The Myths of Modern Sailing Boat Performance. Started with Mizzen and speed question

Sembloak on my forum asked the legitimate question…

I have to wonder, what is the point of the mizzen, really? I know it’s traditional, but for a performance daysailer it seems redundant.

Beth sailing canoe going upwind on Lake Burley Griffin with lug rig looking reasonably efficient. Controlled twist.

For performance a single sail is best – if there is not too large a restriction on rig height – the latter is my observation.

That and for minimal cost – that’s why I did the Goat Island Skiff with a single sail.

I would agree with you for course racing. But as soon as you expand from that the mizzen has advantages.

First advantage is you can stop the boat and it is totally relaxed. The main functional reasons are to reef or fix something or bail out after capsize. Very often you see references to the mizzen being pulled in flat to point her head to wind. That’s wrong advice – the boat sails backwards and hunts from tack to tack. But a little loose and the boat will drift sideways slowly. Nice too that you can tighten it to go more backwards or loosen it to go more sideways. Great if you are reefing in a channel with the wind at some oblique angle. John Goodman and I did that in the channel during the Texas200 – and had control to keep over to the side when the barge trains came through. It would be powerless panic otherwise.

This photo is from that moment.  There was a lot of wind.  We were busy in the cockpit tying in the reefs and I was adusting the mizzen from time to time to keep drifting along the windward boundary of the channel.

Goat Island Skiff being reefed during lots of wind.  Mizzen holds the boat stable with the mainsail dropped.  Can adjust angle of drift with mizzen sheet tension

I’m of two minds whether a mizzen is a good addition to a Goat.  The original single sail is so capable, so quick, easy to rig and makes the boat very simple to construct.

Reason 2  Handicapping committees for mixed fleet sailing

That divided rig boat can’t go to windward Oh … and they are lugsails. and you can still give the club level lasers a run for their money. (one time at the little Clayton bay club in South Australia the finishing boat crew gave me a discretionary trophy for finishing first and second in the two races of their big mixed fleet series. From Dinghies to Yachts. They know the boat so I was handicapped out … but when I walked up a heckler yelled out “what the f… is that thing”. I think he meant the boat, rather than the skipper who looks somewhat average.

You can sail backwards under much more control. Pull the mizzen round to the side you want to steer away from and steer with the rudder at the same time. Good for going into a Lock on a weir (Goolwa South Australia) or into a marina which is dead downwind in a good breeze. You have about 15 to 20 degrees each side of dead downwind.

Some chance of the 32″ wide boat sitting at anchor with foils retracted.

Stop to take photos or videos, have a rest, sort something out or eat lunch – make sandwiches in a 32″ wide boat!

Nice feeling of tying or beaching the boat with mizzen hoisted.  You can jump aboard and get sailing and hoist the main underway.  It is a really cool feeling.

BETH sailing canoe with mizzen raised ready for instant sailing.

Handling a squall – again in a 32″ wide boat. I’ve had her planing properly under mizzen only – just before I changed to bare poles (and jumped up onto the plane once after that too).

The jib is well accepted as a second sail but it is much more problematic (and powerful upwind and useless down – the mizzen is opposite). I like racing efficient boats with short footed jibs very much but I’m very aware of the poor life of the sail, the amount of messing around you have to do to make it efficient – tracks, barber haulers, stays with appropriate tension then the extra labour of sailing – keeping sheets from tangling during prestart flogging, bad behavour after capsize, trying to stop the sheets catching on something, uncertaintly that the jib is setting right – even with well set up boats. With a boomed mizzen you can just concentrate on sailing – it is easier to set up.

I know from quoting on sail/rig packages that a sloop is way more expensive than a freestanding main and mizzen.So that is some.

And as Robert says … it looks so interesting on the beach.

I love the iconoclastic reason too. People just don’t expect it to perform at all. Brings a grin to my face every time.  Because people have it all wrong about where performance comes from. That was my hunch proved out by BETH and the Goat.  I’ve the known that rig efficiency is largely a control of twist.

The group that sail my lug rigged boats have been doing lot of work to further develop the rig and reduce twist.

Foil efficiency means you can ignore hull efficiency unless you do something really stupid. The PDRacers and OzRacers taught me that … they are iconoclastic too.  Very Very Experienced sailors find that the boat behaves like a modern boat and can climb upwind better than many bigger boats despite the polytarp sails.

Or Composites for weight – the near 16ft Goat Island Skiff of 6mm plywood and Paulownia trim – 105lbs (50kg) for $2500 to $3500.  Go sailing with the family or have the local handicapper tearing out their hair.  Much of the “development” in the last 30 years has been a gradual transfer of well understood general principles that can be applied to boats of any material to using highly expensive materials that have given us another few percentage points of performance compared to the tens of tens of percent from good foils or controlling twist or keeping weight down with intelligent structures.

Prejudice – literally pre judgement – is what passes for speed producing factors.  Reverse bows will be soooo “Remember the boats around 2010 …” in another ten years.  Genoas were taken to be Fast for decades.  Asymmetric spinnakers look great but on restricted waters that many sail on are useless against conventional kites – particularly as you move away from lightweight skiffs into trailer sailor and yacht sizes.

Perhaps the most stupid narrowthink are the cant of the canting keelers.  Brilliant at a small scale (Mini transats etc) the maxis equipped with them have to run 200hp diesel engines to swing the keels and handle the sails.

It is much simpler to get weight out to windward using a multihull – much faster.  But the canting keelers simply to get a characterture  of multihull performance at huge complication and expense because some clubs and organisations won’t include real multihulls.

There’s even a bunch playing with getting the canted keel out of the water.  C’mon Chaps … make it longer and so lighter and to solve the draft problem in shallow water … make the end float.

Canting keelers are slower than multis for obvius reasons.  No matter how hard you try.

Look at the bow down trim because of that fat stern!  In very moderate conditions.

It relies on a heavy bit of lead that does nothing much about two metres from the hull side because it has to be short enought to swing to the other side underneath the boat.

Compare with the real power of these trimarans which has a lighter system many metres to windward of the hull in the water and doesn’t require any power to swing any-thing to tack.  Also look at the sea conditions that they are handling routinely.  Leaves canting keelers for dead.

Big trimarans show that canting keelers are slow rich men's toys

Fashion Fashion and misapplied thinking just shrinks away when you see the power of the boats in the photo above.

The things that improve sailing performance are applicable to any boat regardless of its material, give big jumps in performance rather than incremental ones of substituting materials.

The joy of handling a light efficient boat does not necessitate anything expensive happen at all

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