Running Commentary

When we talk about downwind sailing, the debate often seems to be about the relative merits of symmetrical versus asymmetrical spinnakers, or gybing a headsail to go goose-winged. It’s easy to forget there’s more than one way to pluck that particular goose.
Author:
Publish date:
pic3.wand_

When we talk about downwind sailing, the debate often seems to be about the relative merits of symmetrical versus asymmetrical spinnakers, or gybing a headsail to go goose-winged. It’s easy to forget there’s more than one way to pluck that particular goose.

wanderer_leadpic

Back in the dawn of cruising time—the ’50s and ’60s—long-distance sailors favored a different kind of running rig. To cruisers of the day the spinnaker was what famed ’60s solo sailor Sir Francis Chichester called a “lubberly sail,” and among serious passagemakers the issue was all about the most effective ways of setting double headsails for prolonged downwind voyages. Should twin forestays run side by side or one in front of the other? Jibs stitched together at the luff, or flown individually? Hanked-on or set flying? Mainsail down or left up?

You don’t expect total agreement when any group of sailors talks techniques; then, as now, you found a set-up that worked for you, and you stuck with it. Back in the ’50s, British circumnavigators Eric and Susan Hiscock developed a system that was particularly effective; so effective that the current custodians of one of the Hiscocks’ boats still swear by it.

wanderer3

I ran into this couple, Thies Matsen and Kicki Ericson, a few years ago in a tiny harbor in Tierra del Fuego, from where they were about to sail to Antarctica. Wanderer III, the 28-foot sloop on which the Hiscocks completed two circumnavigations, had changed little in the intervening half-century, and I suspect Eric and Susan could have stepped aboard and recognized every block, portlight and hatch (and maybe some of the running rigging); Thies is not one to mess with something that works well.

Wanderer III’s downwind rig is a case in point. Some time ago I watched one of the Hiscocks’ films, a scene in which featured Wanderer III careens downwind in the Atlantic trades under her “twins”—a pair of jibs poled out on either side in a most unusual arrangement. Even though the boat’s metronomic rolling through 70 degrees had nearly made me seasick in my armchair, Eric’s cheerful commentary notwithstanding, I was grateful for the chance to get a real-life look at this time-tested setup.

It’s one of those affairs that looks complicated at first sight but is deceptively simple. The articulated inboard ends of the twin poles are secured to a galvanized bracket on the mast.

wanderer3_2

The poles are stowed against the spreaders and held in place by their topping lifts (seen running through the deadeye under the spreader); the sheets (white/blue line) are permanently rigged, running from the deck, up through the pole end and back down to the deck.

The sheet is secured to the clew with the sail still on deck; as the pole is lowered via the topping lift, the headsail is raised, and then the sheet is trimmed from the cockpit. (See top image.) Repeat, if desired, with the other pole and sail. All this can be done by one person in a matter of minutes with a minimum of fuss—a thoroughly seamanlike set-up.

A few weeks ago I was idly thumbing through a copy of Hiscock’s Cruising Under Sail and came across some photos of Wanderer III flying her twins, with the identical poles and fittings. That they’ve lasted all this time is one hell of an endorsement.

Thies and Kicki had a successful winter in the Antarctic; when they left Patagonia they could hardly move down below for all the firewood they had stashed for their wood stove. They were counting on finding driftwood along the way to replenish their supplies. I didn’t like to suggest that if they ran out, they could start on the boat…

Thies and Kicki have just won two of the most coveted awards for ocean sailors, the Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water Medal and the Ocean Cruising Club’s Award of Merit. Couldn’t happen to a nicer couple.

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more