Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Gaff Rig

Here's a little known fact. The absolute world sailing speed record for absolutely any type of vessel under any sail plan, was made with a gaff rigged sail. (WTF?-- that's impossible!) Yet here is proof, a video of the event:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KISRG6USvj4&feature=related

That's Antoine Albeau going 49.09 knots at Les Saintes Maries on the March 5th. But wait, that's not a gaff rig...it's a windsurfer. Well my homies, you're wrong again. Check it:

This an illustration of my current, favorite sail, which is a de-tuned version of the one Albeau just sailed at over 56 mph. Note the sail is square on top, and inside that square top is a gaff, a little carbon fiber gaff. Yes, it's a real gaff and it does everything the gaff on a gaff rig should do.
Windsurfing has ruined sailing for me. I can't stand sailing on a real sail boat anymore. Oh, once a year or so I'll go out and lash around the Bay, just to be friendly, but it all seems so pointless and slow. And the one thing that drives me to desperation is the way the main sail on a typical racer/cruiser sets and is trimmed. The first third of the sail (from the leading edge) is blanketed by the mast, the leech is too tight and they are always oversheeted. (A short aside to all the racer/cruisers out there: you're oversheeting your main. Don't argue with me about this...just ease the sheet out, now.)

How is it that a lowly, ordinary windsurfer out performs huge, million dollar sailing machines? They're the fastest, and yet they have several huge disadvantages: they're small relative to the wave size, the sails are small and low experience the highest wind gradient, and they have a huge bluff body (the sailor) standing to windward of the sail. In spite of those obstacles, they are the fastest. Why? Because of the awesome gaff rigged sails.

Our website has a little bit on the old timey gaff rig. But that's not what I want. Now I have a vision. Every sailing vessel should be rigged with windsurfer sails.

1 comment:

nicholas said...

Almost a gaff rig. I have come to appreciate the gaff rig's potential and mused that sailboards, flat tops and fat heads could be gaff rigs but for their complex batten structures which evolved from being short supports for modest roach to full length sail shaping devises stretching the limits of a triangular planform. A simple, pure compression, spar can replace all the battens, and with mast bend,downhaul and vang give greater trim possibilities, especially aloft where it is needed most. Sailboards have no running rigging to exploit this potential, but here is a primitive prototype that can. www.boatdesign.net/forums/boat-design/expermental-sail-needs-analysis-2489.html