:22   #1
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A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

A bar room argument is one that has no right answer but can be argued for hours on a barstool with no one caring too much about the outcome.

I've been thinking about fixed bowsprits and the arguments to support them keep going in circles. So here's my bar room argument for today. Why do fixed bowsprits make sense???

Why have a bowsprit at all?
Well, it extends the foot of a sail beyond the deck so you have more sail area of course!
Why do you need more sail area?
Because the boat is very heavy and it needs more canvas to get moving...
Ok, but if you have a heavy boat, wouldn't increasing the length of the hull provide more displacement to carry that weight AND give you more sail area?
But when you build a longer hull, you increase weight and need more sail area... so then you have to build a bowsprit...

And we go in a circle.

Another argument goes like this...

Why do you have a bowsprit?
Well, I can have a smaller boat, but have way more sail area of a much larger boat!
Yah... but don't you pay for slips, winter storage and canvas based on the overall length?
Hmmm... yeah, that is more expensive.
But you get the performance limitations/drag of a short water line, right?
Hmmm... yeah... that too.
But it looks pretty!

So from my bar stool, I can't think of a good case for a fixed bowsprit other than, "They look pretty." I keep coming to the conclusion that the boat is designed too heavy and I'll end up paying more for less performance. Feel free to support or oppose that opinion, I'm not attached to it.

(Please note, retractable bowsprits for downwind sails are not in scope.)


FWIW, I have no horse in this race, I was just pondering this last night while looking at pictures of a couple pretty boats.
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Old 24-09-2021, 07:43   #2
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

David Crosby extended the bowsprit on "Mayan" to counter a weather helm.
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Old 24-09-2021, 07:57   #3
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

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David Crosby extended the bowsprit on "Mayan" to counter a weather helm.
By moving the center of effort forwards, that would certainly work to compensate... but doesn't that must mean the design of the rig was in the wrong place to begin with (or maybe the center of lateral resistance was in the wrong place)? It seems like a method of compensating for a problem rather than providing added value.
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Old 24-09-2021, 08:37   #4
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

It also gives you a place to haul up the anchor without dragging it against the hull of your boat.
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:00   #5
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

genuine long bowsprit puts your sailplan focus on downwind/tradewind sailing.
Sprit gives plenty of room for Twinhead sails of a cutter rig.
Sprit thrusts your largest pulling sails into clean air ahead of the main and any mizzen.
Sprit moves the center of effort forward, helping to balance the boat and keep the Stern light in following waves in sporty tradewind conditions.
Sprit Increases the possible foot length of the foretriangle, then you can reduce the aspect ratio and mast height. reduces the workload on crew as well as rolling of the boat.
Low aspect-ratio rig is terrible for upwind/ downwind around the buoys racing, but very helpful for long distance downwind tradewind following seas conditions.

A nephew of Lyle Hess helped me install an 8 foot retractable bowsprit on my Santa Cruz 27 in 1990. It was a good way to help that boat on the spinnaker runs while keeping my marina cost to a minimum. My boat was as fast as a Santa Cruz 50, but difficult to control due to the massive power we could carry with only the tiny thin racing keel.
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:03   #6
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

They look cool!
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:05   #7
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

In a collision they act as a crumple zone, and in a lower speed collision, they reduce or eliminate damage to the hull. Oops.
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:14   #8
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

Thx for posting this Jordan! I knew little to nothing about bowsprit before now, although I have seen them and knew what they are called. I actually learned something today, and I guess I will not be installing one on my O’Day 22… oh well…
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:18   #9
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

A short bowsprit (2.5 feet) allows me to set a spinnaker without removing the furled genoa on a 40 foot boat.
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:20   #10
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

They allow a greater sail plan flexibility for a given hull size.
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:21   #11
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Symphony View Post
genuine long bowsprit puts your sailplan focus on downwind/tradewind sailing.
Sprit gives plenty of room for Twinhead sails of a cutter rig.
Sprit thrusts your largest pulling sails into clean air ahead of the main and any mizzen.
Sprit moves the center of effort forward, helping to balance the boat and keep the Stern light in following waves in sporty tradewind conditions.
Sprit Increases the possible foot length of the foretriangle, then you can reduce the aspect ratio and mast height. reduces the workload on crew as well as rolling of the boat.
Low aspect-ratio rig is terrible for upwind/ downwind around the buoys racing, but very helpful for long distance downwind tradewind following seas conditions.

A nephew of Lyle Hess helped me install an 8 foot retractable bowsprit on my Santa Cruz 27 in 1990. It was a good way to help that boat on the spinnaker runs while keeping my marina cost to a minimum. My boat was as fast as a Santa Cruz 50, but difficult to control due to the massive power we could carry with only the tiny thin racing keel.

Some of those are good points. Could they be achieved with a longer deck length... hmmm. If you have a fixed bowsprit, you are limiting your upwind capability in favour of downwind performance. Could you not achieve something similar with a retractable sprit and have the better performance on both points of sail?

Lowering the mast height and smaller working sails, those are pluses in my book... but can't those be accomplished through ligthening the boat some and or again, having a longer deck length? I mean... the reason the sails need to be so large is that the boat is heavy.

I think the real telling statement is that you built a retractable, not fixed, bowsprit. And that's where I see the benefits as well, but that digresses from original premise. A retractable sprit makes so much sense as you have the benefits up wind as well as downwind, and keep your costs down. When you start making it fixed, you start compromising... choosing downwind over upwind etc.


I don't know about you guys, but I spend more time going upwind than downwind on a day sail. I'd love to be able to only sail downwind... how do we do that in the Great Lakes? :-)
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:22   #12
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ArmyDaveNY View Post
They look cool!

Yes. yes they do.
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:23   #13
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

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In a collision they act as a crumple zone, and in a lower speed collision, they reduce or eliminate damage to the hull. Oops.

Lol, they may limit damage to YOUR hull... but the other guy gets harpooned?
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:30   #14
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

It feels that this "circular bar room argument" is one of those that happen only after abundant consumption of liquor...

One obvious advantage of the short "stub like" fixed bowsprits that are now popular is that they create separation between the tack of the asymmetric (or Code 0) and the forestay. Running jib and asymmetric from the same tack point is much more awkward, and it certainly would not make any sense to fly the jib from a stay that is not at the very bow of the boat. I think this advantage in itself more than justifies a fixed bowsprit.

Comparing sail area/performance of a boat with bowsprit to an hypothetical boat of equal length overall is not a fair comparison, since the latter boat would be way more expensive than the former.

Perhaps a more interesting "circular bar room argument" would be comparing the short "stub like" fixed bowsprits to longer, retractable bowsprits for the same boat.

My boat comes in two different configurations (fixed or retractable bowsprit, the retractable one is about twice as long as the fixed). I chose the fixed one. There is an identical boat on my dock with the retractable one.

Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and I do not think there is a clear winner, thus a very good candidate argument for a circular bar room discussion (regardless of the amount of liquor consumption).
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Old 24-09-2021, 09:31   #15
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Re: A circular bar room argument... how do fixed bowsprits make sense?

Fixed bowsprits are way better than broken ones
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