As always, it''s impossible to argue with JeffH''s facts but easy to argue with his conclusions
I''ve sailed numerous times aboard a friends (Reid Stowe) 70'' gaff rigged schooner which he built himself 25 years ago (www.1000Days.net). I was inspired so much that I bought my own gaff-rigged Westsail 32.
I suspect that how much you have to fiddle with your halyards or outhauls depends on your sailing style and whether you are neurotically obsessed with getting every fraction of a knot of speed out of every fraction of a knot of wind.
Most people who go with a gaff-rigg don''t do so with the intent to race them, for all the reasons Jeff mentioned. More often, they''re used by people who either want to inspire ohs and ahs at regattas or who want to do some serious long distance cruising. When sailing across an ocean, you might set your sails and not touch them for several days.
Reid has had no trouble sailing his 70'' schooner alone or with just one other crew person, and while I agree that it takes some heaving to raise the gaff, the 4 part blocks do all the work. It''s actually easier for me to raise my mainsail alone without the use of a winch than it would be if I had a marconi rig.
As far as ability to point, I''ve heard this a lot, but in my experience, a gaff-rigged boat might point at 50 degrees to windward whereas a marconi rigg might point to 35-40 with any degree of performance, but this is generally not a major issue unless you''re clawing for a mark (or off a lee shore)
Gaff sails are generally heavier than their counterparts, and don''t seem to take as much beating (probably because they are not sailed beating in to the wind as often). My sails are several years old and look practically new, and same for Reid''s sails, except for a tear along a reefing cringle.
Halyards would have more friction, and theoretically wear faster, however, since you''re buying so much more line to feed through the blocks, you''re probably buying cheaper braided line, so, it may not cost as much. And, again, it all depends on your kind of sailing. If you''re crossing oceans, you''re not raising and lowering your sails as often as the local coastal racer.
As far as the schooner design, Reid''s boat is increadibly sweet. He based the design on the East Coast cargo schooner, and then modified the lines a bit. His boat has a fantastic amount of room below, but also performs very well underway; very well balanced. He said that he sailed from down around Trinadad up to St. Marteen without once touching the wheel or the sails without an auto pilot or windvane, just a little piece of twine looped over one of the spokes of the wheel.
So, consider what your sailing style is. If you''re not in a hurry, and you''d like something fun, stylish and very capable, then a gaff-rigged schooner is a great choice. If you want to enter the local yacht races single-handed, and you''re a freak about getting some place a few seconds faster, then maybe you want something else
Enjoy and let us know how it goes!
Oh, and check out a few books, such as Hand, Reef and Steer by Tom Cunliffe or The Gaff Rig Handbook: History, Design, Techniques, Developments by John Leather. That will tell you all you need to know!