After corresponding with the organization for over twenty years, I finally attended the recent rally at Bradwell on Sea on the east coast of England. We met over beers and dinner at the Bradwell Quay Yacht Club followed by a twenty-mile sail the next day. In spite of England’s record breaking rains and floods of 2007, the sail-in-company of five junks took place under ideal sunny skies and moderate breezes.
It was an opportunity to experience new refinements to this ancient rig, such as segmented battens and joints to achieve a cambered sail form in light winds. The Chinese are thought to have used alternating pieces of old and new (green) bamboo to achieve similar results. I also learned several new tricks in handling the sails with the many lines that control the shape and position of the sail. Although the number of lines is often cited as a disadvantage, proper organization and the tension-free rig easily overcome this criticism.
Annie Hill, famed author of “Voyaging on a Small Income,” makes the following observation (taken from the Junk Rig Association Newsletter No. 46). “One of the more irritating and ignorant comments made by critics of the junk rig, (most of whom have never sailed it and who are astonishingly aggressive in their criticism) is that the average junk-rigged cruising boat does not point as high nor foot as fast as the average round-the-buoy racing yacht. This is true, but to refer to a the junk rig as ‘not efficient’ is complete and utter nonsense. Look in your dictionary: the definition of efficient is ‘working productively with minimum wasted effort or expense.’ In my opinion that sums up the junk rig.”
My own observations on sailing a junk during an Atlantic crossing can be found in “Dreaming of Columbus.”