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Batwing Gunter Rigs

Simple Batwing Gunter from Practical Canoeing, Chapter V.

This one is an excellent and easy to make rig for casual sailing in a canoe: note the small sail areas.

"The next Illustration is of the Batswing Sliding Gunter, which was described as follows in a recent number of the Field by Mr. C. Penrose, R.C.C. It is a pretty rig, but cannot be readily taken off the mast; however, it is easy, by lowering the mast, to stow the whole rig away altogether. The length of the whole affair, allowing 4 inches from boom to deck and 11 inches housing of mast, will be 8 feet 3 inches over all.... Its area without the battens would be about 35 feet in mainsail and 8-1/2 in mizen.

[Quoting Mr. Penrose]:

'This rig has stood the test of eight or nine years, and combines to a great extent the good qualities of the sprit-sail with those of the lug. I believe it was brought out by Patrick, the well-known and successful boat builder and boat-sailer, of Lincoln. About the second or third suit of these sails was made for my first sailing canoe in 1876; and, after hard usage and little care, only required a little mending at the corners and eyelets to be nearly equal to new in 1882.

'The rig consists of an ordinary sliding gunter mast and topmast, or, as some prefer to call it, gaff, carrying a sail of elliptical form, containing nearly 1/4 more area than a triangle of the same height and base. There should be a batten at each reef, of which there may be two or three, and one or more battens in the head dividing the leach equally.

'A downhaul should be fitted to the gunter brass and another to each reef; or of course 'patent' reefing gear may be fitted, which will act better with this rig than with the lug, because the gear has not the strain of peaking the yard. When the gunter brass has been lowered, the boom may be topped up to the mast, which for light airs is sufficiently snug, but in stronger winds something further is required.

  • 'I have tried several dodges for lowering the "gaff" cutter fashion upon the boom with more or less success but probably the handiest plan is to lower the mast and all. When lowered, the masthead will fall right in front of the canoeist, and, by taking off the collar which holds [the] forestay [to the masthead] the mast can be drawn aft and stowed below, leaving nothing on deck but the stay, and can be set up while afloat with equal ease. The heel of [the] mast must of course be made to pull out of the tabernacle when lowered.

    'In the drawing, the rig is shown with two reefs, besides which a balance reef may be made by lacing the third batten to the boom. The mizen is something like Mr. Tredwen's sprit-mizen, but has two battens instead of one, to look more in keeping with the mainsail. With this mizen stepped forward and a small storm-mizen aft, the canoe will sail in almost any wind; and mine has repeatedly sailed in ease and comfort when the local sailing boats were capsizing in all directions. The dimensions of the sails in the drawing, as fitted to a 16-feet canoe, are nearly the same as carried in the 14-feet canoe rigged with them in 1876, the difference being that the old rig had one more reef and one more batten in the head.

'The dimensions are:

Mainmast above deck:

5' 8"

Topmast, heel to shoulder:

6' 6"


7' 0"



10' 9"


6' 9"

Clew to Peak

12' 6"


44 sq ft

Mizen (spars to suit): 


5' 6"


3' 9"

Clew to Peak

6' 3"


11.5 sq ft

First Reef

-14.5 sq ft

Second Reef

-12.5 sq ft

Main, Close-Reefed

17.0 sq ft

'Now for the advantages of the rig. In the first place, anyone can cut, fit and rig it without difficulty. A boat is stiffer under it than under a lug. The sail sets flatter than nine lugs out of ten, and in a squall the wind can be sailed out of it without its flapping about.
'When lowered and brailed up it can be removed from the boat as easily as an umbrella, can be stowed below all ready for setting again, instead of having to be unhooked and untoggled from a lot of fastenings. Also it is short enough to travel easily in a railway carriage, instead of requiring the largest size of van, or having to be lashed outside the train, as has happened now and then with the long-masted lugsails common in the Royal Canoe Club.

