Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
Thanked 193 Times in 158 Posts
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My experience with the junk rig (or gaff rigs for that matter) suggests that there is nothing particulaly easy about sailing them, and they add nothing to the ease of single handed sailing, reefing and they are a high wear rig in terms of chafe. I know that there is a Junk rig, near cult-like following out there, but those that I have known, have spent very little time sailing modern rigs and so really do not have a clear point of comparason between the two.
There was a time when I was a big fan of Gaff, Junk and Lug rigs. I did everything that I could to get experience sailing on boats with these rigs. As much as I wanted these rigs to be some kind of panacea, I never found any distinguishing merit to them and I certainly encountered a lot of liabilities that are rearely discussed.
The junk rigs that I have sailed did not point very well, were slow in irons, tended to excitation roll miserably, and could death roll in a strong breeze. There was a time in history when junk rigs may have made sense, since bak then the yacht designs of that era produced inefficient hull forms, hardware was pretty crude and sail cloths were quite stretchy. Given that the hulls and keel were the limiting factor to the sailing ability of the boat, and all sails were stretchy, a junk rig gave very little away to other rigs of that era, but today, so much has improved, that the complexity of the rigging, initial purchase cost, chafe issues, and lack of performance really make junk rigs an anacrhonism.
The only thing that I will say in defence of the junk rig is that if you were building a boat with an inefficient hull form (i.e. lots of drag, and minimal stability and pointing ability) and you planned to predominantly sail long distances along the trade wind routes, then the low aspect ratio and good reaching ability of these sails begin to make some kind of sense.
But for the kind of sailing that most cruisers, even long distance cruisers, tend to experience, greater flexibility and sail shape control is warranted than can be achieved with a Junk rig.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay