Parallel Or Swept-Back Spreaders?

Sometimes running is a pleasure

The boat we chartered had one rig design feature that has become almost ubiquitous these days—swept back spreaders. Heavily swept spreaders in fact, with massive cap shrouds to keep the central panel of the rig from pumping, as there were no forward lowers or even a babystay to do that job. The backstays were far smaller diameter, and in effect, simply controIled the top of the rig. And this was on masthead rigged boat—in fact, it was almost a Begstrom rig, where there are no backstays at all (and it won’t be long before…).

Swept spreaders have been around for years, but they really only took off on this side of the Atlantic in the late seventies when they started appearing on cruiser-racers (like Sigma’s, for example) where they enabled a simple fractional rig to be used without recourse to running backstays and multiple spreaders. It was only after a while that many owners found that they were still better off with runners, but that’s by the by.

But What About For Cruising?

Now what’s OK for charging around the cans is one thing; few fractional boats run in races, preferring to gybe downwind whenever possible, and their sails don’t tend to last long enough for chafe to be a big issue. But we who tend to be short handed and stick to white sails (except in light airs) will happily run before favourable winds, wing and wing. And to do that in safety, you need to be able to square the main away as much as possible, to avoid an accidental gybe—I know a preventer is essential, but first you have to get the main as much as is practically possible at right angles to the centreline of the boat with the wind dead over the stern. Otherwise, you’ve got to sort out some form of twin jib arrangement, and dispense with the main—at more cost and complexity.

But it seemed to me that with the rig we had chafe would be a problem over anything but short distances. I know you can pad the spreaders, put reinforcing patches on the main, strap the vang down tight to stop the boom from rising and falling constantly, but for a long downwind passage in the trade winds (say), chafe must take its toll. We found that the main was already on the spreaders when the wind over the stern was at 150º, limiting us to broad reaching, realistically.

And that makes reefing downwind a real pain, too. The boat we sailed had a nicely made fully battened main, and the normal routine of trimming the main in a little before reefing to get the sail off the spreaders simply wasn’t enough, because as soon as the halyard was eased the main sagged onto the spreaders again, and the battens caught. I’m sure that with practice improvements could be made, but I doubt they could assist short handed cruising crews, where one person tends to put in a reef on their own. Maybe they’re most suited to be used with roller furling mainsails, themselves a subject for much debate.

So Why Are They Becoming The Norm?

Some say they can make for closer sheeting angles for headsails, but there are other ways of achieving that such as sheeting inside shrouds. OK, without forward lowers or a babystay there’s less windage and weight aloft. And in some cases it may be possible to use a smaller section mast, I’ve heard it claimed.

But the over-riding factor seems to me to be cost. It must be far less expensive for a yard to install one oversized set of chainplates taking all of the rigging loads into a suitably reinforced matrix in the hull than the traditional way of installing several chainplates, plus their attachments below deck, reinforcing the hull over a larger area and then concealing them with joinery. The latter is far more  labour intensive, and labour costs money—lots of it. And as you can also do away with the cost of the lowers, mast attachments, bottlescrews and the like, it may be understandable why that would be an attractive option for builders, especially in the current climate. Boatbuilidng has always been a financially precarious business, and cost cutting exercises that don’t on the face of it harm the ‘product’ (i.e. the rig still stays up), but help the bottom line, must be hard to ignore.

Some of the earlier boats that have one big ‘cluster’ chainplate are now a good few years old, and there have been reports of failures of these units, usually on GRP boats where the stainless chainplate has suffered from unseen crevice corrosion below deck level. These units are, in effect, massive single points of failure, and should (at least) be checked regularly for any signs of corrosion—although that’s often easier said than done as they tend to be built in, and hard to get at. Because if the chainplate fails, there’s little or no chance that you can save the rig, unlike a traditional fore and aft lower set up, where one stay failing might not be catastrophic.

But Are They What We Need?

The move away from traditional cruising rigs with their multi-point support at the lower level has been going on for some time now, although there are still yards building dedicated cruising boats that will not compromise on what has been battle-tested. There may be adherents for swept spreaders, and in some circumstances (such as racing), maybe they make sense. And on a boat designed for charter where keeping build cost down is critical, and durability and ease of handling might be considered less important, then the wholesale change towards them is understandable. But as to whether they belong on a dedicated cruising boat, I’d have my doubts. And if, as I suspect, the move towards them in the area of cruising boat design is largely a cost saving exercise, then surely it could be argued that it’s a classic case of ‘spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar’. But I could be wrong, so if anyone can come up with any reason why swept back spreaders offer a real benefit for an offshore cruising boat—I’d love to hear of it.

