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Converting Your Dolphin to a Cutter Rig  

March 20, 2017 Jerry Horan (Calmante, Yankee #210) and your webmaster have exchanged emails in the past few days about an interesting subject - converting your Dolphin to a cutter rig. Given Jerry's pretty short question this got pretty lengthy. It definitely has technical components, so given this webmaster's tendency to carry on, we decided to set up a page here in our Technical Section.

Aloha Ron,

Been thinking of rigging my Dolphin as a cutter. Would you have any information on this for a Dolphin 24?



Webmaster responds:

Hi Jerry

Sorry, I have no info on cutter rigs for Dolphins - yawl rigged, yes, but not cutter. I've done a little reading on the subject - here's a couple of links, maybe you have already been there....




Based on this reading and some personal reservations I think the pros and cons have different weight depending on what you want to do, and the typical conditions you may experience doing it.

1) if more sail area is a goal in light/moderate conditions having 2 foresails that have to be tacked, one outside the inner forestay is a hassle

2) in a breeze the inner stay has to be supported properly, the tack on the deck may/probably does need a support under the deck, removable, tensionable, to the hull - in the middle of the v berth..... I considered this once - using my forecleat as a tack for a temporary staysail to use in a heavy breeze - in the end, I thought it a little too far forward

3) the attachment point of the inner stay on the mast might get 'loaded' in weather conditions such that lower spreaders are needed, and/or running backstays are necessary - more hassle

4) additional winches/halyard stuff

5) I wonder, if you are going to do this to get more sail area, why not consider a "decent size bowsprit with longer forestay....gets more sail area, and add good quality furling.....and/or, crazy idea, an asymetrical spinnaker on a extendable pole....Forget I mentioned that....

6) my own experience is, in a breeze, performance is better by progressively easing the traveller, reducing main sail area by reefing, then reducing foresail area (at this point I'd wish we had furling). The hassle of changing sail is necessary for us. And, over the years I've become much more sensitive to weather, and trip planning - to the point that my long haul day sails are typically, leave really early when breezes are lighter, get in by 2 or so before the strong afternoon breeze really comes in. As a singlehander - 6-8 hours on the water is more than enough. And, Dolphins really love sailing in light air

Again, in my experience, in a typical lighter breeze beginning, then building over the day to tougher conditions/breezes, we start with our 170%, which has a reef tack 12 inches up the luff so we can de power. (There have been times when I felt that lighter air sail's pain) Then

1) progressively reefing the main,

2) reducing sail area on the 170%

3) we then usually skip going to our 'heavy' reefable 140% and go right to our blade (100%). With this blade sail we can point and get pretty good performance. If reaching is the goal we have small, high clew jib that reaches well, but points poorly.

BTW - re 'reefable hank on" jibs - we have 2, the 170% and the 145%. For the 140% I run a 'tack' line to a block on the forestay fitting, unclip the bottom 2 hanks and attach it to the higher tack grommet. Then rig my halyard so it comes back to the cockpit/cabin top, and have a 2nd set of sheets attached to the higher leech grommet/ clew. This lets me reef/unreef that jib from the cockpit. A little messy with the extra lines but useful when expecting a longish sail with moderate going to heavier breeze.

With a double reefed main, fully eased traveller, and the 100% blade we can handle up 20-25 knots - wishing, of course we were back at the club having a beer. I'd like to get this discussion, re cutter rig, up in our Technical Section but I need to know why you want to do this?

A basic question, always, is why not just go to a high quality furling jib system. For me there are 2 reasons -

1) I think they are 'slow" particularly upwind, and we race Marionette occasionally

2) as an impressionable single hander, I'll never forget an article appearing years ago in our local paper about a guy and his wife sailing their 35'er down Long Island Sound late in the Fall, no other boats around, and the breeze came up strong 20-25 knots. The furler broke and he could not get the headsail down as the luff rope was jammed in the groove. They dropped the main and tried to get closer to shore with the engine. When he came up into the wind to get load off, the sheets whipped him. They actually got caught looping in the shrouds and kept load on the sails. The story gets worse but he and she were lucky not to have serious injury. He managed to hand pull the sail down and get control before losing his boat on a breakwater.

That's it for now


Back to Jerry

Aloha Ron,

Thank you for your lengthy response and links to pros and cons of the cutter rig. There is lots to consider. I sailed a cutter for 4 years and liked the look and the combination of sail arrangements and not having to change out sails from genoa to working sail and vise versa.

I love the cruising and not so much the competitive aspect of sailing. I continue to cruise the Hawaiian islands and have been sailing without a center board 3 years. I have a new stainless steel cb to install but backed out of the expense of gentry's marine and also wanting me to be insured.

I like the idea of doing it myself with the way you lift your Dolphin from the trailer (http://dolphin24.org/no_travel_lift.html). Still need to purchase the stands and the pipe and sling arrangement that you've devised.

Thanks again Ron for your ideas. Aloha friend, The best to you and family



If you type in Cutter Rig in Google you will find information to support any theory you may have re the pros and cons of a cutter rig. Additional comments from readers welcome.

We were looking around for a cutter picture for this page and could not resist this one on Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutter_(boat)

We look forward to Jerry's next project - the gaff rigged cutter with bowsprit!!





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