Britannia is now a brigantine schooner, being a two masted vessel having at least one square-sail on the foremast. The sail-plan is a staysail schooner, but with a taller than normal foremast to accommodate the square-sail(s).
All sails are roller furled, including the square-sail which rolls up inside the yard. Roller furling sails considerably reduce the workload and time in pulling them up and down, and allow for infinite reefing - including the square-sail. It also removes the need for sail stowage and sail covers. The downside is that a Bermudian roller furled sail has to be cut flat, so it can roll up without bunching. This sail does not “pull” as well as one which is hanked on a stay and has bunt (curvature) built in. But like most cruising sailors, I am prepared to accept the slight loss of drive for the other advantages. This loss does not of course apply to a square-sail, where the wind is blowing directly into the back of the canvas and basically pushing the boat along.
A staysail schooner rig is well known for its beam reaching power, i.e. when the wind is on the side of the boat. Also, when all sails are sheeted hard a schooner makes quite well to windward, and having both stay-sails on booms means the jib is the only sail to tack, all others being self tacking. Altogether it is a very workable rig for a blue water cruising boat.
No Bermudian sail works well with the wind aft because the sail is triangular and the wind is not pressing evenly into the sail. It can very easily loose its wind and flop all over the place. To avoid this a whisker pole can be rigged, (which is actually a form of yard), to keep the sail flat. Even so, constant attention to steering is needed on a run, especially in big following seas. A squares’l set on the foremast has none of these problems, and steering is very easy by both helmsman or autopilot - hence the age old combination of fore and aft and square-sails on a Brigantine.
Britannia’s head-sails are cutter rigged, i.e. jib and boomed fore staysail. The additional foremast height gives a 4’ wide slot between the jib and staysail, allowing the jib to easily pass through when tacking.
The next sail aft is the main staysail, also known as the ‘tweenmast staysail because it is between the two masts. This is set on a hefty stay which also acts as the main brace for the mainmast. Because the sail is roller furled I had the foot made 6’feet longer than its 9’ foot long boom. When on a reach or broad reach the sail can be unrolled completely, and sheeted further aft to become a much more powerful sail, similar to a mizzen staysail on a ketch. When on the wind the sail is partially rolled and re-attached to its boom, making it self tacking.
Aft, the mainsail rolls in and out of a slotted tube attached all the way up the back of the mast. There are a number of manufacturers of this method, and after a lot of consideration I choose the French Facnor system. This is extremely well engineered, reasonably priced compared to others, with good boating magazine reports and personal recommendations. The main is the largest of the four fore and aft sails, yet it is easily controlled from the cockpit and can be reefed or completely stowed in a matter of minutes.
There is a possibility on a staysail schooner for yet another sail, to fill the gap between the masts. This can be a Fisherman, which is like an upside down jib run up the back of the foremast (see sailplan above). Or it can be a Gollywobbler, a quadrilateral sail which flys above the main staysail and sheets to the mainmast in two places. I will eventually install a Fisherman of light sailcloth which will fill well when the wind is light, because it is high up the mast. This sail will be roller furled, like all the others, and has the advantage of also being self tacking. For the present however, I have my hands full with five sails.
As a grand finale I hoisted the large Isle Of Man civil ensign up one of the backstays. Britannia is registered as a British ship in the Isle of Man and the ensign is unique. It is the well known “Red Duster” defaced with The Three Legs of Man. The three legged Triskelion is a very old heraldic device that has been the emblem of The Isle of Man since the 13th century.
Britannia is now a unique sailing boat and looks complicated to the untrained eye. Yet she is easy to handle in any conditions because of the options available with the various sails, and the ease of handling them.