Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Tahitian sprit sail

Certainly one of the most intriguing rigs to be observed during early European contact was the sprit sail used by the Tahitians and in a less radical form by the Hawaiians. It has a very high aspect ratio and a very interesting top shape. (Tip vortex reduction?)
It was not convenient to use and had to be tipped up fully rigged like a windsurfer sail. There does not seem to be a way to reef it. It is possible that the sail could be brailed up against the mast if the boom were removed.
Painting by Herb Kane.

I built a small version of this rig for my Ulua some years ago. Instead of a sprit along the leech to support the head, I used some fiberglass rod battens in curved pockets to support the head. While very efficient it still could not be lowered out on the water or reefed.

I came up with another version of this rig for a 27' Tahitian tipairua (catamaran) that I built for a client. This is actually a cross between a sliding gunter rig and the Tahitian rig. It had full length battens throughout and could be reefed while underway. I used a sprit boom to reduce the twist from a very high aspect sail like this. It goes very well to windward.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Austronesian sail types

This chart taken from Edwin Doran Jr's book "Wangka" shows the principal sail types used in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Note that he refers to the Oceanic lateen as a crane sprit.
Click on the drawing for a larger image.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Gaff rig

While the gaff rig was used occasionally in Polynesia after European contact, few have been seen until recently in Tahiti where these elegant outriggers seem to have put the gaff rig to good use.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Sprit rig

During the early period of contact with European ships, Oceanic sailors were very interested in the strange new sailing rigs they saw. While the big square sails of the European ships attracted little envy, their small boat rigs were soon copied. The photo below shows a Vinta entering Zamboanga in the Southern Philippines equipped with a European style sprit rig. In this case it is used as a tacking rig.

The photo below shows single outriggers, on Borabora lagoon in French Polynesia, using the sprit rig in a tacking configuration.

In Papua New Guinea the sprit rig was adapted for shunting, where the sail is reversed from end to end and the canoe can sail with either end as the bow. The ama is always kept on the windward side. Large steering paddles are necessary to balance a sail that is centered well aft.