Steve Robinson

Much of what I might have written about my choice of sailing canoe hull has already been covered by Dave Poskitt in his article, although it is perhaps worth reiterating that my Solway Dory Shearwater hull provides a good compromise between the sea worthiness of a larger canoe, and the manoeuvrability of a smaller one. As Dave has ‘stolen my thunder' and left me little to say about my Shearwater hull, I am instead going to concentrate on describing the reasons for my choice of rig.

Shearwater sailing canoe with bermudan rigWhen I went on my first sailing canoe expedition to the West coat of Scotland ten years ago, the received wisdom was that rigs for use on the sea needed to be easy to drop in an emergency, and have a low centre of effort to aid stability. Lugsail ketches and gunter ketches were in vogue, and this was the type of rig that three of my companions used on my first trip. I was a poor outdoor pursuits instructor at the time, so I had to make do with the rig that I owned, a roller reefing Solway Dory Bermudan that I had bought for racing. I had done very little sailing on the sea, and I wasn't really sure how I would get on with a tippy racing rig that was hard to drop, but I was young and keen, so I figured it would be alright.

I had modified the position of the clew outhaul on that first Bermudan rig, shifting the cleat from the end of the boom to just behind the gooseneck. My motivation for making this adjustment was primarily to allow me to adjust the foot tension while racing, but I quickly realised on that first trip that the easy reefing allowed by this modification was a huge benefit on the sea. The primary advantage of this was that I could quickly reduce the sail area when running, and then increase the sail area to sail back up wind.

Solway Dory incorporated the revised clew outhaul cleat position into their production rigs, and roller reefing Bermudans started to take over from the lugsails and gunters as the cruiser's rig of choice. The downside of cruising with a Bermudan sail is that it leads to rather a high centre of effort and a consequently tippy boat. Bermudan ketches have been tried, and these do offer a lower centre of effort, but the drum systems required for roller reefing ketches are complex and prone to going wrong. Ketches also have the disadvantage of having some of the sail area behind you, which doesn't bother some, but personally I have always found that this makes it harder to set the sails correctly.

The high centre of effort of a Bermudan sail is much less of a disadvantage when sailing a boat with outriggers, and I am a real enthusiast for this combination of a single Bermudan rig and mini outriggers. I think that the simplicity, fast reefing and efficiency that the set up offers is as relevant to a beginner learning to sail, as it is to a seasoned sailor making an open crossing.

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