Junk Rigged Senior

Article awaiting pictures.

During the recent Beale Park Boat Show I studied David Seymour-Jones’s costing on his ‘stitch and glue’ Senior ‘Proto’. These showed an estimate of £1000 for the boat plus £2000 for the Bermudan rig using aluminium spars and professionally made sails. David’s boat was actually rigged using the sails and spars from a boat that had been scrapped. This bought to mind the significant savings that could be made by installing a Chinese junk rig as I used on my Senior ‘Woodlark’.

Woodlark was built in the late eighties with utmost economy in mind. All dimensional timber was constructional grade softwood covered in shuttering plywood and sheathed in glass cloth and polyester resin. It all worked out OK, even the polyester resin bonded well to the porous surface of the softwood plywood.

I wanted to try the Junk rig for two reasons; it could entirely controlled from the cockpit and it could be built very cheaply.

View of Junk Rig sailThe mast was freestanding and glued up from several pieces of same stuff that went into the hull. The battens were from standard 2 x1’s and the sail made from a woven plastic tarpaulin. Add some thin polypropylene rope, a few small blocks and some plastic cleats and the rig was complete. I could not varnish the spars but had to paint them to hide the knots! None of the rig is greatly stressed so it could be made with low grade materials.

Unfortunately the Hasler & McLeod book had not been published so I had to design the rig myself guided by magazine articles and pictures. After a bit of fiddling the rig worked really well and seemed to suit the boat. The Senior was the standard bilge keel version and while it was not as good to windward as some it got about quite well. I really enjoyed sailing the boat as it was and now regret changing it to Bermudan after my brother in law gave me some sails from a 16 foot dinghy. After the changeover I found the boat heeled much more going to windward (I may have made the mast too heavy) and I did not enjoy having to go forward onto an unfenced foredeck with few handholds to mess about with the sails. Also I found it annoying that I had to furl and stow the sails after sailing rather than tying two bits of string round the sail bundle, pull the sheet taut and go home.

Sailing the boat with junk rig was quite different than with Bermudan in that I did not often reef going to windward but quite often downwind. As the sail is essentially a flat plate it did not generate much heeling force so there was little stress on the mast. Going downwind the boat would only go so fast and after that it was just making the mast (made of knotty pine) bend. Reefing reduced and lowered the stresses on the mast.

The downside of the rig was that the mast was planted through the deck and I had to have another man to help me lift it in and out when fitting out and laying up. Easy for two men but one slip and the deck would have got ripped up.

When fitting out the various lines took a while to sort out as it was easy to get the luff parrel caught up with the batten parrels, the yard hauling parrel, the halyard and the lifts. Once it was set up it was very easy to use. To set the sail; loosen the sheet, pull on the halyard and tighten the yard and luff parrels. To reef; lower with the halyard, tighten the yard and luff parrels and adjust the sheet.

YM Senior Woodlark on her mooringTo replicate Woodlark’s rig today wood probably cost about £100 using cheap materials or £400 – 500 using polyester sailcloth and ‘proper’ timber if the sail was home made. Making the sail presents few problems as it is cut flat if you accept the fact that polyester sail cloth is evil stuff to handle. Actually the polytarp sail makes a lot of sense as it is UV resistant and does not need a cover. It is not inferior to polyester cloth as there are no point loads on the sail but it is not so resistant to chafe.

Charles Portway
YM Senior “Woodlark”