Chinese Junk Rig

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Wynand N, Nov 25, 2004.

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  1. Wynand N
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    Wynand N Retired Steelboatbuilder

    Hi everyone, :)

    Is the chinese junk rig worth considering?

    A lot has been said about the efficiency and simplicity of this rig and sailplan. Can it really goes to windward well?
    I have never came across a junk rig in my part of the woods so it is a complete mystery to me.

    How would such a rig work on a modern hull or should it be avoided like the plague? It is ugly though.

    Fair winds

    Wynand Nortje
     
  2. tonyr
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    tonyr Junior Member

    The standard work is Junk Rig, by Blondie Haslar and another guy (can't remember his name). If you are talking about small boats, Todd Bradshaw in "Canoe Rig" has a pretty good treatment of the subject, along with lots more.

    I looked at a junk approach for a 17 ft Whitehall sailboat, but decided that a fully battened balance lug was simpler and every bit as good. I have been pleased with the desision. For larger boats, Haslar makes a reasonable case. That is not to say that I would go that route, since there are so many easy-handling devices for sails out now that there seems to me to be little need.

    Tony.
     
  3. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    Chinese lug.

    Hi Waynand

    Of chinese junk rigged yachts, two examples come to mind. One is a folkboat so rigged called Jester the other is a stock design 'blue water' cruiser called Gazzele. One was used in the old OSTAR single handed transatlantic race (When it was still an interesting race of ideas rather than wallets). When Jester first appeared in what I believe to be the first race, she was the smallest in the fleet. She had a single, junk rig sail and an unsual cabin design that allowed her to be worked from below. She worked so well that she participated in at least five of those races. She never won or even placed, but she always finished. This fact alone should hint at some of the graces and shortcomings of this rig.

    The Gazzele was a Thomas Colvin design of the early '70's. She was a steel, chined, full keel schooner of about forty two feet. She carried two chinese lugs. The sails were so heavy that they had to be hoisted with electric winches. That being said, with her high stern and broken sheer, she was a salty looking thing and off wind and down wind she perfromed well.
    Upwind, I understand, she was not so hot. Her flat sails could point better standard cambered sails but they produced little drive. She would have to fall off a few degrees before she would start moving. I believe in any tacking duel, even with another full keeled schooner, gaff rigged, she would come up the loser. That being said, her sails did not flogg or flutter when she rounded up, and she could be reefed while still underway. Reefing was acomplished by simply slacking off on the halyard and, with her heavy battens, mean old mister gravity (who I have never known to conk out) would do the rest.

    As I see it, The beauty of this rig is that instead of having heavily loaded ropes and cables (with the exception of the halyard, of course), it has sturdy battens and light strings. It has a profusion of small or even tiny fittings (to control each batten), but these fittings are relatively simple and can be hand made in a pinch. The sail cloth only has to span between battens so does not have to be of the best quality. The mast is usually free standing because stays and shrouds tend to cause the mast to break at their attatchment points. Because free standing masts tend to be frowned upon in open water, they are sometimes fitted with loose shrouds that are designed with some stretch in them. Gazzele, I believe, had such shrouds. It is my speculation that the great weight of the rig, at least twice that of any other rig with a yard or gaff (according to Mr. Colvin himself), dampened the sharp pitching and snap rolling that would, otherwise, bring a free standing rig of more conventional design to grief.

    It seems once or twice a decade or so, I see this rig appear in a design reveiw. It appeared most recently in "Small Craft Advisory" Nov/Dec '04. It was for a micro cruiser (18ft) with deep water ambitions. As with what is typical of most recent appearences, it is a cat rig. It has a generous sail area of 247sft (23.4sm) for a loaded displacement of around 4000lbs (1818kg). It appears to have no shrouds. This boat is clearly not designed to win races (it doesn't even have a cockpit) but to go to far corners of the planet where standard yacht fitting may be very expensive (if they can be had at all) and making do is the order of the day. This is the use (in my humble opinion) that this rig is best suited.

    Bob

    "Efficiency and reliabillity are often opposits."
     
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  4. tonyr
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    tonyr Junior Member

    Nice long message with plenty of good information! I think you did a useful job in nailing the trade-offs with junk rigs. Jester, by the way, was Blondie Haslar's boat (see my earlier post).

    Tony.
     
  5. Tad
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    Tad Boat Designer

    See the following for info on Junk Rig

    While I generally agree with what has been stated above, there is a great deal of mis-information presented as well.

    Practical Junk Rig was written by HG (Blondie) Hasler & Jock McLeod, it is the most thorough coverage of the subject. Tom Colvin' various books, Cruising As A Way Of Life, and Steel Boatbuilding cover the subject in a different style. There is also a small book, The Chinese Sailing Rig, Designing & Building Your Own, by Derek Van Loan, which is a good primer on the subject and will provide good information to build an experimental rig.

