Wishbone ketches/schooners: pros and cons.

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by xarax, Jul 16, 2007.

  1. xarax

    xarax Previous Member

    "Classic" two-mast sailboats, today almost forgotten... Are these beautiful rigs a thing of the past?
  2. MikeJohns
    Joined: Aug 2004
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    How classic Xarax?
    Gaff rigged ketch or schooner? or are you referring to more modern rigs?
    That second mast adds weight both aloft and in the hull and it adds expense, heavy boats benefit but light ones are better off with one mast.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2007
  3. lazeyjack

    lazeyjack Guest

    no ketches win many modern classics, like the Whitbread, and there are many modern schooners built, , but the cost is the mitigating factor,
  4. xarax

    xarax Previous Member

  5. xarax

    xarax Previous Member

  6. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Years ago, it was necessary to divide the sail plan up into manageable sizes, both rigs had much to offer. There's not much that can hang with a schooner, flying it's off wind sails and an overlapping foresail. The ketch's mizzen mule offers similar. The reasons for dividing the rig were numerous: luff sag, rig technology, sail manufacturing practices, ductility of the rigging materials, the ability for the crew to manhandle the sails, etc.

    With the advent of many inventions and innovations in the last 70 years, these rigs have fallen from favor to more highly strung, loftier rigs. Better materials and techniques across the board, have permitted the single stickers to mustard up the area necessary, to propel large craft under fractional sloop rig. There isn't any reduction of ability because the headsails can stand and the main can hold up a fat roach.

    There is a practical limit to the single pole rigs. ICW bridge heights, maximum sail area that can be safely reefed or doused, mechanical advantage availability, draft limitations, etc. all tend to cap mast heights in all but full up racers.

    Nope, they're not dead, just not favored by rating rules or racers, which unfortunately set the trends in production sailing vessels. It's a bit like finding a suitable wife. You must make painfully sobering assessments, of your needs and desires and match them with the ability of the prospect's capabilities and offerings or be stuck with what you mother would like you to marry.
  7. xarax

    xarax Previous Member

    Why do racers have to set the trends for cruising sailboats? Boats are not designed by fashion designers, like dresses are... Racers and cruisers are different crafts, i.e. different machines, designed by engineers for different purposes, so they must BE different, and LOOK different, if they are to achieve in a proper way their different functional ends.
    We do not wait a heavy truck to look like a Formula 1 racing car, do we? It would be quite silly for a load carrying truck to imitate the appearance of a light racing car, just as it is silly for a medium or heavy displacement cruiser to imitate the appearance of am Open 60 racer, for example...
    There is a natural element of truth and beauty in the art and science of sailing (and sailboat design) that is sadly lost when we accept rating rules and follow trends without any rational justification.
    1 person likes this.
  8. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    I think the most practical objection is complexity aloft. You need an outhaul and a sheet, there is an inherent risk of a snarlup in conditions where you want a clean fast sail drop.

    I agree heartily with the other opinions posted here , and fashion will always play an important part in anything where the looks can be varied considerably whithin the operational parameters, and in an area of big marketing.
  9. xarax

    xarax Previous Member

    If we could, somehow, drop the whole wishbone itself with the sail still attached on it, this problem would be solved. Otherwise you should climb up there with each jam...
  10. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    I disagree that boats are not designed by fashion designers, like dresses are. Au Contraire ! Boats had better be fashionable and ostentatious or they will not sell as well. Take a look inside an RV. They are just boats on wheels and they are some jazzy. For practical reasons, all that opulence is completely unneccessary but for sales reason it is essential.

    Which brings us to the crux of the matter. A large part of the buyers' decision making process is dictated by signifigant others of the female persuasion. Which also brings us to the philosophic words posted by PAR and his analogy to selecting a wife.

    My cruising boat would sure enough have a split rig. Not because of appearance but because of versatility and utility. A smartly fitted out yawl would be far more manageable than a tall masthead rigged racer when the going gets dusty.
  11. CT 249
    Joined: Dec 2004
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    CT 249 Senior Member

    I would like to put the case that the lack of popularity of split rigs is not the fault of the rating rules, as is often alleged. With the exception of short round-the-buoy races (where we'd all admit split rigs are not at their best) the rating rules often treat split rigs pretty well.

