We need to talk about Martin.

Wykeham-Martin that is.

I was going to call this post “enter the troll-beast” for the many problems that i consistently had with sailing Inanda for the first time.  Some things are clearly not as good as they could be, the sailing ergonomics for example are awful, but a lot of my problems last week simply came down to ‘noob’ error.  Some of you might have the mistaken impression that i am some sort of mega-experienced old salt who can sail anything, anywhere and any time.  Well, although i might in the past have been able to choreograph 26 people on the deck of a maxi doing twin-pole gybes, big spinnaker sets and drops in lots of wind and so on, Inanda has really tested my basic sailing skills and it’s been quite a humbling experience. I guess i have been spoiled by the Liberty which is almost the ultimately simple sailing experience especially given the work i did to make her even easier to sail.

Inanda by comparison is a very physical boat to sail, difficult at times to work on deck, lots of string to pull and adjust and lots of small things that can go wrong during basic sail handling that then cause further problems. In time i would simply adjust and get used to it all but there are some things that really are a problem and need changing as soon as possible.


Just to go back over the details, Inanda is a gaff cutter with a traditionally proportioned mains’l dominant rig.  The rig is relatively short but with a very long gaff and long boom.  Both the boom and the gaff have been extended and as far as i can tell the bowsprit hasn’t been extended to compensate for the extra power high up and further back.  Pete (previous owner) told me that Inanda’s previous owner actually sailed with the first reef tied in most of the time as that balanced the boat better and my experience so far is that this is true. I really only had the full main up once when i was running ‘light’ down the Solent and even then that big main wants to take over and turn the boat up into the wind.   With some form of self-steering or a mate on board i would then have hoisted more grunt up front to re-balance her but didn’t have that option on the trip.  The best and most balanced sailing i had with Inanda was during the long beats in the Thames in fairly consistent wind and little waves when i was able to balance the single reef plus jib and staysail with some degree of weather helm and the tiller pegged. In that state i was able to relax for long enough to do all the other work and not have to attend to the steering.  The polar opposite was after i lost the staysail halyard and couldn’t get the jib to deploy on it’s furling gear with over-riding the drum and had too much wind and chop to deal with….then it became a total pain to handle and increasingly difficult to sail.  The low point was beating out from behind Dungeness point where i just couldn’t get it right….kept getting things wrong during simple sail handling, couldn’t get the jib to deploy, kept having to drop the jib and bring the bowsprit traveller in, lost the staysail halyard and all while pitching into a nasty head sea.  That whole day was just exhausting with problem after problem.  Eventually that day i gave in trying to sail properly and took her down to 3 reefs and let her drive upwind on the engine running hard and the main just pulling.  Her small fuel tank then caught me out and i had to heave-to while i refilled the tank and bled the engine through.

You can see where i had to work to try and sort out the furling gear.


Each part of the rig has caused me problems and i am happy to admit that some of that just comes down to inexperience with the rig but i also want to add that some of it also comes down to the rig design and set-up and specifically the furling gear which i think is a fundamentally badly designed piece of kit. I think that for me everything that could go wrong with the furling gear did go wrong…..from getting the jib wound up with the now-slack forestay (traveller too far forward), not deploying (furling line jumped off drum) furler won’t furl (line off drum again) and so on and so on.                                                        I have never had a Wykeham-Martin furling gear before and never want one again…..this one almost got stowed in the briney when i became ultimately frustrated with it’s troll-like nature.  I did for a while seriously contemplate simply setting the jib flying or even finding a cheap bucket and banding it like a spinnaker. I do know of some quite big gaffers that set flying jibs….i think Pete’s smack works that way for example.  While i was in Newhaven i had a good look at the other small gaffer, which i think is also a Deben, to see his set-up.  He has his jib on a Wykeham Martin out on the bowsprit but doesn’t have a forestay at all so that gets rid of one problem.  I have wondered about doing that with Inanda, clearly it’s the jib luff that is doing the work once it’s under tension.    Just to back-up a bit the handling procedure seems to be :

Roll the sail into a long sausage around it’s wire luff such that there are a couple of turns of sheet around the sausage.

Attach the Jib tack to the bowsprit traveller and the head bearing unit.

Run the WM out on the traveller to a position (critical) out near the end of the bowsprit.

Hoist the sail on it’s wire halyard (it has a rope handling tail) then clip in the handy-billy tensioning tackle , heave that up and cleat that at the mast.

The sail should then deploy by pulling on a sheet although what can happen and frequently did happen is that the furling line either jumped off the drum or over-wrapped and stopped the whole thing working. A couple of times with the jib half-in and half out flogging around my head i had to to a flying drop on the pitching foredeck….not so funny in the conditions i had.

As i say i would probably have been faster and more confident with a flying set and drop especially with a stopped or banded sail.


Looking at the gear closely i think now that it’s an appalling piece of design that could have been made into a much better design years and years ago.  While quite simple it’s obvious that it has a very high possibility of losing the line off the narrow drum and getting itself wrapped around the swivel under the drum…..that is what happened to me several times per hoist.

One time was absolutely maddening :

I was in Ramsgate tied to the visitor pontoon with a big French sailing school yacht just ahead of me.  When i made to leave the skipper kindly came along and asked me if i would like an assist to help me get away.  That was kind because i had to back off into an awkward breeze and then do a reverse and tight turn.  I declined the assist simply because i need to learn how to do it all solo.  Instead i asked the French skipper if he would just ‘watch me out’ in case it all started to go wrong.   The back-off and reverse/turn went ok so i moved off into the outer harbour and came head to wind with the plan to sail smartly out of the harbour.  I had really pre-planned my sail handling moves, got the main up at 2 reefs with just a couple of glitches and then went to deploy the jib so that i could bring the head around.  Of course the furling line jumped the spool and i was left with a half-deployed jib and the boat trying to sail onto the harbour wall.  Instead of a neat bit of solo motor and sail handling it turned into a total farce of having to motor hard to get under control with my mainsheet wrapped around one bit of boat and the jib flogging away rather than pulling me down the fairway.