    To paraphrase Phil Bolger writing 20 years ago, "I don't know much about the rig, but I am impressed by the quality of the people who advocate it." Haslar, McLeod, and Colvin have all sailed thousands of miles offshore with variations of the Chinese Balanced Lug Rig. I've sailed offshore with the rig and it's awesome. I note Bolger currently using his own variations of the Chinese Lug rig more and more.

    In the first OSTAR race, 1960, Haslar sailed Jester, a Folkboat with his modified rig and deck, to second place. He finished in 48 days, only 8 days behind first place finisher Francis Chichester in Gipsy Moth III, a 40' ocean racing yawl. Smallest boat in the 1960 race was Jean Lacombe's Cap Horn, 21', who finished in 74 days. The other two entrants were 25', equal to Jester, one was a standard Folkboat (63 days), and Cardinal Vertue, 56 days. But Haslar did even better four years later in the 1964 OSTAR, finishing in 37 days, again 8 days behind Chichester, but only 10 days behind Eric Tabarly in his 44' ultra light ketch, Pen Duick II.

    I'd say that was definitive proof of Colvin's contention, that the rig is equal or better to any "western" rig on a given hull. The idea that the sails are so heavy as to require powered winches to hoist is nonsense. Colvin would certainly not stand for that, and had no electricity aboard Gazelle. Multiple part halyards yes, but no powered winches required. The yard is heavy, but no more so than a gaff, and battens are light wood, aluminum or fiberglass tubing. Most of Colvin's Chinese Lug's carry a jib on a forestay; his masts also include shrouds, reflecting his use of steel or aluminum tubing for masts. Haslar/McLeod rigs are generally un-stayed, reflecting hollow built tapered wooden spars.

    The real beauty of the Chinese Lug sail is the ability to spread lots of sail area with a low center of effort. The sails can be large because they can be reefed and sheeted with zero effort. You can achieve average cruising performance with a rig made of very simple parts, no NC machined SS jewelry required. The likelihood of losing the rig because one tiny highly stressed part breaks no longer exists.

    Colvin's Gazelle below.


    All the best, Tad
     

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  6. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    junk rig

    Thanks Tad for setting the record straight. I guess I only remeber Jester's later races.

    And I wouldn't be surprised if I was also wrong about Gazzele's winches. I read about them such a long time ago.

    Other than that. I' sticking to my story.

    Bob
     
  7. K4s
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    K4s Junior Member

    An article in November 2004 issue of Boating New Zealand seems to be topical to this disscussion,Titled Loads of new Junk.
    K4s
    ps. Email:editor@boatingnz.co.nz or for back issues WWW.nzmags.co.nz
     
  8. aussiejoe
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    aussiejoe New Member

    I am considering buying a part completed 42 ft Colvin junk rigged Schooner for single-handed extended ocean cruising (I am 76) What does anyone think about it's suitability? Also how do you reef the large jib without going out on the 8.6 ft bowsprit? (can a roller reefer be fitted to it?)
    geoffrawson@hotmail.com
     
  9. Brent Swain
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    Brent Swain Member

    Junk Rig

    The name says it all.
    Friends who sailed with a junk rig for years, then switched to marconi ,said the marconi sailed far better , pointed much higher and was easier to sail. They were embarassed to have sailed so long with the junk rig.
    Other friends broke all their battens between BC and Frisco, then broke all their battens again between Frisco and Hawaii, then broke all their battens again between Hawaii and BC. They say chafe was a major problem. Both went for Marconi on their next boat.
    Junks go to windward at warp speed, speed only attainable by warping the truth. I have , along with other boats, sailed circles around junk rigged boats all day , proven by video evidence and many witnesses, only to have the owners later brag about having sailed circles around us all day.
    Allow for a huge ******** factor when listening to junk enthusiasts.
    While I can walk into most used equipment suppliers and walk out with a sail for under $300 and be sailing in an hour, there are few used sails available for junk rigs. Most have to be built from scratch. There is nothing simple about a junk rig . With over 300 ft of running rigging on a friend's 44 ft two masted junk schooner, it is anything but simple.
     
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  10. Manie B
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    Manie B Senior Member

  11. BeauVrolyk
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    BeauVrolyk Sailor

    Wynand,

    Unfortunately, "A lot has been said" that is simply wrong!!

    I have sailed a couple of boats rigged this way, many many years ago, and they fail on one key boat - complexity. They are neither "simple" nor are they "efficient".

    Let's start with "simple": There are lines running all over the place, the battens chafe on everything, especially along the mast and shrouds, and they have about as much drag going to windward as a square topsail schooner (one of my favorite rigs, but not a paragon of simplicity). The one "simple" thing about them is that there is only one sheet and because the rig is balanced, like a balanced spade rudder, that sheet has less load that a un-balanced rig, like a marconi or gaff. That said, for exactly and precisely all the same reasons that many cruisers dislike balanced spade rudders, cruisers should dislike the Junk Rig sail. Finally, if you look at any picture of a Junk Rig you should make a list of all the things rubbing on something else and imagine maintaining that mess.

