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Preview: Virtues of a Yawl Rig

December 27, 2012

We wanted Queene Foster to help us understand the advantages of a yawl rig and traditional yawls because of her long experience with the rig as the owner of three different Concordias as well as the 46′¬†Aage Nielsen yawl, SAPHAEDRA, aboard which she did a trans-Atlantic crossing.

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– We’ve brought you to the waterfront today to go for a sail on a Concordia Yawl with Queene Foster and Robin Linkins joining us on this sail. We’re gonna get out and talk about the virtues of a yawl rig. I see Misty’s got a little mizzen. Do you often get the question what’s that about?

– I always get the question what is the mizzen for? The thing that makes you really love them is how they can balance the helm. So this is a pretty big tiller, it’s kind of a big boat for a light little tiller like this but with the proper balance of the sails you can have this tiller just lying in the middle of the boat midships with no pressure on it like this.

– Right.

– And the balance is what, to me a lot of what sailing is about. You can get this boat to balance perfectly. When you get that there’s a rightness to the world.

– Right.

– You feel like everything is alright.

– Everything is in one. The boat has found it’s groove.

– Yeah.

– Well I don’t want the wind to die.

– Alright.

– What do you say we get some sails up?

– So let’s work on getting this mizzen up.

– It’s a good looking furl.

– Students.

– Students first time. And the mizzen sheet’s right here. The sheet’s free and hoist away. And then Eric when she gets that made take about three inches down on the down passing.

– Right.

– Now I’m gonna keep this in pretty tight.

– Keep your sheet in the mizzen nice and tight, right on center line and pretty flat.

– And now when we drop the mooring without the engine in gear she should drop back in a straight line. You’ll notice I haven’t touched the helm, she’s just motoring straight into the wind. So I’m gonna let the speed die back here, throttle way back to just slow, slow and forward. And you see how she just calms right down.

– Right?

– And the wind lessens, it’s a lot easier to get the main up and it’s a great way to talk to new sailors and have them feel calm and in control when you’re raising the mains, instead of out of control blasting into the wind.

– No pressure main sail raising. I love it.

– We fuss around with the mainsail. The mizzen is in tight, and the mizzen is weathervaning the boat directly head to wind. So what I’d like to ask her to do is we’ll head off to starbird here, off to the west. So you want the bough to go off to starboard, we push the mizzen out to starbird at the same time. She’s kind of turning like a fish with it’s tail. If I push the mizzen this way she will turn that way. I’ll free up the mizzen sheet.

– You’re just backwinding the mizzen?

– Yep, pretty hard.

– And the boat with the main just slack is spinning on it’s own keel?

– She’s doin’ it.

– It’s amazing.

– The main’s comin’ out on the port side. The bough’s still paying off the starboard. Now trim the mizzen, trim the main and kill the engine. A big mizzen, I couldn’t push out to windward like that but on a modest sail like this it’s pretty easy and..

– So we raised the mizzen flat, cast off, drifted backwards and then found our way out of the mooring field and you were just off the tiller. I mean that seemed like a really under controlled way to get a big sail like the main up.

– But it works well in a lot of breeze even more dramatically because you have the mizzen chattering back there and the main wants to raise hell but it’s just waiting. Right now the helm’s a little unhappy. It’s pretty hard and we’re luffing and we’re not really well balanced. It’s kind of a lot of work. We don’t need that. So we’ll look at all three sails and see which one needs work. I’m having to push it pretty hard so let’s trim the jib in a little bit. That might be good. Hold on.

– Good? Happy? You think?

– Let’s see.

– She’s pretty well balanced. She’s pretty steady on the helm right now.

– So before, you were really fightin’ that. The jib was luffing. We brought the jib in, tensioned the jib and it’s far more manageable now.

– Look as us fly along now.

– Boy this is great.

– Let’s try easing the mizzen a little bit Eric right behind you.

– Okay.

– We might try a litte luff but, a little more, let’s try that.

– She let me shake the tiller. We’re talking about what are the other virtues of a yawl rig is really in heavy weather, going with a jib and jigger. So we’ve got the main in it’s crutch. It’s nice to not just have the main kind of sliding around here.

– Yeah.

– Another nice feature on the Concordia.

– Eric if you want to pull that mizzen boom up to starboard, just push it out even further.

– The boat is immediately responsive to this maneuver.

– Yep. She’s trained to do it. So we’re all set up. We’re ready to roll out the jib.

– We’re under jib and jigger. It seems like the pressure’s off. I mean even we come through these openings in the islands where we get loaded up and not loaded up. Dropping that main just eliminated all that pressure.

– Well this is a great way to go when there’s just enough wind and you maybe don’t want full sail and you’ve got people on board who are not all that keen to dip their feet in the water in the lead rail or do a lot of maneuvering, a lot of sail handling. This is a nicely balanced rig. Each of the two sails that we’re flying right now are moderate in size. The boat is moving very well, but very calmly so it’s a pretty peaceful way to go sailing. It’s an easy way to shorten sail without having to go through the process of reefing. It’s always available and it’s… pretty sweet.

– Just drop the main quickly, it’s in the gallows not swinging around and you’re basically dealing with these two much smaller much more manageable size sails.

– Yep and she won’t go to windward quite as well maybe because she has just less sail area but every other point of sail is just as easy to sail just as fast.

– Right.

– And once you need to reduce sail this is the way to go. We had a difficult passage up from Newport the other day. It wasn’t blowing that hard, but it was the perfect rig for jib and jibber, just the genoa and the mizzen. We were reaching along neat as we please, no big heavy boom to worry about and the helm was balanced just like this even in heavy seas.

– So the main was right in it’s gallows.

– Yep snug down, not raised at all the whole trip up.

– Yeah this is very cool. And the other thing is, going out I’m constantly with kids from the age of newborn to seven right now in my life. I think we’d sail like this more often than not just because it’s just

– It’s so much really yeah. more controlled.

– Yeah.

– Queene oftentimes as well you’ll see mizzen staysails flying on boats with a yawl rig or a split rig. Can you talk to us a little bit about what it’s like flying a mizzen staysail off of this little mizzen here? And why people fly them.

– Well yeah sure. Most yawls and catches have three or four mizzen staysails because they’re really fun to set. They’re just like a little bit of joy. They’re light nylon. They’re small enough for kids to handle, and they can really increase the speed a knot or a knot and a half. It’s really a pretty narrow range where they’re useful, and they can be pretty frustrating sail because half the time they just will not set. And that’s why people have a number of them: a small one, a reaching one, a close winded one. They’re very counterintuitive. Half of the sail sets to windward and the other half sets to leeward. They’re impossible to trim correctly, but when they do trim and you got a spinnaker set and maybe a spinnaker staysail at the same time you feel just like an angel with all it’s wings out. So it takes up that whole space, the windward of the main to leeward of the mizzen.

– We want to thank Queene Foster for having shown us some of the advantages of the yawl rig. Maneuvering in tight quarters, raising sail under control and balancing the helm. The surprise for me was how well the boat went with no mainsail up at all. It’s a great way to go sailing with your family even on a gusty day.



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