Started Sailing

The fore-and-aft rig.

by Han
(Brittany, France)

A wishbone-staysail schooner rig.

A wishbone-staysail schooner rig.

As compared with the square rig, the fore-and-aft-rig (to be abbreviated from now on to faa-rig) is much less complicated and easier to handle by a smaller crew, even on multi-masted ships.

It has good close-to-the-wind qualities, but it's drawback is it's downwind running inefficiency. That's why many early faa-riggers still had some square sails.

The simplest one is, of course, the Bermuda rig, nowadays found on almost all smaller sailing craft. It has a gaff- or triangular main and a single staysail, a genoa or a gennaker as foresail, in lighter weather supplemented by a spinnaker. (I suppose by now you know how to find wikipedia, so I will only give you the really necessary links from now on).

Somewhat more complicated is the Cutter rig. The main difference with the Bermuda rig is that it has two foresails, sometimes rigged on an outer- and an inner stay (or baby-stay), or on the fore-stay and bowsprit or the reefing jib-boom by way of a traveller. These two foresails can be supplemented by a flyer.

For me the most efficient faa-rig is the Schooner rig:, because it has a multitude of possibilities of sail-combinations to meet any weather- and/or sea-situation.

And my absolute favourite amongst the Schooner rig variaties is the staysail-wishbone-gaff type. You know the wishbone-gaff from the windsurfing-board, where a triangular sail is stretched by it from the mast; in the case of the wishbone-schooner the schooner-sail is rigged in the the same way from the fore- or schoonermast.

To fill the remaining triangle below, the lower stay of the main mast is rigged with a staysail, and the upper main stay carries the fisherman-staysail. The fore-sails should be like the Cutter's, and the main sail, in my opinion, should be gaff-rigged with a gaff-topsail to complete the rig.

Some 30 years ago I had the opportunity to sail exactly this type of schooner off the southern French coast in heavy Mistral conditions, and I'll never forget it.

Above you see this rig, without sails, but you can see the sheer beauty and elegance of it.

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