Spars and rig

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Kensa has five spars; the main mast, main yard, mizzen mast, mizzen yard and the outrigger or bumpkin. We had always intended to build these from scratch from Douglas Fir or similar timber. However, as time went on during the build, we realised that this was going to be not only time consuming but costly. So we went about sourcing our spars in a slightly unorthodox fashion…

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We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Bob Edwards for two of our spars. Bob owns a beautiful Carrick 18ft restricted class gaff cutter and has over the years replaced and made spars for her himself. We were extremely lucky that not only did an old bowsprit prove too bendy for Magpie but perfect for our outrigger, but also that Bob was kind enough to break his main mast early last season, leaving us with a very useable length of timber for our main mast. Clearly the latter was no laughing matter for Bob, although within weeks he had already built a beautiful new main mast for Magpie in his workshop.

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Our main mast is a bit of a mongrel. Being unstayed, it needed to be both very strong; something that could be achieved by a solid wooden spar but not without ending up with an extremely heavy mast. Carbon is both exceptionally strong and exceptionally light, so suited our purpose perfectly, but is an expensive and bespoke material. So we were delighted when we were offered a large section of carbon tubing, made by our friend Steve Neal at Fibrefusion as a test piece for the carbon mast during the build of his own boat Daisy May. It was the right diameter for Kensa’s rig plan, and so became the middle section of our mast, scarfed between two sections of Magpie’s wooden mast.


Once Simon had joined the mast together using thickened epoxy, he painted and varnished it, adding a simple set of iroko ‘ears’ to fix the halyard to. After testing the mast in fresh winds, we decided to sheath the lower and mid sections in fibreglass for added strength. The nature of lug rig means that unlike modern Bermudan rig, the main stress on the mast falls on the lower end where it passes through the deck, and without stays to support the mast, this end must be above suspicion.

Making up the mizzen mast

The mizzen mast was more straightforward; thanks to Ian Webb at Percuil Boatyard, we managed to get hold of a hollow wooden mast which had originally been the main mast for a Falmouth bass boat. After cutting it to size and closing up the groove along the length of it where the roller reefing had been, we varnished it and fitted it down at Percuil.

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With the outrigger in hand, the only remaining spar for the mizzen was the yard. We had decided early on to use an old windsurf mast for this. Windsurfs spars are made or reinforced with carbon and are also designed to be light and strong. They are also perfectly Kensa sized, and Rick Iddison was kind enough to give us an old one he had that was no longer being used.


In the end, the main yard was the only spar made from scratch.

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Si glued lengths of Douglas Fir together to make this. Douglas Fir is widely used for yacht masts and spars as it has a straight grain, glues well, and is available in long lengths.

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Once the timber was glued to length, Si shaped the pieces of the yard using a circular saw and plane, before clamping and gluing up the whole assembly.

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He then sanded and varnished it and it was ready to go!

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We’re very proud of Kensa’s low-tech eco-friendly rig. Our priorities for the rig is that it is strong, light and easy to use. Together with the sails, we have a simple, traditional set up which allows us to handle her easily in a variety of different conditions for a variety of purposes. Plus, it looks pretty!

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