sailing rig wars

Choices!  Gotta love'em.  Now that I have my Skerry hull build underway, time to start saving up for the sailing rig.  I'm a pretty experienced sailor with a lot of solo miles in my 30' cruiser/racer on the Chesapeake, and small dinghy/Sunfish time as a kid.  For use on the Bay by a performance oriented sailor, is the gunter sloop rig worth the extra money and time for the performance?  Or is the lug or sprit going to give me similar bang for less buck?  Keep in mind I could well be out in the Bay or river and need to think about ease of reefing in the event of high wind.  

Varnish wars are traditional in the late winter in my boating circles so why not rig wars too!

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RE: sailing rig wars

After 40 years on the water but only 1 season of sailing I'm utterly unqualified to talk about rigs. I’m going to anyway, because rig wars!

There are evangelists for the lug on dingy sailing forums around the web who claim one or another lug rig is almost as good on the wind as a sloop. And they have lots of varying advice on halyard and downhall positioning for best performance. What I can attest to as a sailing nube is the ease of on the water sail handling with the balanced lug and un-stayed mast.

John H. weighs in here:

RE: sailing rig wars

   Sawdust, I'll be interested in hearing more about your build, your choice of rigs, and your sailing experiences since I'll likely be acquiring or building a Skerry in the next year or so. And though I'm the polar opposite of an expert on sail rigs, essentially a sailing novice with a few lessons under my belt occurring so long ago that they're largely forgotten, I'm wondering if you haven't already answered your question with that requirement for "ease of reefing in the event of high wind" when out in middle of the Chesapeake. Isn't reefing an impractality/impossibility with the rigs available to you, but for the lug rig? I'm asking because I expect to be making the same kind of decision. It's seemed that everything I've come across so far for a small sailboat like a Skerry says reefing = lug rig. Thanks for the post and I'm looking forward to the responses.

RE: sailing rig wars

   I too must admit to absolutely no stick time with any of these choices. However the sliding gunter is pretty close to a gaff rid sloop which gives two ways of reducing the effectiveness of the rig w/o tying in a reef. The jib can be over trimmed to back wind the main or the peak halyard can be slacked to twist the top part of the main down wind (scandalized).

I too have looked with interest (lust) at the Skerry and wondered if slacking the sprit would have much effect in stronger winds. Of course removing the sprit would pretty much cut the sail in half but leave you with a big slab flapping in the breeze. I'm looking forward to more info on this subject.


RE: sailing rig wars

A little followup to my earlier post - I recemtlly viewed  this film of Neil Calore's adventure in Florida waters. It was posted by Curt(Moonchaser) in the current thread exploring the idea of partially decking a NE Dory. It may be a perfect example of the getting caught out away from shore in serious wind. Neil seems to do quite nicely with his reefed lug rig and it sure got my attention. 

It sounds like that was quite an evening for Neil. By the way, that little series of film clips he put together documenting his Florida adventure (of which this film is a part) is well worth one's time.

RE: sailing rig wars


   I know sloops, though not gunter sloops specifically.  The upper spar goes almost completely vertical rather than out at an angle like a regular gaff.  With a standard boom, I'd rig reefs much like a normal marconi or bermuda rig sloop.  I assume (?) you have to repeak the gunter spar when you shorten sail, but I'd need to look closely at it. I understand a main reason for the gunter rig is to keep the spars short enough to fit in the boat.  If I were to forego that advantage, I assume I could make my own standard sloop rig.  Since I'll be cartopping this boat, the shorter spars are a nice thing, though.

The sprit I guess you "scandalize" to reduce sail.  The lug, I'd have to stare at a bit to figure out.


RE: sailing rig wars


Keep IT Simple Sailors!!!

Of all the rigs to choose from for the Skerry I would, and I am, choosing the balanced lug for my build. My reasons for choosing are mostly based on the old acronym above (slightly modified for the thin skinned). The balanced lug for this boat is designed to be free standing with minimal rigging. No extra halyards, stays, sheets, cleats and lines to deal with in comparison with the Gunter Sloop rig. You will be on the water faster, you will be able to rig easier and can step down your entire rig quickly if  the weather gets really nasty to go to oars or anchor.

It is a safer sail to jibe due to the resistance created by the sail area forward of the mast which acts like a brake by the resistance created. The low center of effort will benefit the stability of the low displacement to sail area ratio of the Skerry. It is a very efficient sail as it carries a lot of square footage low to the water surface where the air is lighter than several feet above surface (watch seabirds flying into a head wind / always low to the water surface) therfore,it will drive a boat this size better than most any with optimal sail area lofted.  You will be able to loft the more sail area and reef later with the lug due to the low center of effort while maintaining better drive because of the larger sail area low to the  surface.  For many or all of these reasons you will not need to reduce or reef sail on the balanced lug before you would on the sloop.

As for reefing the lug it should be no more difficult if rigged and configured correctly than a sloop rig with a goose neck boom. Practice and efficiency would be the only thing limiting anyone from doing so with any rig.

That's what my decision is based on. . . Hope that helps,



RE: sailing rig wars

   Gunter Sloops are more common outside the US I'm told. The Dinghy Cruising Association is based out of the UK, and their website happens to have a free download sample of their quarterly journal. Page 52 shows how reefing a Gunter sloop main can be done.


Putting up with the complication might be worth it for the short spars for a "performance oriented sailor" like yourself.

RE: sailing rig wars

   Yep, I'd probably go straight for the lug rig in an area with more consistent breeze than the Chesapeake summers.  I started learning on an old plywood Sailfish back around 1970 or so...a kit put together by my aunt, so maybe kit boats are in the genes!  Although the lateen spars were fairly heavy, the nice thing was being able to rig it by putting the lateen down w/ the neck over the mast hole, drop the mast in the hole, pull up sail, done.  


Chesapeake summers, however, often have one searching for every little whisp of wind, so a bit higher rig might be nice.  I intend to only have oars and sail for this boat, even though I do have a small outboard stored away.  Since I may be making real passages in this boat, not just sailing around the launching area, sailing in light air, while coping with some summer storms are likely the two bookends of my performance envelope.

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