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Colin Speedie

Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

40 comments… add one
  • Matt Marsh Sep 2, 2011, 8:47 pm

    For offshore cruising? Nope, Colin, I’m hard-pressed to think of a good reason to choose the swept spreader, no backstay option there. The arguments you raise are all valid ones.

    I can see the appeal of such a rig for a club racer or day-sail boat. The builder’s cost is one factor; having fewer strings to tweak could be another. (Although, considering the number of lines coming off modern masts, that’s probably just a minor concern.) And it looks “racy”, which counts for an awful lot these days; that’s probably the main reason, considering that these things are still pretty pricey compared to more traditional, less fancy workboat rigs that perform just as well.

    I have to ask, though: Since we’re talking about cruising boats, why are we still locked into old racing rules that require the mast to be fixed in all six degrees of freedom? A properly engineered rotating mast is no more vulnerable than a properly engineered conventional one, and it could allow the mainsail to be set at any angle with no chafing. This is even more true of cruising multihulls, with their wide staying base. I’m not saying it’s the right solution for everyone (it’s not). But we do need to stop thinking like racers and not base cruising designs on arbitrary racing rules.

    • Colin Speedie Sep 4, 2011, 10:25 am

      Hi Matt

      I’ve only sailed on one boat (a cat) with a rotating mast, and granted it was a fast ex ocean racer, it was surprisingly easy to work with. I’d imagine that the lack of adoption of such rigs is partly cost, and partly complexity.

      It would be interesting to hear from any designer with experience of such rigs to hear what they think.

      Best wishes


  • David Nutt Sep 3, 2011, 7:56 am

    Given that Danza was designed in the late sixties by Robert Clark (she is a sister ship to Chay Blythe’s ‘British Steel’) she has the runners and the good old fashioned staying systems. We still have the chafe issue of the main on the spreaders and have addressed it by laminating nylon webbing onto the sail at critical points. We also have a pvc hose split and attached to the aft side of the spreaders. These two measures have paid off in spades by minimizing chafe.

    • Colin Speedie Sep 4, 2011, 10:28 am

      Hi David

      Robert Clark was one of the titans of design of his era – I sailed one of his 72ft designs for several years, and she was a phenomenal boat, balanced and very powerful.

      We have webbing strapping running along each of the full battens, and it takes all of the punishment, but we haven’t tried the PVC tubing idea yet – sounds good though, and as we prepare for the Atlantic we’ll give it a try.

      Best wishes


  • Jean-François Eeman Sep 3, 2011, 10:59 am

    Dear Colin,

    You are not wrong ! For a (blue water) cruising boat made to last, there are, according to me, no valuable reasons to have swept back spreaders. Stories saying it enables you to have additional trimming possibilities does not make any sense on the kind of boats we are talking about. (Again according to me, the same thing is true for 7/8 or 9/10 rigging on our kind of boats.)

    And Yes, it is all about the cost… We have calculated the difference and the amount is quite amazing… Offering it as an option would be a solution for the clients. But I’m afraid most yards will not want to complicate their production process with such an option…

    I’m like you: I would like to be convinced there is a benefit to swept back spreaders. Maybe somebody will come up…


    • Colin Speedie Sep 4, 2011, 10:33 am

      Hi Jean-Francois

      I’m with you in that I like a simple, well stayed masthead rig, and I’d sacrifice 10% of additional performance for a dependable stay-up rig. There may be advantages in fractional rigs performance wise, but I’ve found that they demand more trimming to get the best out of them, which is fine if you’re prepared to do that – but I’m not for cruising.

      And it’s intriguing that you’ve looked at the potential cost saving by opting for a swept spreader rig – and your conclusions confirm what I have always suspected…

      Best wishes


  • Victor Raymond Sep 3, 2011, 1:14 pm

    Steve Dashew chose swept spreaders on his high performance cruising yachts both alloy and fiberglass. I think the reason was less or no reliance on the back stays. Of course most of his boats were of ketch rigging so that may be part of his reasoning. High performance may be another.
    Personally I would prefer no stays or spreaders at all but that is another rig altogether ala Eric Sponberg.

