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AN INTRODUCTION TO THE MODERN JUNK RIG

[This is an article provided by the JRA (UK)]

"Junk rigs are not fast, and cannot sail into the wind." This attitude to the junk rig around the world in not uncommon. To begin with, the junk was developed 2000 years ago as a commercial rig, that worked well and made money for its users, otherwise, it would have been scrapped by the Chinese very quickly. The Chinese appear to have constructed it by using materials that provided the best and most economical results. The many variations of the rig were developed to suit the particular sailing areas, such as rivers, lakes, inshore and offshore waters. In the same way the hull variations in shape and size were developed for the cargoes they carried and water and weather conditions in which they were used. The junk rig can be successfully applied to any type of boat, as has been done to inflatables, dinghies, racing yachts, cruising yachts, motor fishing vessels and larger commercial craft. The rig will enable a boat to sail as well to windward as the "HULL" will allow. Junk rigged racing yacht hulls usually achieve 35 deg. to windward and efficient cruising hulls 40 deg. However, what often happens is that the rig is fitted on a load carrying hull for long distance cruising and these hulls are very seaworthy, but not sparkling performers when it comes to sailing. When making comparisons one must also remember that many Bermudan rigged hulls do not always perform well to windward, by which we mean they do not sail closer than 55 deg. in spite of what many people like to say. This is because the Bermudan Rig has to be sailed efficiently to produce good results, but the junk rig can be sailed in quite a relaxed manner and produce good results. When off the wind, the junk rig is very efficient, with its large sail area high up and battens that boom out the sail. So you will find a Bermudan rigged boat of equal size will have to hoist a spinnaker (a racing sail!) to keep up with a junk rigged boat of the same length. In addition, the unstayed mast of the junk will also accept a ghoster or cruising shute, to add to the misery of the overtaken Bermudan rigged boat owner off the wind. Regarding choosing the best hull for a junk rig, as we have said, the rig works well on any hull shape. But, to achieve the best performance from the rig, the hull should be of shallow draft and light displacement, and you will be able to explore shallow waters, lakes, canals and rivers as well, and you may win races! The junk rig has been fitted to Catamarans and Trimarans. But, as usually the unstayed mast is supported from the keel of the boat, the rig is better suited to Trimarans or displacement hulled catamarans. However, deck stepped junk masts are not common and could be used for multihulls, although the junk rig is comparatively heavy when compared with the Bermudan rig and multihulls depend on a good power to weight ratio for their overall efficiency. The materials used for building junk rigs are various, with masts, yards, booms and battens, being made of wood, hollow timber, alloy tube, glass fiber tube, carbon fiber tube and of course, bamboo. The sails are usually Dacron polyester, but can be acrylic, cotton, canvas, polyethylene or even old flower bags! Boats up to 30’ overall usually have one sail, 30’-40’ two sails, as a ketch or schooner, over 40’ three sails and so on up to 400’ craft as the Chinese used. But, there are many successful exceptions to this general rule and no evidence to prove that a rig with any number of masts is more efficient than another. You can obtain information to enable you to design and build a junk rig yourself or you can have the rig designed for you professionally. The Junk Rig Association (UK) Fact Sheets will give you the names and addresses of designers, sources of information and suppliers of equipment. In the UK, you can get experience of sailing the junk rig by contacting members of the JRA and the Members List will tell you where they are and what boats they sail. You can attend JRA rallies when sailing is provided in various sizes from 9’-50’. You can also obtain professional tuition from a company which designs and supplies junk rigs. In conclusion, it can be said that an efficient boat is sailed by an efficient crew, and the crew’s efficiency is affected by their condition. The crews condition in the junk rigged boat, that has the quietest rig, that gives the most relaxed motion when compared to any other boat, and the easiest handling (all from the cockpit) will always be better than a boat with a Bermudan Rig.

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Gerald K. Limber Asheboro, NC gklimber@atomic.net