And of course i had the French sailing school as an audience.



Although completely traditional for this era of boat i feel no great need to stay with kit that is simply crap !, rather i will take from any era of boat technology to make my sail handling simple, safe and effective.  I want to work either from the cockpit or at worst at the mast and not have to try and balance right forward on the bow when i am trying to deploy or furl the jib.  One option as i have described already is to either put the sail in stops or bands and treat it like a spinnaker.  A second option is to look at more modern jib furlers because the tech has improved to such a huge extent with far more boats using sails on furlers….like the big reachers and gennakers on race boats.  I wouldn’t object to having a much better furler and several different headsails….my experience with Inanda so far is that she needs as standard a bigger jib and staysail.

This looks interesting which is why i took a whole series of photographs of it.  This is a powerful looking and very ‘sorted’ looking gaffer called ‘Nomad’ seen in Poole harbour. The rig proportions look much better to begin with, taller mast but with a shorter boom and gaff.  Jib and staysail on modern furlers. Both jib and staysail look longer in the luff. Running backstays and lazy-jacks to keep the mains’l under control.  Obviously it’s a much bigger boat

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So far then….

Inanda’s rig needs several changes to make the sail handling actually work so from forward-aft :

Modern furling unit for the jib/jibs and several different jibs on vectran luffs. Change jib halyard to non-twisty modern line, possibly high-end vectran.  Bring the traveller outhaul back to near the mast and the furler line to near the cockpit.

New long-luff jib with more area.

Sheet doublers to increase the available sheeting power….or a pair of sheet winches.

New staysail on hanks with more area.  Change staysail halyard to 2:1 purchase arrangement.

Mains’l.  Possibly move gooseneck band up mast a couple of inches to improve head clearance at cockpit.  Generally work with 1st reef tied in.  Change throat and peak halyards to better braid on braid and colour-code so that i can always see which is which.  Change all halyard blocks to modern low-friction blocks.    Add lazy jacks port and stbd and lead aft to cockpit.  Change reefing lines.   Replace mainsheet (crusty and worn)

Aft.   Rig running backstays.   Alter sheeting points so that i’m not trying to heave in sheets while leaning over the coaming (bad ergonomics) add 2 pairs of winches : one pair for jib sheets and a pair for running backstays.  Add attachment points aft for runners and rig soft runners from forestay/shrouds point on mast.

Have coffee break….

Sell Wykeham-Martin to some other mug via Ebay……….


Edit 1.

Ok, lets now design the jib handling system for Inanda

Lets start by getting rid of the outer forestay just like the other Deben at Newhaven has done and keep the bowsprit traveller. Lets add a simple bowsprit downhaul tensioner and have a high-tech bobstay which we can also haul up out of the way to clear the anchor rode.



Instead of the WM lets add in a small Code zero furler with its continuous line going all the way aft.


Instead of the single halyard at hounds height lets have a 2:1 halyard at that height and a second halyard ( 2:1) at the masthead, both with furler swivels already attached. The lower halyard will be the conventional jib halyard and the 2:1 adequate for a decent hoist but not quite good enough for maximum luff tension.  We can now get a longer luffed jib for better balance and better pointing.  To get the tension back we rely on the new running backstays (3:1 + winch) to haul back on the hounds and masthead .  The second, higher,  halyard can now take a bigger overlapping reaching jib or code zero which would also be supported by the top span of a 2 part runner arrangement.

The code zero furler, even a small one, would be a very expensive piece of kit but should be a total solution to headsail furling and crucially get me off the foredeck.  The ability to fly different jibs would be useful, that would mean i could carry a standard jib but which would be longer in the luff than what i have now, and maybe a big reacher.  The stays’l will stay on hanks as that’s the ultimately simple set-up.  Just for giggles i looked at the cost of some of the high-end furlers….crikey !


    1. The small furler looks to be about right, is there any opinion about how good they are over there ?. Importing one would be a bit of expense but at the moment i am actually struggling to get actual prices for similar furlers from other makers.


  1. This from an outfit selling very expensive “modern manufacture” troll-beasts:

    “This roller-furling fitting is a piece of British yachting history. Developed at the beginning of the 20th century by Colonel Wykeham-Martin, these furling systems have been aboard dinghies and yachts for more then 100 years. You could say they are the father of all roller furlers.”

    What they don’t say is that, like the dinosaur, they’ve had their day! I’m sure that the purists will insist that nothing else will do though 😉

    Someone in this thread:


    suggests using a genanker furler. I looked at the prices too — crikey indeed! About the cheapest I could find for a bigger boat was the top-down Ronstan Series 80 model for around £650 with top swivel. They also do the bottom-up Series 60 for boats up to 23 feet for around half the price — perhaps this might work for Inanda?


    1. Its interesting to hear how many variants of my problems that other people have with their WM’s. I don’t think i ever had the top of my jib actually pulling !. I think the most pertinent comment there was via the late Ed Burnett who is saying exactly what i am thinking and that is to use a modern gennaker furler. Alan sent me a link for an NZ one which isn’t much more expensive than a big new WM. Being able to use different jibs on the furler would be a bonus, i’m beginning to think that a furling gennaker/reacher would be a very good sail for Inanda.


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