  • Colin Speedie Sep 4, 2011, 10:38 am

    Hi Victor

    I’ve always liked the idea of unstayed masts, having sailed a Laser in my youth, and loved the way that the mast would bend and spill the gusts.

    And I’d suspect that it was as much ‘traditionalist’ thinking that undermined the original Freedom range of yachts, with their unstayed wishbone rigs. They had their faults – the early ones with the sleeved sails were pigs to reef – but as they developed and adopted fully battened sails those failings diminished.

    I thought they made good cruising boats – others may disagree!

    Best wishes


    • Matt Marsh Sep 5, 2011, 7:13 pm

      If unstayed masts are going to come into the picture, we surely must mention the Nonsuch with its single free-standing catboat/wishbone setup. There are something like 975 of them out there. Almost everyone who’s sailed on one loves it and finds them very easy to handle.

  • Chuck Sep 18, 2011, 5:57 pm

    I don’t think the right questions are being addressed here. The Dashew boats use swept spreaders because they NEED huge roaches, because they are so severely undercanvassed in relation to their WL. Other bluewater vessels with big rigs MUST use running backstays else dance around like a big piece of spagehetti, and any vessel using a double headsail (staysail) must also use running backs, as the swept spreader will never handle those moments with a reasonable weight of section. The fact is that small amounts of swept give big returns, in that you can eliminate the forward lowers and babystays. Horses for courses…it depends upon your sail plan requirements. On my alu 60′ modern schooner (masts same height), the forward mast is straight and the aft is swept at 15 degrees. Each mast is different in its requirements. As there is a staysail in the foretriangle angle designed to be used in very high wind conditions, I needed the intermediate backstays to support this. Now on the after spar, they are swept allowing for the elimination of fore lowers and babystay, allowing for a selftacking full hoist staysail in front of it, and running backs are eliminated. I do believe in the twin fixed backstays, however, because aft swept spreaders alone are not enough to support the spars in from the stern, in a real seaway. So you need to determine whether this vessel has a staysail, and does it have a fractional or masthead rig? Is it a high aspect ration rig, or low (low may get away without fixed backs). Hope that helps.

    • John Sep 19, 2011, 3:56 pm

      Hi Chuck,

      All good points about designs and situations when swept back spreaders make sense. In fact I even mention the benefits of their use on high performance racing boats where the apparent wind is never very far aft in this post. And clearly you have found another situation where they make sense for you. However, I would still argue, as Colin does, that adding them to a heavy displacement cruising boat makes little sense. As you say, horses for courses.

      • Chuck Sep 20, 2011, 2:52 pm

        Esteemed John,
        Displacement doesn’t really have much to do with it. Note the round the world racers carrying huge amounts of water ballast that used them…such gives an enormous righting moment far exceeding anything heavy displacement can offer. My own bout with her 3.5 tons of waterballast (p or s) generates 20% more righting moment than the 80′ Kialoa, and had to rig her accordingly. Again, it has more to do with aspect ratio of the rig as to whether you can eliminate the fixed backstay, and whether or not you have a staysail to allow elimination of the running backs, but a small 15 degree is CERTAINLY better than having forward lowers or a babystay, and more stable for it, with less mast compression, all things being equal.

        • John Sep 21, 2011, 4:47 pm

          Hi Chuck,

          I think we are really saying the same thing and you are, of course, right that displacement is not the only issue that influences this complex issue. Length, sail area to displacement, stability and beam, all have a part to play.

          I used displacement as a criteria to keep things simple, and probably too simple at that.

          However, that does not alter the key issue and that is that for the vast majority of cruising boats that are not fast enough to sail hot angles down wind, and thereby avoid running square, swept back spreaders are, at least in my opinion, a bad idea.

          • Chuck Sep 21, 2011, 11:19 pm

            Hello John,
            As long as the spreader angle is not too radical, and the vessel uses an effective vang, even slower vessels can still sail effectively downwind with swept spreader (15 degrees). 25 would present some chafe. However, in real practice, it is my experience that in a blow in an open seaway, off the wind it is far better to pull a vessel than to push it; that you should fly as much headsail as possible, and keep the aft mainsail area as minimal as possible. The benefit from this is to eliminate all yawing of the vessel. Such a shortened main presents no significant chafe problems with moderate swept spreaders, and gives the bonus of fingertip steering at speed.

          • John Sep 22, 2011, 5:40 am

            Hi Chuck,

            I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this. Having sailed a moderate displacement boat tens of thousands of miles down wind, I can say with some certainty that she sails and steers better with the main out as far as possible. This is particularly true when goose winged.

