The "Scooner" is designed by Philip C Bolger, one of the world's leading boat and yacht designers, arguably the man who knows most about sharpie boat designs, and almost certainly the most iconoclastic designer around. "Scooner" is his plan name, not a mispelling - perhaps for a schooner with something missing, like any provision for a cabin...


The Light Schooner is a sleek ply/epoxy miniature. She has a long (23' 6") low and lean (5') sharpie hull. Drop-in timber masts carry gaff sails, a self tending jib and a large and powerful staysail. Under a cloud of sail (266 sq ft), she looks as if she's leapt straight out of the 19th Century.

Two large cockpits take up to six adults (full size) for day sailing. A family foursome has lots of lolling room, even with camping gear. Accommodation via boom tent will sleep two on the water with a third in the forward cockpit, or she can carry camping gear for a larger party. Simple to build, easy to tow with a compact car, and minimal maintenance. She appeals to mad teenagers.

The light schooner comes from a north-east American workboat heritage. The sharpie hull bears little relation to an Australian lightweight sharpie, but is very close to traditional Chesapeake Bay fishing boats. It is also very close to self-righting, something which came as a bit of surprise to us, especially since we'd packed every nook and cranny of Flying Tadpole II with foam on the assumption that she wasn't.

The unstayed masts are unstayed because they often were (besides, when did you last see a tree with stainless steel shrouds??), and after helping various trailerScooner performance to windwardsailers get their stayed masts up, I'm more than ever convinced that unstayed masts lead to a quiet and contemplative life, especially when trying to get to windward. Besides, in the last extremity, you can throw the lot overboard as a sea-anchor!

The schooner rig is used because it looks great, it provides maximum sail area without going high and without becoming impossible to hold up, and despite appearances it's a very simple rig to handle with a very small crew. Once the rig is set up, it's set up -- self-tending and self-tacking. I will admit to a certain lack of dignity in Flying Tadpole II's scramble to get underway and to stop. This comes from 100m or so of rope in 16 running rigging lines, a 16-foot main boom, and a Seagull engine of pronounced character and no reverse set in a sadistic motor well.

Scooner performance off the windNo gaff rig of any sort will ever out-perform bermuda rig, wire and bendy masts to windward, and the schooner is no exception. But it tends to be forgotten that gaff rigs are more powerful once the boat is more than 60 degrees off the wind. That's why our Milang-Goolwa race performances tend to be abysmal and our Goolwa-Milang races so spectacular. A few points off the wind and we can leave just about anything behind.

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