'The advantage of being free from all top hamper is very great, especially if sea sailing is indulged in, while the power of stowing the sails below leaves the canoeist only one thing to attend to, house, &c., viz., the canoe, instead of two, viz., canoe and sails.

'This makes no little difference when the canoe has to be housed in strange quarters or in a crowded boathouse. While the lugsail canoeist is 'setting' his delicate and complicated gear, ashore, perhaps in difficulties in finding a spot for the purpose, secure from waves or from barge's bow lines; the gunter sailer can put his boat in the water as if she were a paddling Rob Roy and set his gear up at anchor or as she drifts with the tide.

'I do not think this rig would suit very large areas or be good for racing against lugs, but for all round work in light and narrow canoes, I know nothing to equal it for ease in working, safety and lightness. The appearance is good and the falls of the lines on deck are shorter than with any other rig.'


'The advantages of being able to lower the sail easily and quickly -- leaving only the short lower mast set during a paddle to windward -- are evident, as the brailed up canvas of the ordinary gunter sail still offers a large surface to the wind. [ to be continued ]

Baden-Powell's "Gunter-Sprit Rig"

The Gunter Sprit Rig from Baden-Powell seems to have been a valiant effort to get a relatively tall sail on short spars, plus being able to reef and brail up while sitting in the canoe. It's a fairly early rig (before 1878) and since it's a little complicated it didn't take the canoeing world by storm. But then Baden-Powell was without a doubt a world-class tweak. There's a lengthy explanation in Kemp's book, which I will excerpt to accompany the nifty illustrations below. Maybe someone will get inspired and design a modern version of the rig, hey?

Figure A shows the rig raised in all its glory. a is the Mast.

b is the sliding Upper Mast.

c is the Boom.

d is the Sprit.

e is the Topping Lift or Brail.

f is the Hoop around the mast.

g is the Gunter Iron itself.

w is the - well, I'm not quite sure what w represents. I think it's a mast hoop to which the boom is connected, with a hinge pin so the boom can move vertically.

Note also the swell canoeing club burgee at the masthead.

[More text coming]

Figure F.


The sail brailed up (loosen the sheet, haul on the Topping Lift, let go the Halyard).

Figure B.


The drawing shows the sliding gunter apparatus. b is the removable sliding mast with the sail laced on in a spiral. I think it's a spiral. It might be loops.

d is the Sprit, with s as a kind of snotter to tighten the sprit.

g is the Gunter Iron, shown in more detail below.

h is the Halyard through a sheave in the mast and down to the upper part of the Gunter Iron.

j is the jib. Forget the jib. No one uses a jib on a canoe anymore.

a is the standing mast.

i is the 'tye and whip' purchase for the Halyard.


This by the way is a useful trick. The drawing is a little unclear -- the line on the left side is actually belayed on the block (on a becket) and runs up to the second block, around, down through the deck block, and back to the cockpit and a cleat.

It gives you a 2:1 purchase. Halyard h needs to be just long enough to barely reach the lower block when the sail has been hoisted as high as it will go.


Figure C.


Baden-Powell was goofy about removing and shipping rigs easily. This shows the end of the Boom.

k is the clew of the sail, nicely lashed to the Boom.

e is the Topping Lift or Brail, running under the Boom and through a ring.

Clip n on the ring engages eye m, tightly seized in place.

Block o is the sheet block.

If you unclip n, the Brail and sheet stay attached to the standing Mast, and the Boom and Upper Mast can be pulled from between loop e and the sail rolled up on the spars. Don't forget to detach the sail from the Hoops shown in Figure A.

Figure D.


The standing Mast is a.

p is the gooseneck thingie or universal joint for the Boom c.

I'll be consarned if I know what q is all about. I'll go check the original text.

Figure E.


The dreaded Gunter Iron. Hoops t slide on the standing Mast. Brackets r hold the Upper Mast in place.

Those v items are stiffeners holding the Hoops a fixed distance apart.

z is probably where the Halyard clips on. s is probably the snotter. x is some damn thing.


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2.2 10/25/97
2.3 04/30/98