  • Jean-François Eeman Sep 21, 2011, 7:18 am

    Dear Chuck,
    My English is not good enough to understand all the subtleties of the content of your posts… But I would be interested to see a plan of your boat and rigging…

    From my understanding: in your aft mast, going to windward in rough conditions how can you put your stay from your staysail under tension without backstays? Your mast must be pumping when pounding into big waves? Or are you saying you don’t use these sail in those conditions?

    I believe John is right… If not about theoretical approaches of displacement at least about the way the boats we are talking about are sailed. So often with the wind straight behind, wing to wing. Mainsail as open as possible…

    These might sound as a very simplified way of thinking, but I believe a lot of people do think so…


  • Chuck Sep 21, 2011, 10:08 am

    Esteemed Jean-Francois,
    Although I have sailed to all the major French territories of the world, I’m sure your English is much better than my French. But I do speak perfect Spanish.
    The foreward mast has fixed intermediate backstays opposing the load of the staysail. Only the aft spar has spreaders swept aft. There is no pumping. Between the spars, rather than a typical boomed sail, is another self tacking staysail, with a reverse fisherman above it. Both masts are Hood-type furling.
    I will post a drawing when I figure out how to do that.

  • Chuck Sep 22, 2011, 10:30 am

    Hi John,
    Well, we’re almost implying the same thing. I agree that the further a main is let out, the less yawing you will have. My point was that in a fresh breeze (off the wind), the further forward the center of effort the better she will maintain course. To that effect, it is better to heavily reef the main and fly larger foresails. The reefed and well vanged main in real use becomes less of a chafing factor on moderately swept spreaders. In a breeze, that full main, even let all the way out, will contribute heavily to yaw. I have always been amazed to see people sailing downwind in reinforced tradewinds with a full main and half rolled in headsail, not understanding why they can’t keep their vessel on course.

    • Colin Speedie Sep 22, 2011, 10:59 am

      Hi Chuck

      I, too, have often wondered why you see so many boats with full main and partially rolled headsail going downwind in a breeze, swerving around wearing out the helmsman. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s (a) just too easy to reef the headsail first (b) lack of practice in reefing the main downwind (c) poor quality reefing gear (with single – line reefing) and (d) swept back spreaders – or a combination thereof.

      In fairness, I was taking aim at the more extreme forms of swept spreaders, and understand the points you make about less angled installations. But, for me, I still prefer parallel spreaders for the practical reasons outlined by John and others. But as you’ve outlined, there may be benefits in some installations, too.

      On Ovnis the mast is well forward, and we tend to reef the main more than the headsail when going downwind, and at least for our boat, that’s the way she likes it – and so do we!

      Kind regards


  • Chuck Sep 22, 2011, 11:47 am

    I think it was Jean-Francois requested a drawing of my boat.
    I just uploaded here:
    You will see that the aft mast has swept spreaders, and the forward one straight spreaders. Each one takes best advantage of its own purpose.

    • Colin Speedie Sep 22, 2011, 12:16 pm

      Fascinating looking boat, Chuck – would I be right in saying she has twin engines, or a single with hydraulic drives?

      I’m sure I and many others would be interested in hearing more about her.

      Best wishes


      • Chuck Sep 22, 2011, 2:12 pm

        Hi Colin,
        She is aluminum, 50,000 pounds empty/ 60,000 load on a 60′ waterline. She is twin Perkins M135 (built by the Rolls Royce) and powers at 13.2 knot max sustained cruise in 2 bladed folding props. Next haulout I will install the 3 blade self-pitching AUTOPROPS, and hope to get another halfknot out of her under power, along with a 6 foot sugarscoop on the transom. I designed her in 1995, launched in 1999. I haven’t really had much time to sail her until now, but her predecessor I sailed around the world. Sailing her to my home in Florida from South America singlehanded, she covered SA to Ponce, Puerto Rico (cross Caribbean south to north) in under 48 hours in mid February under super-reinforced NE trades forward of the beam. First day’s (24hr) run was 318 NM. When I arrived in Ponce, there were about 50 cruising yachts waiting for a “weather window” just to go 5 miles up the coast to the next port, with several squawking in answer to their question of where I had come from. She is water ballasted; carries 3.5 tons from port to starboard. Centerboard (quadrantboard) is solid aluminum and is self retracting. I have had her on 18 knot planes for extended periods of time under ideal conditions (non-surfing), and look forward to stretching her legs out downwind in a real seaway, soon. The twin rudders are protected by the twin prop shaft skegs (structural fins) which are solid aluminum and airfoil shaped and give a substantial lateral plane aft, like a surfboard, for tracking downwind. She has fingertip steering at all speeds, and balanced hull at all practical heeling angles. She was intentionally made multiple chine over round, as a better choice structurally and design-wise (that is another topic of discussion). Those are the basics. I could rattle on more about her, but won’t out of risk of boring everyone.

