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Authentic 1930s rig? A good rig?

Discussion in 'Canoe Sailing' started by PMK, Aug 28, 2011.

  1. PMK

    PMK Curious about Wooden Canoes

    As I think about restoring my 1930 OT Guide 18 footer, one question I am facing is whether to replicate the original sailing rig or design something fitting, but more efficient. I have the original leeboard thwart and leeboards, mast step and mast seat. Spars and sail are lost. It would be easy enough to roughly replicate any of the OT lateen rigs. Dimensions for OT lateen's at some point before 1931 are provided on a page of notes among the OT records. Perhaps the canoe had such a sail originally, though this is not certain as the sail and spars are not recorded in the build record.

    A second route would be to peruse Todd Bradshaw's book on Canoe Rig and choose something that strikes my fancy and looks "traditional".

    A third route, and one I am seriously considering, would be to base the rig on examples of canoes rigged and raced under ACA rules from the 1930s. Courtesy of Sherrie Winkworth of the Sheepshead Canoe Club, I have a copy of "Development of the Cruising Sailing Canoe Sailing Rig," by one RIW, published in The American Canoeist, April 1962. This one-page article gives sketches of 7 different rigs, in general chronological order of development, accompanied by some assessment of their merits. The developmental Cruising Class was first introduced in 1907, and a small fleet continues to race on Lake Sebago in Harriman State Park, NY. The rigs shown begin with a basic lateen, then a lateen with gaff peaked to vertical and snugged to the stub mast, followed by marconi rig on a stub mast, marconi on a single-piece mast, curved gaff ("early 1930s"), marconi on raked stub mast, and full-battened sails, initially introduced into US canoe sailing "about 1930." Though there is no indication my canoe was ever in an ACA-supervised race, these rigs are certainly just as authentic to the era--and they represent the thoughtful efforts of committed canoe sailors rather than (dare I say it?) a simple add-on from a factory that was not focused on sailing performance. One distinctive of the Cruising Class is that it is steered by paddle, not rudder--which fits my canoe as it shows no evidence of gudgeons.

    I was at Lake Sebago for my first visit last weekend. Sherrie has a lovely old Peterboro cedar canoe with fully battened sail. Other boats in the fleet are of varying vintages, including modern fiberglass Ultima and Dragonfly hulls. Unfortunately, it takes me more than 4 hours to get to Lake Sebago.

    According to the Cruising Class rules, allowed square footage is calculated based on departures from a 16' x 30" hull, which may fly 40 sq ft of canvas. Each inch additional beam is rewarded with 2 sq feet additional allowed sail area. Each additional inch in length is penalized by subtracting 1/3 sq ft of sail. Hence, my 18' x 36" Guide would be able to fly 40 + (6 x 2) - (24/3) = 44 sq feet, roughly the same square footage as my Grumman lateen sail (a simple, if more recent, add-on from a factory not focused on sailing performance). Anyway, a well-designed 44 sq ft sail can provide quite fun performance on a canoe. (It is also the size of sail used by a more modern ACA-sponsored class, the "ACA Class", which uses a one-design high-aspect lateen sail.)

    The other open sailing canoe class from the 1930s that is still active is the C Class, with sail area up to 55 sq ft, rudders allowed, and decking permitted on forward and aft thirds of boat. (Interestingly, a boat 16' x 38" is awarded 56 sq feet under Cruising Class rules, so the same rig could be used for both classes on the same boat, as long as the decking is limited to the smaller 3/16 allowed in Cruising Class.) Somewhere around 1930, I believe, A, B, and C Classes were instituted to incorporate open canoe sailing using mass-produced wood and canvas canoes. A and B Classes flew even more sail area.

    Beyond the sail, the original 1930 OT leeboards and thwart also appear to be less efficient than those used on some Cruising Class canoes of the time. Leeboards on Cruising Class canoes extended 37 to 48" below the gunwale and had a less broad and more foiled shape than the OT leeboards (dubbed "Morris-style" in Todd Bradshaw's book) which extend less than 28" below the gunwale. The gunwale clip bolt on the leeboard thwart can't possibly give as strong a union between removable thwart and gunwales as designs in ACA guidance.

    All thoughts and info welcome!

  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    My first thought is that you are seriously "over-thinking" all this in a quest to find the most "efficient" rig. Efficiency at that level generally comes in tiny increments that often only start to show when racing against a very similar boat. When sailing by yourself for recreation, much of this improved efficiency is damned hard to notice unless you've outfitted your boat with a tacking compass, a knotmeter and a pretty sophisticated windvane to accurately show you what the wind is doing and what your boat is doing in terms of sailing angles and VMG.

