Schooner - Schooner Sail Plan

Schooner Sail Plan

The schooner sail plan has two or more masts with the forward mast being shorter or the same height as the rear masts.

The dominant issue with a schooner is how to most effectively fill the space between the two masts. Traditional schooners are gaff rigged, and the trapezoid shape of the foresail can occupy the inter-mast space to good effect, with a useful sail area and a low centre of effort.

An equivalent Bermuda rigged schooner is less likely to have a boomed triangular sail abaft the foremast, as the shape is of insufficient area to maximise drive, and such a sail does little to prepare the wind for the mainsail. More commonly, a schooner with a Bemuda mainsail will have a mainstaysail between the masts, and on the foredeck, one or two foresails, namely the forestaysail (aka jib, or genoa) and inner forestaysail. Advantages of the staysail schooner rig are that it is easily handled and reefed by a small crew, and in lighter airs a loose-footed "fisherman" may be flown above the mainstaysail. The fisherman's staysail, a four-sided fore-and-aft sail, is not strictly a staysail, but is clewed abaft the foremast. A schooner may alternatively fly a triangular mule.

Multi-masted staysail schooners usually carried a mule above each staysail except the fore staysail. Gaff-rigged schooners generally carry a triangular fore-and-aft topsail above the gaff sail on the main topmast and sometimes also on the fore topmast (see illustration), called a gaff-topsail schooner. A gaff-rigged schooner that is not set up to carry one or more gaff topsails is sometimes termed a "bare-headed" or "bald-headed" schooner. A gaff schooner may carry a square topsail atop the foremast. A schooner with no bowsprit is known as a "knockabout" schooner. A "cat-rigged" schooner not only has no bowsprit but has no headsails, and has the foremast set as far forward as possible.

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