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Thread: Why mizzen sails?

  1. #1
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    Default Why mizzen sails?

    I notice that many of the sail boat designs popular among forum members employ a mizzen sail. I'm referring to the designs by Oughtred, Vivier, Welsford and others. What is the function of these mizzens, as they apparently do not contribute to "powering" the boat?
    And what is sacraficed by excluding the mizzen? Oughtred for example shows sail plans with and without a mizzen.
    Thanks for your comments
    pvg

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    The mizzen sail is used to help with balance on a boat that's too small for a schooner rig.


    Let the flaming begin!
    Schooner captains love to get blown offshore!

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Options. It provides different choices .
    At anchor, or indeed anchoring,it helps keep the boats bow pointed up wind.
    Motoring or rowing, it keeps the boats bow from being blown down.
    Who told you it provides no power? A mizzen can be a first reef. Or the main can be dropped and the mizzen becomes the deep reefed main.
    It can wake you up in a squall with its noisy racket.
    It can make your boat easier to find rowing home drunk at night.
    It makes your boat easier to identify to folks in the bar who ask,"which one is yours?".
    I'll be back with edits ( thats an edit).
    "Performance" has different meanings for folks. For some it means only speed. These folks will usually ditch the mizzen, unless a handicap rule benefits a split rig.
    For others, performance might mean ease of shorthanded sailing,not being enslaved to steering, safety,less rig load. These folks will benefit from a smaller main and a mizzen.
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 06-02-2019 at 10:17 AM.

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    A mizzen is sometimes called a "jigger". Those who like to be on the water in their yawls, but not going much of anywhere, set just the jigger and the jib and call it "jigging and jibbering".

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    I like spanking .

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    More control with a sail at each end of the boat. Never had a boat with a mizzen, but had a small schooner. Using the jib and main allowed precise boat handling.
    Elect a clown expect a circus

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Quote Originally Posted by ahp View Post
    A mizzen is sometimes called a "jigger". Those who like to be on the water in their yawls, but not going much of anywhere, set just the jigger and the jib and call it "jigging and jibbering".
    I had a time delivering a Concordia when a sudden squall came up. I dropped the main & sailed jib & jigger. Since the jib was fairly small, the boat balanced beautifully & wasn't overpowered.

    Mizzens can also help on maneuverability. Pull it hard over to really throw the stern over - even faster than a big rudder can do.

    And... They look cool. Drawback is that they fill up the aft deck - though that's not an issue on a small boat.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Marianita's mizzen is part of her "power plant" as well as being a good way to fine-tune her overall balance. I singlehand almost all the time, the first and last sail I set is the mizzen; sheeted in tight it keeps the bow pointed close enough into the wind for me to go forward and get the main up without worrying about the boat taking off while I'm fussing about getting the peak set.
    Steve

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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Sheet in the mizzen, ease the main, and the boat will point upwind while you reef, dig out your foul weather gear, or eat your sandwich.

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    I have a small mizzen on my outrigger sailing canoe. As said above, it can help in maneuvering -- you can do some interesting things with it. Mainly I like it so that I can easily reef the main, or take a rest by letting go the main sheet and setting the mizzen at an angle so that the bow sets to the waves at an angle and the main boom does not keep wandering around to interrupt my lunch, repair, or whatever.

    On my first set up I had a ketch rig, 37 sf mizzen, 56 sf main standing lugs. There was serious hand-adjusted maneuverability by playing the mizzen, including backing up :-). I was concerned that so much performance was being lost in the ketch set-up (because people told me there was, not because I noticed it), that I changed to a 20 sf mizzen (marconi) and a 75 sf main (fathead). The proportions were "yawl" but the mast placements were still "ketch." Now, I said to myself, I will have more power in the sail that doesn't get back-winded. To tell the truth, I have not noticed much, if any difference, except that the main is a bit easier to reef than the old standing lug. That's all. Maybe because my skinny hull reaches hull speed very easily I am less likely to notice the change? I have not noticed much difference pointing and footing either -- now that flabbergasts me, I admit.

    Some people say they can sail on their mizzen. Steve Ladd in his book 'Three Years in a 12 Foot Boat' seems to have done it often. I did that by accident. I was being lazy and sailing zephyrs fully reclined and didn't notice the roll clouds of a big squall coming (and the hills and trees around the lake did mask them a bit until the last moment). I frantically reefed the main, to which the previous owner had added nylon straps and buckles for fast reefs. As the rain came, the fast reef system became a fast un-reef system as the wet nylon straps slipped through the buckles as the first burst of wind hit -- maybe that's why he sold me the sail so cheaply after using it only a few days? Anyway, I had to drop the main and sit on it as the 40 knot gusts came, turning the lake white. I flew across the lake on that little mizzen, probably 12-14 knots. I could even steer with good control. So then I suddenly saw that the mizzen could be used that way, though I would have rather gone "jib and jigger" in that situation. -- Wade

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Many of the boats on the forum are small trailer-sailed centerboatders. Perhaps one reason two-masters are popular is that you get a reduced rig height. This has two benefits:

    1. For an unballasted boat, a lower rig allows you to carry more sail area without too much heeling.

    2. For a trailer-sailed boat, a lower rig means shorter masts to set up at each launch. It also may allow for unstayed masts, which reduced launch effort.
    I will beg you for advice, your reply will be concise, and I will listen very nicely and then go out and do exactly what I want! (Apologies to Lerner and Lowe.)

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    On small boats used for cruising, when you want to reef, having the boat sit head to wind with the mizzen sheeted flat allows you to tie in the reef quietly and bear away when you're good and ready.

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Same is true for bigger boats !

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    Default

    I think they look cute. And shippy.

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  15. #15
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    I use mizzens on my small boats for the reasons stated above. But a good example is my Goat Island Skiff addition. The GIS was one of my first boats I worked with but to turn it into a more appropriate design for sail-and-oar use, the first addition was a mizzen. Different boats respond to differing degrees when the mizzen is used, but they all point into the wind and stay that way while one douses sail, reefs, or switches in between oar and sail use. That was the large reason for adding a mizzen to even as small a boat as the GIS. Most of my work especially with kits has been highly influenced by my collaborations, in particular with Vivier. However, I have found since helping him break into the North American market, FV has started adding more mizzens in his designs, too. By request, he added one to ILUR. When we developed the JEWELL, a mizzen was integral to the design. He has since designed a yawl sail-and-oar boat, too.

    You can also do some cool stuff with mizzens - a bit more advanced, like using it to sail backwards.
    Clinton B. Chase
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    The mizzen mast looks bare without 'em... ;-)
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Quote Originally Posted by SchoonerRat View Post
    The mizzen sail is used to help with balance on a boat that's too small for a schooner rig.


    Let the flaming begin!
    I've never been able to work out why a well designed boat needs any such expensive way of assisting with balance when trimmed well, unless it's been caught by a gust or wave while being driven as hard as possible during racing. Even something as basic as a Laser is pretty well balanced when sailed well. After all, what weather helm can't be cured by just easing or twisting off the mainsail, which is normally efficient in the conditions you will develop weather helm anyway?

    I can get the use of the mizzen for oar-and-sail boats when changing sails etc, although on the other hand we seem to spend a fair bit of time just sitting happily on a reach and luffing between Laser races. One day I must try to see whether we are making small adjustments to maintain course or if the boats are just sitting there.
    Last edited by Chris249; 06-02-2019 at 07:39 PM.

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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    One complication a mizzen can bring to a small boat is the potential for interference with a conventional tiller unless the mizzen is off-center. Not every hull will take an off-center mizzen, so other systems like push-pull tillers, hoop tillers, and yoke to tiller steering are needed.

    I agree that it sounds nice to sheet the mizzen flat and let the boat sit head to wind. But I've been sailing mizzenless boats for a long time and haven't been too bothered by the lack of a mizzen. Certainly a single-sail, single-sheet rig is simpler in some ways, and less complicated and expensive to build and provide sails for. So, much of it depends on what you want from your boat. Simplicity? Economy? Infinite adjustability? Conventional tiller? Push-pull? Lots of choices.

    Tom
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    It is true what WI-Tom says.
    I find that the mizzen on my Deblois St Dory is not really worth it, for instance. Some boats can lie ahull to the wind and be ok.
    Clinton B. Chase
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Our boat is easy to handle because it's split rig, I've a few miles on her near sister ship , which is sloop , and they need electrics to set sail.
    We're a tiller boat at 45 ft and balance is not an issue. Whoever said that the mizzen does nothing as far as power is concerned is either mis quoted or hasn't sailed one.
    We found a sweet spot sea rig for windward work in 25 to 35 getting out of the convergence zone at Fiji a couple of years ago... Reefed or double reefed main, half a jib ( whoever said reefed jibs don't set for windward work hasn't sailed a properly set up one) and toggle between full and reefed mizzen. That way we don't leave the cockpit and can power up easily in the lulls.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    I've owned three boats with mizzens: a 26' gaff yawl, a 19 sprit yawl dory and a 39' ketch. I love them. If I could have a custom built cruiser, she'd be a yawl. The gaff yawl had no engine, I could sail her backward by backing the mizzen. I could sail her in circles with the staysail sheet in one hand, the mizzen in the other. That let me sail her downwind between tightly spaced docks, spin, luff and tie up. On the ketch I easily single hand by setting the mizzen first, from the cockpit, and heave to by sheeting it in tight while I walk around setting other sails. Striking sails is the other way: sheet in mizzen, slack the other sheets and furl at my leisure. Short handed in a breeze, roller jib and mizzen are easily set without leaving the cockpit. Masts? I'll take two please.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Your mizzen's a lot bigger than most, John; that must help with performance.

    I've only sailed a ketch once or twice but I do recall many people saying that the mizzens were not helping at all upwind. That was when I started ocean racing as a kid and about the time the maxi ketches were becoming maxi sloops to go faster. Obviously Big Red changed things but that was also due to other rating rule developments.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Chris, yes quite a bit of drag upwind obviously and that probably nets out the power gained in a breeze, but we don't get too shamed by the sloops in the light ,and we have a ton or three cruising gear living aboard. But we try to choose to not sail 35 degrees apparent unless we're in a race or trying to lay through. We did sail 5 out of 6.5 days 'cruisers on the wind ' .. say 45 through 65 to get here from Fiji in 17. That was a good passage time for that trip, not racer good but still fast cruiser good.
    .FB_IMG_1547542688266.jpg
    Leaving in a week , I could begin to get excited soon.
    Paul Gilbert photo,Aquapix...used with his permission.
    Last edited by John B; 06-02-2019 at 10:13 PM.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Thanks to all who have participated in this discussion; as OP I'm actively following the discourse. So please, keep it up! Obviously there are no one size fits all answers; but the varied replies regarding different boats, sizes, waters, uses, and sailors has been quite informative.
    regards and thanks again
    pvg

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris249 View Post
    I've never been able to work out why a well designed boat needs any such expensive way of assisting with balance when trimmed well, unless it's been caught by a gust or wave while being driven as hard as possible during racing. Even something as basic as a Laser is pretty well balanced when sailed well. After all, what weather helm can't be cured by just easing or twisting off the mainsail, which is normally efficient in the conditions you will develop weather helm anyway?

    I can get the use of the mizzen for oar-and-sail boats when changing sails etc, although on the other hand we seem to spend a fair bit of time just sitting happily on a reach and luffing between Laser races. One day I must try to see whether we are making small adjustments to maintain course or if the boats are just sitting there.
    The balance of a boat is affected by a whole lot of different factors...angle of heel, trim, different sails, wind speed and angle, sea state, rig tuning, cleanliness of the bottom, weight or lack thereof in the ends of the boat, the touch of the helmsman, new sails or blown-out rags, crew placement, etc.

    A mizzen is not an expensive way of assisting with balance on an ill designed boat that should balance well without one, if only she was designed well. It's another factor in the equation that will make a boat that was designed for it sail better. I'm a schooner lover. By your reasoning, my main stays'l, fore stays'l, and fisherman are just an expensive way of balancing a boat that if well designed shouldn't need them. I know you didn't actually say that, but you did sort of imply it, and if you had said it, at best you'd get a very dirty look from me!

    I have to admit that some of the many boats that I've fallen in love with over the decades have been ketches and yawls. Keep that to yourself. If you tell anybody I said that, I'll deny it.
    Schooner captains love to get blown offshore!

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Quote Originally Posted by SchoonerRat View Post
    The balance of a boat is affected by a whole lot of different factors...angle of heel, trim, different sails, wind speed and angle, sea state, rig tuning, cleanliness of the bottom, weight or lack thereof in the ends of the boat, the touch of the helmsman, new sails or blown-out rags, crew placement, etc.

    A mizzen is not an expensive way of assisting with balance on an ill designed boat that should balance well without one, if only she was designed well. It's another factor in the equation that will make a boat that was designed for it sail better. I'm a schooner lover. By your reasoning, my main stays'l, fore stays'l, and fisherman are just an expensive way of balancing a boat that if well designed shouldn't need them. I know you didn't actually say that, but you did sort of imply it, and if you had said it, at best you'd get a very dirty look from me!

    I have to admit that some of the many boats that I've fallen in love with over the decades have been ketches and yawls. Keep that to yourself. If you tell anybody I said that, I'll deny it.
    I won't say a thing.
    One of my dream ships is out getting her 4 yearly survey for charter, paint job and general refurbishment. Not that she looks like she needs it she's in such wonderful condition. She's that portly old girl ,Arcturus, the Aden 390. The one you look at her lines and think she'll be slow...... and then like Nanna's old 55 chev on the skinnies ( the one she had a 350hp 350 and Muncie slipped in in 1974), she picks up her skirts and flies. A bit of a sleeper in other words.
    Balance , yes I'm continually amazed by the many combinations and how a tweak here or there will make an unlikely combination work. I've never fancied the whole jig and jigger thing myself , I do do it but in a breeze I can't see the logic in choosing the skinny stick to move our 12 or 14 tons along when we have a perfectly good telephone pole up forward. Better double reefed main and something little in front of that for me.
    Last edited by John B; 06-03-2019 at 12:38 AM.