    For example, mizzen staysails under IOR, CCA and RORC were not rated at all. A plan of one of the "Carinas" appears to show that this un-rated area was about the same as the whole mainsail - and it was free! In the Farr Whitbread ketches the mizzen staysail was about the same size as a ULDB's spinnaker, and it rated 0.00000000 sq ft. A rule that ignores a sail measuring about 90 feet tall is not exactly harsh on ketches!

    On top of that, the split rig could carry 4% more (yawl) or 12% (ketch) more upwind sail than a sloop, for the same rating! I think these same rig rules carried over to IOR.

    Allowing a boat to carry 12% more upwind sail and something like 50%+ more sail downwind without increasing the rating is little proof that the rule is biased against split rigs - but as gear improved people moved to sloops for their simplicity and perhaps economy.

    The dominance of the Farr ketches in the '88/89 (?) Whitbread proved that they could be extremely competitive. Under IOR, the cat ketch Cascade was very successful - but while she's sometimes used as a symbol of split rigs being treated harshly by the rules, she was actually treated so kindly that she only rated as fast as a "normal" 30 footer (ie Scampi 30s). She was not a symbol of how cruel the IOR was to cat ketches, but of how kind it was to them. Similarly, in IMS the 44' Denali went a lot slower when altered from masthead sloop to cat-ketch, but she rated so much lower that she did well anyway. So there was lots of proof that an unusual boat or rig could do well, then and today (as in the last Sydney-Hobart, where a 1973 heavyweight won ahead of the carbon wonders and a 27' gaffer from the 1920s almost won). The fact that most people prefer sloops isn't the fault of the rules.

    The sloop rig has other advantages, apart from normally being faster per foot of sail area (and probably per $). It's easy to set and tack. With good sails that allow control over twist and mastbend and a main big enough to allow the boat to sail just under main, you can handle 0-40 just by tweaking lines and maybe dropping the jib or taking 20 seconds to chuck in a reef....much easier than taking down a mizzen or mainsail in my experience. Racers generally go for sloop rigs because they are so nimble around a course and because it's better racing (by most standards) when your gear is at least generally similar to the gear the other guys are using.

    PS - there's something like 14 wishbone booms around my house at the moment. I also sometimes sail a wishbone cutter, and love the rig to bits. But for some purposes - like racing when you're trying to adjust sail depth independently of twist - they are a bit frustrating.

    Uffa Fox made a wishbone schooner years ago. They lost ONE line - the sheet for the wishbone, which was problematic anyway as it put a deal of load up high on the mainmast - and then the wishbone started flailing uncontrollably until both of the masts came down. The boat was later re-rigged more conventionally.

  12. Paul B

    Paul B Previous Member

    The modern yawl rig became popular due to a racing rating system, not because it was a better, easier to handle rig.

    A cruiser's rigging should be as simplified as possible. The less there is, the less to go wrong. Too many people read books written about "the Model Ts of the sea" and think those are the proper rigs for offshore work. They are the opposite.

    When Windward Passage was re-rigged from Ketch to Sloop her performance jumped considerably. She was much easier to sail. Her motion was greatly enhanced, as "more than the weight of a volkswagon" was removed from above the aft quarter of the boat.

    With modern spar, rigging, and sail materials the swept spreader fractional sloop rig makes the most sense for a modern cruiser.

    Uffa Fox and L.F. Herreshoff drew an awful lot of fractional sloops back in the old days. If they were drawing today, with the materials available, I doubt they would do as many split rigs as they did back then. If they could have worked with the materials we have, most of the subsequent books (and therefore opinions of those who read them) would be praising the beauty and functionality of the swept fractional sloop rig.

    Then some people would need new buzzwords to make them feel "salty", since "jib and jigger" wouldn't be so hyped.
  13. xarax

    xarax Previous Member

    Thank you CT249,

    Cascade was a nice example indeed. But what about Mari Cha- IV ? Sailboats can be much longer, but not much deeper...So split rigs will probably become more common as the hulls are getting longer.
    I think that the the main disadvantage of the wishbone split rig was described by MikeJohns above in just two words : Complexity aloft. But the benefits of the modern, stronger and lighter materials and better equipment will not be limited to sloops only, I suppose They may help a split rig sailboats revival as well.

  14. Seafarer24
    Joined: May 2005
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    Seafarer24 Sunset Chaser

    freestanding split rigs aren't exactly complex- or heavy -or slow.
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