Bayside Boatshop  

By Ross Lillistone - Esk, Queensland - Australia



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Mike Rowe had started his day’s sailing long before the sea-breeze set in, but he needed an early start to get through the long channel while there was still a favourable tide flowing. He always found that his sailing adventures were more satisfying if he could complete a round trip without ever using an auxiliary motor – even for entering and leaving port. This meant that his schedule was controlled by the tide and wind – not the clock. He also liked the feeling of moral superiority when the day’s run was over and he hadn’t used an engine.

Leaving the boat ramp area had required an interesting beat hard on the wind. Mike was grateful that the lapstrake (clinker) sailing dinghy had plenty of sail area, because the wind was light and flukey. Every square inch of sail was needed for the boat to keep moving efficiently as he tacked and tacked his way around protruding rocks, mud-banks and seagrass-covered sandbars. The game of climbing up against the wind to get around obstacles was one that Mike enjoyed tremendously, and was just one of the reasons that he found small-boat sailing so enjoyable.

In the days when working boats relied on sails and oars for propulsion, sail-plans were much larger than are normally seen today. The working sailor expected to have to tie in reefs as the wind piped up. Today’s sailor seems more likely to have a smaller sail-plan, making use of auxiliary engines in light conditions. While this approach is certainly practical, it means that the skill of reefing is seldom learned.

Playing the wind-shifts, and maximizing every opportunity to gain distance into the wind was great fun to Mike on that morning, but if the boat hadn’t carried lots of sail, it might well have been a frustrating experience. The joy of ‘spirited’ sailing is more about relative performance than about absolute speed. Mike was quite happy to reef later on when the wind increased, but right now he thanked the designer for putting large sails on his boat.

Rounding the southern headland, Mike was able to ease sheets, and take up an easy reach down the wide waterway between the mainland and the barrier island over on the port beam. Both sails were pulling gently in the light wind, but because of the boat being on a reach, their action was efficient and the boat easily came up to her hull-speed. With nothing to do for the next hour or so, Mike was able to sit in a comfortable position on the bottom of the boat with his shoulder blades well supported by the side decks. Life felt pretty good!

It is such a pity that small-boat sailors have generally not learnt the skill of reefing. Frequently it is possible to see people struggling to hold a boat up, and on course, when it is obvious to an experienced eye that the boat is over-canvassed for the prevailing conditions. Many people don’t understand that a boat will often go faster after having a reef tied in, while at the same time the strain is taken off the crew. If you want to explore the physics of this fact, have a read of Frank Bethwaite’s wonderful book, ‘High Performance Sailing’. Mike well remembered a day (long ago) when he and a friend were sailing a heavily-reefed dinghy when 35 knot winds had sent every other sailing boat home. Their boat was reduced to about half of her normal sail area, but Mike and his friend were comfortably seated on the weather rail eating salted peanuts while the boat sailed efficiently and in a docile manner. They were having a great sail at a time when everybody else had gone home…

Full Sail – 104 sq.ft.

(click images to enlarge)


Full Jib – Reefed Main – 86 sq.ft.


Reefed Main Only – 64 sq.ft.

The big boat sailors still reef routinely, but not many dinghy sailors follow their example. Do yourself a favour and learn the skill – you will enjoy your sailing more, and go much further in safety. Seaworthiness is more about judgment and skill on the part of the skipper, than about the shape and size of the boat.

In case you want to know, Mike had a great day sailing, and ended up getting home in the late afternoon with a deep reef tied into his mainsail, and with the jib stowed away in the forward compartment. I’d tell you the whole story, but I haven’t got enough time – you’ll just have to go out and try it for yourself…

Additional Rigs For Phoenix III

I’ve been approached by a customer who would like the option of two additional rigs for my design, Phoenix III: -

• A Bermudian Sloop for two-up sailing in local mixed-fleet racing; and
• A Balanced Lug of modest area for gentle sailing, or for teaching novices and those of nervous disposition.

Balanced Lug Option – 76 sq.ft.


Bermudian Sloop Option – 89 sq.ft.

I am not particularly enthusiastic about the Bermudian Sloop option, because it complicates the boat considerably – forestay, shrouds, chainplates, and (maybe) spreaders – and a very long mast.

But, the Balanced Lug strikes me as being an excellent rig for the boat, and it is definitely more simple to set-up than the existing Sprit-Sloop. Despite its reduced sail area compared with the Sprit-Sloop, it will still drive the boat in a spirited manner.

My existing boat (a larger boat than Phoenix III) has been rigged in many different ways, but her current rig is a Balanced Lug. I like it very much.

O.K., so why didn’t I specify a Balance Lug in the first place? Well, I wanted the boat to go as fast as possible when hard on the wind, and I wanted the maximum sail area from the shortest spars and the lowest rig.

The Sprit-Sloop is one of the few rigs which can fly a jib effectively without having to use shrouds or backstays of any sort. It also allows the shortest mast for a given sail area. My own Phoenix III will have the Sprit-Sloop rig, but I will also have a Balanced Lug rig for those occasions when I feel like a less strenuous sailing session.

The two additional rigs have been designed to use the existing mast step and mast partner, so no changes are required to the structure of the boat (the Bermudian will require stays).

In the case of the Balanced Lug rig, not only are the mast step and mast partner unchanged, but it uses the same mast as for the standard rig.

Both of the additional rigs are available as supplements, and include the sail plan, spar plans, and rigging details.

More columns by Ross Lillistone