    Much of this goes right out the window as soon as you combine it with paddle steering and lose most of your ability to hike out, move fore and aft to adjust trim and otherwise use your weight to balance the boat. Nobody sits on the bottom steering with a paddle because it's more efficient. They do it because either (1) it involves the building or purchasing of less hardware and less alteration of the hull, or (2) because the people they are sailing/racing with have decided to keep things as inexpensive and simple as possible. Class rules generally function to even out the playing field so that the true test is the sailor's skill, not how much money he's willing to spend on upgrading his rig - and such rules are seldom made to insure that the boats are as efficient as possible.

    One of the most curious aspects of competitive cruising canoe sailing has always been the often strict limitations put on their sailing rigs with, in many cases, almost nothing said about the hull that the rig is placed on - as if it doesn't matter. While this may make a lot of sense in terms of being sure that everybody can go racing without needing to go out and buy or build a new boat, it's a pretty strange concept in the context of sailboat racing.

    If, by efficiency, you mean that you're interested in building a rig that's as fast as possible, quickest to accelerate, points pretty high, reaches like crazy and makes the most out of whatever wind you happen to find, then a high-aspect, battened Bermuda (not all that different from what you might see on a Hobie 14) is probably the way to go. Combine that with high-aspect leeboards and a decent rudder and you can probably outsail just about any canoe that you come across - if you are good enough to keep it upright and keep the sail working. With the right cosmetics, it can be made to look believably traditional. Without the rudder, or without pretty fast reflexes, you can plan on getting very wet.

    On the other hand, if fast, fun sailing in an 18' open canoe is your goal, but you want to do it with a more simple (even factory stock-style) rig that will still test your skills quite nicely, then something like this would be hard to beat. Do you think this guy is at all worried about whether or not his leeboards are the most efficient possible shape? The guy (or gal) who wins the sailboat race, or who really shines when just out sailing for fun, is nearly always the one who is the best sailor and who makes the best decisions, not the one with the most efficient leeboard shape. A five second lapse in concentration, or one bad tactical decision can easily undo the advantages of even the most efficient rig. Old Old Town catalog photo:

    Attached Files:

  3. OP

    PMK Curious about Wooden Canoes


    Re-reading my initial post, my reference to your book may have sounded dismissive. Sorry if that is the case. I have it, dream through it, and it is a trove of great info. Thanks.

    Here is Sherrie Winkworth's Peterboro with Cruising Class full-battened sail.


    Besides the thrill of racing (which some people like and some don't), it just struck me that here is a group of people with a special canoe heritage. I am sure I have things to learn from them.

    Sailing with a paddle is something I became intrigued with reading Sam Manning's 1978 Wooden Boat article, Sticks and String. Just tried it the first time last weekend. Sometimes I felt more in touch with my Grumman using the paddle than I did with the yoked rudder and steering line. And one of the things I enjoy about canoe sailing is working out, adjusting, and feeling the balance of the rig. Steering with a paddle is a cool skill and puts you right in there. I also note that several sailors at Lake Sebago chose to use paddle even when they could have used a rudder--and they beat me. Tom Uebel, who has been sailing these things forever, reclined with his paddle in his Dragonfly. I sat up on the gunwale of a borrowed Ultima holding a tiller. Tom well out-paced me. In all ways, a better sailor than I. That said, Sherrie sailed a race with her Peterboro and a different, unfamiliar sail, in strong shifting winds, steering with paddle. She was overpowered running downwind and did not have a fun morning.

    The ACA open canoe sailors have worked on hull shape. Larry Zuk and ?? developed the Dragonfly hull, optimizing it with high-tech tank tests. On the other hand, as Sherrie W. noted, it is no delight to paddle. And I've only seen it in 'glass, though I suppose it could be built in cedar strip. But I would like a canoe that can perform pleasurably (efficiently?) under paddle as well as sail.

    I may not yet be able to keep a fully battened sail working and upright at all times, but I like the look of Sherrie's sail, though I would go with wood spars--and I would like to develop the skill. A curved gaff also looks great--though I suspect it would be harder to stow. Either a gunter rig, or putting the spars on a stub mast might assist taking down and stowing the rig while underway.

    Tom Uebel and Sherrie Winkworth would most like to see others take up the sport. Tom sails a Dragonfly, attends to his foil shapes, and works out the precise distance between board and sail for balance, but he said, "I'm open to all ideas. If we need to get rid of these hot rod boats, let's do it. We have hundred year old trophies, and we need more people sailing."

    Some people like racing and some don't. My dad--a Phil Bolger man through and through--always made fun of racers. He built a fabulous Bolger Black Skimmer--a 26 ft cat yawl sharpie with leeboards and outside chines--that was perfect for the Chesapeake. I also spent many summer hours sailing a Bolger double-ended crabbing skiff with sprit boom. It was fun, but it couldn't make headway against wind and tide. So I do want good pointing and power. And I seem to have found I enjoy racing--at least with a companionable group.:)

    Thanks for your thoughts. The Old Town double lateen does look fun.


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