  27. #27
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by John B View Post
    Chris, yes quite a bit of drag upwind obviously and that probably nets out the power gained in a breeze, but we don't get too shamed by the sloops in the light ,and we have a ton or three cruising gear living aboard. But we try to choose to not sail 35 degrees apparent unless we're in a race or trying to lay through. We did sail 5 out of 6.5 days 'cruisers on the wind ' .. say 45 through 65 to get here from Fiji in 17. That was a good passage time for that trip, not racer good but still fast cruiser good.
    .FB_IMG_1547542688266.jpg
    Leaving in a week , I could begin to get excited soon.
    Paul Gilbert photo,Aquapix...used with his permission.
    You're off again JB! Woo Hoo! Kept that fairly quiet. My comment about mizzens being cute was more directed to them on little sail and oar boats. They do make good sense on a larger boat of course. Maybe less efficient than a sloop, but unless you are a fully crewed racer or have reliable electric winches and the power to run them, you need 2 masts. Both my ketches have had old and shapeless and fairly useless mizzens, but yours looks great and seems very effective. Closer to a schooner than a yawl, if I can put it that way.

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  28. #28
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Quote Originally Posted by Clinton B Chase View Post
    It is true what WI-Tom says.
    I find that the mizzen on my Deblois St Dory is not really worth it, for instance. Some boats can lie ahull to the wind and be ok.
    I have to say I really enjoyed the mizzen in your Calendar Islands Yawl, Clint. Off-center so a conventional tiller can be used, which I love. I did drop the main, sheet the mizzen in tight, and wait out a bit of a blow while casually eating a couple of sandwiches on the day I was lucky enough to sail her on a Lake Superior crossing (10 miles at the far west end, NOT across the big open lake!)

    So I'm not anti-mizzen by any means. Just probably too lazy to make them a priority for my own use in small boats.

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Quote Originally Posted by SchoonerRat View Post
    The balance of a boat is affected by a whole lot of different factors...angle of heel, trim, different sails, wind speed and angle, sea state, rig tuning, cleanliness of the bottom, weight or lack thereof in the ends of the boat, the touch of the helmsman, new sails or blown-out rags, crew placement, etc.
    Yes, but some people say that mizzens help with balance as if they are implying that balance is a problem and one that is best solved with a mizzen. I'm very well aware of the factors involved in balance but in a good boat they seem to be easily and efficiently solved in other ways.

    I didn't mean to imply anything against schooners. If you like them, good on you - diversity in sailing and design is great.
    Last edited by Chris249; 06-03-2019 at 07:15 AM.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    I also like the ability to self steer. I often sail her sitting in the companionway. My old sloop would do this upwind with the tiller pegged, the yawl and ketch will do it on a wider course.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    For small sail and oar boats which use a lug rig the mizzen is very handy setting and dousing sail. Unlike other types of mains, when you set and douse the lug there are times when the boat wants to charge off down wind when the sail is half way up or down, and the lug yard needs control to keep it out of your hair. Sheeting the mizzen hard keep the boat pointed into the wind, and keeps untoward things from happening. On larger boats its more of a balance thing but on the small open boats they can really help. Why many of the lug rigged British fishing craft carry them.

    For camp cruising boats the little mizzen mast can also be a useful part of a tent system.
    Ben Fuller
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  32. #32
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris249 View Post
    Yes, but some people say that mizzens help with balance as if they are implying that balance is a problem and one that is best solved with a mizzen. I'm very well aware of the factors involved in balance but in a good boat they seem to be easily and efficiently solved in other ways.

    I didn't mean to imply anything against schooners. If you like them, good on you - diversity in sailing and design is great.
    People who say and imply that are wrong. There are MANY well designed split rigs around. On these boats the mizzen is not an afterthought to cure a boat that has balance problems. It's an integral part of the design. Such a boat will "sail better" with a properly set and trimmed jigger than it will without. Close quarters boat handling can also benefit from a mizzen.
    Schooner captains love to get blown offshore!

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    I sure like ours on Drake. I much prefer having 3 smaller sails, spread out, than a sloop.

    It can be hard to rig a bimini though - a fact that annoys my wife.

    I prefer the ketch rig, particularly one in which the mainmast is placed as far forward on the boat as it can be stayed. This provides proper space for the mizzen, and allows it to be a powerful sail.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    For a given sail area having a split rig like a jib, main and mizzen allows smaller individual sails requiring less work for dealing with any one sail. It also allows for a lower center of effort ont he rig, often meaning you can carry ful sail longer if needed. If you have a family or like to sail with friends of a participatory bent it also gives more people something to do

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Why mizzen sails?

    Striking my 100 sq ft mizzen is usually my first reef. (or topsl, depending on things, including my mood)
    The action is happening in the cockpit where there is much less violence. Pretty handy at night , half asleep.
    Same with putting it back up again...quick, easy and safe.
    b

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