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.
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