    Let's finish with "Efficient": They aren't. Certainly, the Junk Rig does fine on a broad reach or run, where it is most similar to a square sail. But, on the wind, the place were efficiency really matters to most folks, it fails due to an inability to stabilize the leading edge of the sail. When sailing up wind you'll constantly be backwinding the sail, and unlike a marconi or gaff mainsail it won't just luff, it tries to tack the boat. Most Junks are set up with two sails, at least, precisely because a single masted Junk rig would tack at all sorts of embarrassing times. When sailing to windward you must set the forward sail to be stalled relative to the aft sail, meaning that you've sheeted it in too far. That way when the aft sail backwinds, and it can do it with a vengeance in a strong breeze and big seas, the forward sail will keep the bow of the boat pointed down wind and avoid an "auto-tack". If you sail with both sails trimmed to the correct angle, a small wind shift, like what you find at the top of a large wave at sea, can spin you around onto the opposite tack very quickly. This is not acceptable, from a safety perspective, in any serious boat.

    While it is certainly true that folks from China sailed these boats all over the world during the 1400s, it is NOT true that they would choose to do so if they'd had a modern rig. Keep in mind how the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria were rigged, would you sail such a boat on purpose, not hardly. There is a reason these rigs exist only in movies and amongst ancient boat fans, they're a pain. I would strongly suggest that you avoid them - seriously.

    Modern rig design is a massive improvement over what existed in the 14th through 19th century. They are simply safer, faster, more efficient, and less expensive.

    'nuf said,

    Beau
     
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  12. MastMonkey
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    MastMonkey Junior Member

    I too am a fan

    of the junk rig and am confused by the disparity of replies and information I read about it. Several accomplished sailors recommend it, yet others disparage it. I wonder if this is due to many Junk rigs being built and designed by amateurs?

    I am considering using it on a double outrigger sailing canoe rigged as a ketch and have ordered "Practical Junk Rig" to study it further. My interests comes from an interest in older style rigs but also by my need to reef the sail quickly. Thus, the Junk has appealed to me. Plus, I like the idea of sailing SF Bay with a Junk rig. I have never seen one on a boat here, but it used to be very common for working boats in the bay.

    Could one of you who suggests that alternatives outline an example? I need a rig for a 24' outrigger sailing canoe that is easily and cheaply built or could be cheaply acquired, can be quickly reefed without having to leave the cockpit, and uses an unstayed mast, as this boat comes apart for easier storage.

    I'd really like some suggestions, but the Junk seems closest to these satisfying these constraints.
     
  13. Brent Swain
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    Brent Swain Member

    I can reef my 31 ft marconi main in under a minute . For a light 24 footer it should be even easier . With single line reefing it should be easy from the cockpit. Roller furing makes reefing the jib easy. Far less complex than a junk.
     
  14. BeauVrolyk
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    BeauVrolyk Sailor

    Easy sail handling

    Mast Monkey,

    I, as one who was disparaging the Junk Rig, should probably reply to your reasonable request for alternatives. First, on a 24' boat that is as light and unstable as an outrigger, you will not need large sails. Indeed, I saw a great example of an insanely simple boat that just had two laser masts mounted. When it blew the boat dropped the after most rig and sailed on the forward rig alone, very simple reefing. The reefing was accomplished by simply pulling the rig out of the socket in the deck and laying it in the bilge.

    Similarly, if you really must have a mast that is somewhat fixed, the simplest way to set and strike sails is to have small ones that are set free flying. By that, I mean that your jib has a strong luff rope and you don't go to the bow to set it on hanks as is usually done. Rather, you have a line that leads from the tack of the jib, through a turning block on the bow or bowsprit and back to the cockpit. Similarly, you have a halyard that leads to the cockpit. You then simply hoist the halyard, tighten the downhaul (dragging the sail out to the bow) and once the jib is "set" you haul in the sheet. This is how "flying jibs" were set back "in the day" and it really works wonderfully well. The mainsail can be done in a similar way by not attaching the sail to the mast. Some fear this, but that's from lack of experience. By freeing the sail from the back of the mast you reduce its efficiently, but when it's small you can simply bundle the entire thing up under your arm and stuff it in a bag when it comes time to take it down. I live in San Francisco, and I'm guessing that with our typical winds you'd be just fine with a mainsail about the size of a laser and a small jib.

    All of these sorts of rigs, including the lateen etc... are all much lighter and easier to use than a junk rig. Consider the weight of hoisting all those battens, which are not doing anything for you, and the chafe on everything. You'll be fixing the Junk Rig constantly not sailing with it. As you your comment that these rigs were common back "in the day" on SF Bay, I would dispute that. There were a few, but by far the lateen rig was the most common work boat rig, that and the gaff headed cutter or schooner.

    Finally, there is a really GOOD reason that not even the Chinese use these rigs anymore - they are a pain in the garboard plank!

    Good luck,

    Beau
     

  15. MastMonkey
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    MastMonkey Junior Member

    Thanks for the great info. Gives me a lot to think about.
     
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