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If you're new, you're just going to have to learn the 'scooner'. Remember, in between the moments of terror, that she's very forgiving of an inept crew. She doesn't much approve of cowards, and she isn't too keen on fools either, but she'll look after them regardless.

These tips might save a lot of initial embarrassment and keep the terror limited. You may come up with some other ways of doing things; we did. But the tips should prevent most of the debacles we suffered in the early days!

First and foremost:



She is not anything like a normal bermuda-rigged sloop and attempts to apply Olympic dinghy-style sailing will offend her. The worst crime, always, is oversheeting and pointing too high to windward. She will get huffy and let you know in no uncertain tones by not moving much (except sideways), heeling badly and banging her bottom. Oversheet her on a reach and you'll be haring along on your side.



Schooner sailing is an art, perfected by few, and there aren't any local masters to learn from (at least not here). The boat is very forgiving of an inept crew, but expect to take quite a while to get the best out of her. Our moderate experience in catamarans and sailing (ailing?) dinghies wasn't much help in learning.

Not a boring boat..

No-one need be bored on a schooner. The running rigging is simple, but there's a lot of it. An active family of four can be kept busy twitching sails and ropes to achieve best performance.

For quiet sailing, everything can be set up roughly right and then just left alone. For very lazy puddling (and in stronger winds), she can be sailed reefed with minimal effort.

But she's not a single-hander, and she's definitely not suited to that family sailing where the master does it all while the rest languish doing nothing.

No open boat can be totally dry. The Light Schooner is as dry as could be hoped for, and much drier than we expected--except when it rains!

cut along dotted linePerformance:

The light schooner's initial stability is amazing. Three adults standing on a side deck will tilt the boat, but she won't tip them off. Sailing, she prefers to heel and will do so regardless of what the crew is up to. She is not a boat for those who desire the upright progress of a catamaran.

She planes easily off the wind. Ours has frequently run at over 10 knots (clocked) on a beam wind, and in one terrifying race she was clocked at 16 knots average over a 3 mile stretch. That was scary and the helmsman went to pieces after it. The boat didn't, though. Her windward performance leaves a bit to be desired, but she gets there in solid fashion. It's not as bad as the cartoons might suggest! Remember, we're racing top-class modern wire-and-bendy-mast hyper-fast trailer-sailers in our home grounds, the light schooner has a handicap which places her in the top third of the available classes, and we still keep on winning....

Do Light Schooners sink???

The gaff rig keeps the leverage of the sails low, so she normally stays on her feet without problems... but yes, you can capsize her. Expect to do so if you're foolish enough to drive her into a southerly buster or equivalent, with all sail up and the sheets tied (speaking from experience).

In a capsize, the wooden structure itself has some buoyancy, the buoyant wooden masts and gaffs prevent her from going right over, and with enough underdeck flotation she'll normally sit high on her side without swamping. With the sheets loose and without too much wave, she'll right herself even in knockdown conditions without the need for someone standing on the dagger board and similar dinghy-style tricks. And no, the drop-in masts do not drop-out in a capsize. If you've been mad and ended up totally swamped, you may have to remove the masts to get her to retrievable condition.


The all-up weight will vary depending on the timbers used. Flying Tadpole II is at the heavy end, a tropical ply and Douglas Fir version with glassed bottom. Even so, she weighs in at comfortably under 750 kg including trailer, complete with motor, jerrycans of fuel and water, camping gear, safety gear and assorted junk. This weight is legally and easily towed, and stopped, by a 1993 Subaru wagon (1655 kg) with an 1800cc unleaded fuel engine (and we live over 300 m (1000ft) above our cruising grounds, which means a lot of hill climbing).

Don't let the towing length put you off. We leave lots of room when making 90 degree turns, and we take care in passing on the road. Backing a long trailer is actually much simpler than backing a short one. At ramps, the car doesn't get wet feet with a long trailer.

The trailer can be narrow, and this is a real bonus. There is no danger of falling off the edge of the bitumen or crossing the white line, and super-width towing mirrors aren't needed.

| General tips | Sail configurations | Rigging to Sail | Handling sheets | Tacking & Gybing | Heaving to and reefing | Jib oddities | Large crews | Light Schooner home page |