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  #1  
Old 04-09-2008
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From Sloop to Cutter

My boat, a Rawson 30, is a masthead sloop. The fellow I had do a recent survey on her suggested I convert her to a cutter rig. He says it will improve on her weather helm and the ability to maintain hull speed. The surveryor is a well known designer and builder, so I betting he knows what he is talking about ?

My question is, has anyone ever converted from a sloop to a cutter and are there any other distinct advantages or disadvantages?
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Old 04-09-2008
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are you on the yahoo Rawson owners group? lots of good, well documented discussion and pictures there on this topic, Rawson specific.

rawsonownersnet : Rawson 30 Owners' Network

A longer bow sprit helps a lot, no need for a cutter conversion (its still a sloop even with two headsails). If you fly two headsails you need to have then cut for that purpose i.e. you can't use your old sails.
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Old 04-09-2008
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A cutter arrangement will make helm balance easier, which is especially important with using an auto pilot. Many conversions are simply comprised of an inner forestay with a smaller sail. Having an inner forestay is a good idea, especially if you have a furling setup on the main headstay. It's not much of a leap to cutter from there.
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Old 04-09-2008
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I would go with a longer bow sprit too. The change to a cutter would be a lot more work. The loads on the mast change, you might need running back stays and you than have the chafe on the inner stay.

Keep it simple, just my thoughts
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Old 04-09-2008
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Severe weather helm can be solved many ways. Adding more sail forward of the mast is just one way. That can be a bigger headsail, a stay sail, a bow sprit so the existing headsail is farther ahead, whatever. Other ways are to reduce or flatten (maybe recut) the mainsail, Change the mast rake, use the traveller to lower the boom, trim the boat by the bow, etc. The expensive solution is converting to a cutter rig.

That being said, my boat was converted to a cutter rig. It was half done when I bought it. The conversion involved adding 3 tangs on the mast (one for the inner stay and two for the runners), putting a chain plate through the foredeck with sufficient backing to take the load, adding chainplates to take the backstay loads, buying the innerstay, the runners, two tackles to handle the runners, and a new sail. Now, with all that done I have never used the set up because once I raked the mast aft, recut the mainsail, and tuned the boat properly the problems the previous owner thought he was having went away. If I was out in very severe weather the inner stay is there and quick to setup. I would use it. So far I have never had the need. I think the PO spent a lot of money for little gain.

If the boat is properly designed and correctly rigged then you should be able to minimize weather helm by a good tuning. I know Rawsons have had some issues with weather helm but I would try everything else first. It seems like a lot of Rawson's are running around and sailing just fine without spending thousands correcting weather helm. I love the trident on the bow.. That is the strongest headstay setup ever.
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Last edited by Plumper; 04-09-2008 at 09:44 PM.
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Old 04-09-2008
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The weather helm issue is not so much a factor of sail area as it is a function of center of effort. As was mentioned above, moving the center of effort forward through use of a bowsprit will go a long way to solving the problem.

A boat that is designed as a cutter will usually have a mast that is located farther aft than would be the case if it had been designed with a sloop rig. This is done to allow for better balance of the rig.
Ignoring this and adding canvas wherever will not ease your helm, it will just make the boat less stable.

At a minimum you are going to need two new specially designed headsails and a fair amount of hardware to accomodate the change, and I would doubt that you'll find the boat's performance to be noticeably better. The additional force generated by the extra sail area is going to increase the heeling moment of the boat, and the additional turbulence generated by using two trailing edges on a slot designed for one, may even serve to make the boat sail slower than it does currently.

You need to pay especial attention to the sheeting angles of the headsails as it is very easy to backwind the mainsail when you are dealing with such narrow slots.

It is great that you are willing to spend the time, effort and money to enhance the boat's performance and seaworthiness, but it could probably be better achieved through changes other than the addition of a headsail.

Good Luck and let us know how it works out !

Last edited by Sailormann; 04-09-2008 at 11:31 PM.
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Old 04-09-2008
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Yup, you can't just add an inner forestay and try to sail your boat like it's a cutter. You'll have to change the entire geometry of your rig as a whole. There are some uses for a sloop designed sailboat with a retro-fitted inner stay, like sail options in higher winds. If it really started to blow you could drop your sail off the forestay and sail a smaller staysail or storm jib off the inner forestay. Combined with a reduced main or trysail this could be a tidy, balanced rig.
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Old 04-09-2008
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Really? Tell it to this guy. By the way, he just got back from an Atlantic crossing.
S/V Kestrel - The Boat
See #8.
Other than adding the inner forestay with running backstays, it's the same rig.
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Old 04-09-2008
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Seabreeze-

Adding an inner forestay is often done to allow a smaller storm sail to be used. The inner stay is often a solent stay and won't require running backstays. Kestrel's wasn't a solent stay and did require the backstays to support the mast at the level of the inner forestay attachment. This doesn't make the boat a cutter though.
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Old 04-09-2008
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It makes it a double headsail sloop, like mine.
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There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar IV, iii, 217
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