March 3, 2015

A rumor about dismasting

EVERY NOW AND THEN I hear the rumor that sailing under a jib only will cause dismasting. It’s one of those rumors that surfaces for a while, dies a natural death because of its inherent stupidity, and then miraculously is reborn, to start the cycle again.

I have no idea why sailing under a jib only should cause dismasting. I have sailed many hundreds of deepsea miles under jib only, and in stormy weather, too. I have wondered if maybe a fractional rig was more vulnerable than a masthead rig, because of the stress at the top of the mast caused by a lower forestay and a higher backstay, but I imagine that any naval architect would know how to compensate for that.

A Cal 20 of mine was fractionally rigged, and she would sail just fine under working jib only, and even go to weather in strong winds. So did my old Mirror dinghy, for that matter. I have vivid memories of planing under a jib little bigger than a pocket handkerchief after a sudden windstorm hit, and I dropped the mainsail completely. She, too, would go to windward under jib only, but carrying a whole lot of lee helm, of course. And despite the many miles I’ve done under jib only, I’ve never lost a mast. Touch wood.

There is, in fact, a long tradition of yachts tackling the trade winds with twin jibs and no mainsail. I mean, one of the lovely things about the lone jib, or twin jibs,  on a deepsea keeler is that the center of effort is so far forward that a windvane, which normally struggles dead downwind, is able to guide you to leeward with ease. You can huddle down below, nice and warm and dry, with your hands wrapped around a mug of coffee and rum, while your boat goes downwind like she’s on rails.

The only problem with this rig is that if your course is deeper than a reach, your boat will roll from gunwale to gunwale. But all dead-downwind work is pretty rolly, anyway, unless you know how to fly twin jibs or a twistle yard in a deep V forward, so they act like a cone and resist a lot of the sideways movement.

So don’t be put off. Fly that darn jib on its own if you like, and to heck with the rumor mongers.

Today’s Thought
Rumor travels faster but it don’t stay put as long as truth.
— Will Rogers, The Illiterate Digest                                                      

Our local school officials recently gave eighth-graders a test to see what they were best suited for.
They discovered that the eighth-graders were best suited for the seventh grade.

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