Brion Toss Yacht Riggers


July '07 Puzzler

Hi everyone,

I left you a Puzzler last month, just before we all departed for Hawaii, to install a new rig in the lovely Benton-designed schooner Sugartime. Here was the challenge:

...This boat was, before rerigging, horribly top-heavy, to the point that it couldn't be sailed in anything more than a zephyr, with all working sail up, We therefore set about taking as much weight out of the rig as we could, without, of course, compromising safety factors. We also worked at reducing windage. Some of the savings were dramatic, some incremental; in the end we calculate that we took over 400lbs. of weight off. This month's Puzzler is, how did we do it? Your job is to list places where you would try to save weight and reduce windage.

Details: The rig is gaff on the foremast, Bermudian on the main. Solid wooden masts and gaff, wooden crosstrees and spreaders made from square stock, beautiful wood-shelled blocks, massive bronze tangs for some of the stays, massive mast bands for others. It had Dacron double-braid running rigging, spliced 7x7 standing rigging, and Dacron sails. We did nothing to the hull (i.e. added no ballast, changed no structures, moved no weight around), and nothing to the masts themselves, aside from some repairs, so hull and masts are also off-limits for you. Everything else was up for grabs.

List any ideas you have, within those parameters, for reducing weight and windage.

We got some thoughtful answers, notably from our regular contributor - and this month's winner - Amgine. I've appended comments to the text:

This is actually very interesting as a puzzler, as it is effectively left completely open for options to reduce weight aloft.

The first choice, of course, is to replace the masts with hollow, planked wooden sticks. This would pay the largest single dividend, resulting in somewhat stiffer masts if kept to the same scantlings, while still retaining the character of the vessel and the many benefits of wood masts. Unfortunately it's not an option in this case.

I'll just note that extra stiffness would only come if we increased the radius of the masts, as well as hollowing them.

From this point I'd focus from the top down. I would remove all tangs and rings for shrouds, forestays, and backstay, replacing them with spliced/leathered eyes resting on bolsters. (Actually, I'm not certain this would result in weight savings aloft; it may depend on the standing rigging material vs. the existing fitting and appropriate terminal for the standing rigging.) We saved considerable weight by carving excess material out of the oversize bronze tangs. This had the added advantage of making the tangs more sculpturally handsome. I would replace the main's sheaves with lightweight low friction sheaves, with an eye on supporting the pin. All of the running rigging hung from external blocks. We replaced the aloft blocks with lightweight-but-rugged Harken's, and rebuilt the lovely wooden blocks for deck level. Similarly, we used Sta-Loks aloft for weight savings, but kept splices alow, for beauty. Depending upon the owner's desires and budget, I would strongly consider working up the standing rigging in high modulus rope as opposed to iron or steel wire despite the tropical sunlight. By switching to 1x19, we were able to get wire as strong, or stronger than the original 7x7, but with a net savings in weight. Windage and stretch were also reduced. We made the maintopmast stay out of covered Vectran, with aluminum Precourt deadeyes at the bottom end. We also switched from wire to HM rope for gaff span wire, _-lift pendants, and running back pendants.

For the gaff and the cross trees/spreaders, this will to some extent depend upon the downwind rigging of the vessel. For the gaff I would almost certainly suggest replacement with a hollow, planked gaff, or a carbon fiber spar if there are no unprotectable points for chafe. The original, incredibly heavy gaff had already been replaced with a lighter wooden one, before the re-rig. I would closely look at the rigging arrangement to determine if a single-halyard gaff is an option, as well as gaff vanging. I would never consider a single-halyard gaff, as any weight savings would be more than offset by loss of sail control. But we did install an HM fore gaff vang, skinny on top, and fat alow. The cross-trees/spreaders I would prefer to be carbon-fiber or wood composite ultra-light struts, but consideration for crew in the rigging to manage cross yards might require beefier structures. For all of these structures a focus on preventing sun damage/maintenance issues would be in the priority list, as well as light blocks and fittings.

The running rigging will, for a great part, depend on the sails. As mentioned above, I'd examine the gaff for the possibility of single-halyard. The fore topsail will determine many elements of its rigging, but if it is not a jackyard I'd use a single purchase on the peak, and a reasonable downhaul on the tack, with the outhaul being as simple and light as can be worked with. Upgrading blocks to various light weight designs can result in a great reduction in mass aloft; this is of course more important the farther up you go. Lazy jacks are an owner's preference, but if they must be installed they must also be designed to stow out of the way while the sail is set. We radically reduced the weight and windage of the lazyjacks, opting for a configuration that depended from the lifts. Likewise, some wear on the leech may be reduced by using a snap shackle on the boom end of the topping lift allowing it to be stowed while the sail is set (some feel this is a safety risk). Our lifts deadended well forward of the leech. This precludes leech chafe, and offers sail control advantages.

Furling gear, for staysails or boomed sails, would need to be carefully examined for usefulness, safety, and weight. Since no such gear is specified in the puzzler I'm not going to comment further. But on the topic of boomed sails - booms are not a place to go out of the way to save weight. On the other hand, there's no point in having excessive weight, either. A lot of gear tends to accumulate on the boom; simplifying the rig where possible to reduce weight and windage, and moving to lighter weight blocks and fittings where possible. We did replace the wire outhaul whip with Vectran. Not a weight savings issue, though.

Running backstay options are too dependent on deck layout and sail reef positions to make any generalizations here, but high modulus line can be used where appropriate and, where not, I'm fond of eye-splices to a ring so a bungee line to the cap rail can be rigged, making the backstay nearly self-storing. We experimented with tricing lines, and hope to install those and a few other details on a return trip.

Deadeyes in machined aluminum and 8-part lanyards should be lighter and simpler (and probably cheaper) than turnbuckles and universal joints, but will increase maintenance requirements.

- Amgine

Other respondents had some similar suggestions, with a heavy emphasis on HM fibers for halyards, mast bands, and standing rigging. In the event, we stayed with the bands, but lightened the existing ones on the main by shaving off excess metal, particularly from the lugs. And on the foremast we consolidated three bands into two, and made those two significantly lighter than the ones they replaced.

Our biggest weight savings was in halyards, some of which were an amazing _"d. double-braid Dacron (!), and the smallest of which was an only slightly less amazing 5/8"d. Our new ones were and _"d. 5/16"d. covered rope, with fat tails pulled on for handling. We also changed some wire strengths, notably the triatic, which went from 5/8" to 3/8". We also threw away unneeded items, like ratlines, lazyjack gear for the jib, a 40lb radar bracket (we replaced it with an aluminum one), turnbuckles for the lifter stays (we made the stays of Vectran, and lashed them tight), etc. It was an incremental process, with very few big chunks of weight saved, but it all added up. Lots of work, oh, so much work, both here and onsite. But the payoff was exquisite: watching the face of the owner and the skipper as their boat stood up to a solid 25 knots with all working sail up. They said that, before the re-rig, the rails would have been submerged in under 20 knots. Ahh.

That's it for this month's Puzzler. And also for the time being. I am exhausted from the trip, and from rigging in general, and need some time to recharge. Spartalk is still a going concern, and I'll get back to the Puzzler and Fair Leads eventually. Take care meanwhile.

         Fair leads,           

         Brion Toss