My Favorite Rig and Why—A Guide Post by Doug Hylan

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November 13, 2014

Doug Hylan Doug Hylan

Sloop "Jianling"

As a lazy sailor, my favorite rig would be fractional sloop, sans running backstays. I have enough excitement just coming about, and find that I often forget all about the runners until well after they should have been set up. There is nothing worse than settling down on a new tack, getting your beer bottle all squared away, and then discovering that damned runner slatting all about. It’s a standing backstay for me!

A sloop rig implies a jib. I’ve flirted with self-tending jibs, but the romance has never fully flowered. I have similarly lethargic friends who swear by them, so maybe I’ve just never had the right setup. But I love the simplicity and clean lines of a jib that has only the wind and a single line to give it shape. My jib can’t have much overlap, as one revolution of the winch handle is about my limit. If you are paying any attention at all, a jib with a small overlap can be quickly sheeted in without having to find the winch handle.

I know that “gentlemen don’t sail to windward” but you’ve got to get back home somehow, and sailing there sure beats turning on the motor or asking for a tow. Besides, I like the idea of sailing to windward — seems like cheating Mother Nature, and about the only time we can get away with it.

Sloop "Jianling"

These days, I am sailing a Knarr class keelboat. To my eye, boats of this lineage (Scandinavian, pre-WWII) had the prettiest rigs. Like a bird’s wing, tall and narrow, clean and simple. If you read the experts, they’ll tell you that a sloop goes to windward the best, and I believe they are right on this one. Most of my sailing comes in the form of after-work day sails out of the Benjamin River. The entrance is a bit narrow, and the wind funnels between the hills on either side, so, one way or the other, I know I’m going to have to beat. My Knarr makes simple work of it.


For a cruising boat, I’d pick a yawl, one with a mizzen just big enough to look like it wasn’t an afterthought. That mizzen is such a help in making the mooring or anchoring. You can even back up in a straight line by flattening the mizzen and letting the other sails fly. Also, jib & mizzen sailing, either when it’s windy or just for the fun of it, is an under-appreciated pleasure. You get a “big sky” feeling and a much better view without any canvas in the middle of the boat. It only takes a small mizzen to balance a sizable jib.

Also appears in: Sailing Rigs & Rigging

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