Underway in a Junk-Rigged Woodpecker…

On Monday morning, more precisely at 7:00 am EDT, the skipper of Sassy Gaffer met with Kirill Liskovskyi and Natalia Belaya at the Nepean Marina for a matinal day-sail in “Woodpecker”, their exceptionally well maintained Paceship 23, and the one and only sporting a custom-made junk rig and sail.

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Since the launching of Woodpecker in the marina many sailors have been puzzled by the unique features in her rigging and the chinese-junk, ancient and yet extremely modern design of the mainsail. The spars were designed by Kirill and the sail design was executed by Natalia. It is an amazing piece of work: the battens are aluminium pipes and the sail is composed of separate cloth panels, each attached to the contiguous ones only via the corresponding battens. It is literally a “modular” sail.

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The sailing was short but long enough to see Woopecker’s unique sail in action: although the sail area looks small for such a boat, this morning, in light winds averaging 3 to 5 knots, Woodpecker moved smartly, pointing well into the wind at an average speed of 2.4 knots (maximum speed registered at 3.6 Kts.).  This design was never intended for speed and, given the relatively rigid battens, the overall shape of the sail cannot rival in camber and surface smoothness those in more commonly used sails. However, this may be partially circumvented by the shape adopted in the wind by each individual pannel and still provide, while reaching, for faster air flows to leeward than to windward. Also, the sail was hoisted and doused without the need to point into the wind and it was easy to appreciate the advantages that this would have in adjusting the sail area (i.e., “reefing”) such a sail while singlehanded.

Here is the track of the short outing:

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And this is what the wind indicator at the Nepean Sailing Club had to say about the wind during the hour-and-a-half sail in the Lac Deschênes.

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Of course, these are not the only special features in this boat, one other being its electric batteries and motor, only used to swiftly and quietly maneuver inside the marina, but able to operate several hours if the need were to arise.

My appreciation goes to Kirill and Natalia together with my admiration for their naval engineering skills! It was a uniquely different and very enjoyable experience…


…except for Sassy who was less than amused by the ungallant behaviour of her skipper…