converting an old soling to a gaff rig

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by bda6, May 9, 2007.

  1. Andrew Mason
    Joined: Mar 2003
    Posts: 397
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    Location: Perth, Western Australia

    Andrew Mason Senior Member

    I would encourage you to do this, I think you would end up with an interesting and enjoyable boat.

    As the owner and restorer of a classic gaff topsail cutter ( , I would suggest that you don't take advice from anyone who has never sailed on one. The main reason for two or three headsails was to have a rig that could be easily reefed or balanced while retaining low sheet loads in the days before winches were commonplace.

    The jib top is only going to show you benefits in light winds and will be a lot of hassle apart from that, so for a boat the size of a soling, it may not be worth the trouble. However a single headsail on a bowsprit will be significantly larger than the current soling jib, will have high sheetloads and will have a lot of forestay sag. The combination of a staysail hoisted on a forestay attached to the stemhead (or further aft) together with a flying jib (i.e. no forestay, just a wire or spectra luff) hoisted from the end of the bowsprit is the traditional solution. If sheets are set up with a 2:1 purchase through a block on the clew of the jib you will not require winches. Also note that there is no reason why the staysail cannot be set up to be self tacking, this will ease the workload during tacks.

    Don't be afraid of topsails above the main, they result in a remarkable improvement of performance on a gaff rigged boat due not just to their sail area but to the significant effect they have on aspect ratio and therefore induced drag of the rig. The topsail effectively becomes your first reef, once you pull it down you have a snug little rig that should be good up to high windstrengths.

    Also, don't be afraid of long booms, they are not as scary as they appear. Aorere's boom is 28 ft long, and although gybing her in 25 knots of wind is no picnic, it is no harder than most boats of that size.

    Because of the gaff and long boom you will not be able to have a backstay. Gaff cutters typically have runners going back to a point that would be roughly in front of the helmsman on a soling. Often restorers of old gaffers move this point aft in order to get a tighter forestay with the result that the leeward runner needs to be eased upwind as it prevents the main being eased in big gusts. The trick is to have the runner chainplates far enough forward that you can pull both runners on tight upwind and keep them on and still be able to ease the boom when required. This keeps a tighter forestay than only having one runner tensioned to a point farther aft.

    I disagree that the aft overhang does not provide a benefit, it is only modern rating rules, fashion and the cost of marina berths that has resulted in short overhangs. You only need to look at the current America's Cup Class to see that an aft overhang is of value if it is not penalised by the rule. And besides, long overhanging counters look so good!

    As far as sailplan goes, I agree that balance is both important and difficult to determine, and also suggest you talk to a professional that has experience of gaff rigs. The obvious choice in Sydney would be David Payne, he has a lot of knowledge in this area.

  2. transcur
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: England

    transcur New Member

  3. Don Z.
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Annapolis, MD--- Stuttgart, DE

    Don Z. New Member

    Just as an idle thought...

    The Soling replaced the Dragon as an Olympic Boat... The Dragon was based on the Skerry Cruiser, and was also meant to be a "work up" boat to a Six Metre...

    So I would look at some pictures/plans of Sixes from the original, 1906 rule, and go from there...
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