Bowsprit Dreams

Frank Fosse of Charleston, South Carolina, asks:

"I sail a 1983 Beneteau First 42, which I enjoy very much. I would like to fly an asymmetric spinnaker and/or a Code-O sail from a bowsprit, like on many of the more modern boats I see these days. I see there are some removable bowsprits on the market, but they look a bit light to me. Are they really strong enough for what I want to do? If not, what sort of permanent sprit could I install? Is there an easy way to figure out the loads involved so I can engineer something myself? Also, where does the name Code-O come from anyway?"

Win Fowler replies:

There are several reputable spar makers offering removable bowsprit kits appropriate for a boat your size. I am confident that they’ve done the necessary engineering to ensure they won’t be embarrassed. If you follow the installation instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems. If you are nervous about a kit, there are spar makers who can engineer and fabricate a custom sprit for your boat.

“Code-O” refers to a very close reaching asymmetrical spinnaker with a minimum midgirth. Racing Code-O sails are generally required to have a midgirth of 75 percent of their foot length, and so are fuller than true upwind sails. The term and the sail became fashionable after Volvo 60s started using masthead “reachers” they designated “Code-O” as light air upwind sails. These reachers were allowed a minimum 65 percent midgirth and were better upwind sails than most current Code-O sails.

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