        • Colin Speedie Sep 23, 2011, 11:31 am

          Hi Chuck she looks a fascinating and potent boat, so thanks for filling in the details.

          I’m intrigued by your comment concerning the centreboard being self-retracting? Does that imply some ingenious mechanism that delivers some mechanical advantage, making the board easier to lift?

          Best wishes


  • Chuck Sep 23, 2011, 6:11 pm

    Hi Colin.
    In reply to your question, the centerboard is self retracting in that if you hit bottom, it slides back into the centerboard case without destroying either, and drops back down once back in deep water. Because of its design (a quadrant board) there is little loading on the ss wire cable winch, and the top of the case is above the waterline and fully accessible from below, for things such as a cable change-out or to get better access to the case for painting while in drydock. The centerboard itself is 2.5″ solid 5000 series aluminum, aerofoil shaped (yes, I did that with an electric hand planer). There is a computer designed NACA foil shaped minikeel that extends 18″ below the hull and houses the centerboard case, whose volume was calculated at exactly 22,000 pounds to receive the smelted lead ballast. This makes the case VERY strong. The board is huge (far more than old IOR racers the same size), and yes, it is very easy to lift with the cockpit winch. The quadrant shape means that you do not have a gap in the centerboard slot aft of the lowered board, and get the slowing sucking effect. On a previous boat, I had a standard cb design and changed it over to quadrant, and the vessel went a full knot faster without all the case turbulence, which you could (before) really HEAR sucking, from the cable pendant outlet…it actually drew substantial amounts of air into the case and exited the bottom of the case. Any designer who designs a centerboard case with an exposed slot when the board is down has not a clue what he is doing.

  • Eric Sep 26, 2011, 10:31 pm

    I had sailed a Dufour Arpege for 55000NM single-handed between 70N to 65S over 7 years. While an old design (late 1960s), it already had swept-back spreaders and I was carrying a fully battened main (of course).
    I had added chafe patches over the battens where they contacted the shrouds (for each reef level!), but the real answer had come from using white vinyl split sleeving over the capshrouds and aft lowers, all the way up. The first main lasted ~5 years and never required repair due to rig chafe damage. It didn’t turn gray-black anywhere either.
    Keeping a tight vang downwind has a lot to do with stopping spreader chafe.

    When it comes to running, unless the spreaders sweep angle is extreme, as found on few designs without backstays, 15-20deg sweep makes very little practical difference in my experience. Let the main bear against the rigging, the wind pressure holds it there and I sailed downwind wing-and-wing under steering vane completely indifferently. Sure, if it was sheeted further out against flat lateral rigging, it would arguably take more to cause a gybe, but you already need to be on the wrong tack a fair way before this happens.
    If the sea state warranted it only, I used a preventer on the boom.

    A rig with swept-back spreaders is far more stable and doesn’t require babystays or inner forestays (from a certain size up), which are a pain in the neck for tacking. A meaningful part of the forestay tension is provided by the capshrouds (you would be surprised!) and losing the backstay wouldn’t in most if not all circumstances result in the rig coming down, which is the near-invariable result with “all lateral” cruising rigging. Heeling forces also tend to naturally add forestay tension through the capshrouds, which is exactly what you want.

    The Arpege had for-and-aft lowers and a straight mast. I designed and built a new 43′ aluminium sloop for similar cruising. My rig is keel-stepped, double spreaders, 19-degree sweep-back, masthead sloop, with 2% rake and 1% prebend. It has a fixed backstay and forward lowers, they contribute a lot to achieving for-and-aft stability without loading up the shrouds unreasonably and don’t “catch” in the tacks like a babystay. The staying width extends almost to the beam, reducing mast compression through more open angles.

    It gives a sail distribution of about 55/45 between the main and foretriangle. The headsail sheets tightly inside the side decks and stops at the spreaders. It is the easiest yacht to handle. The sheeting length coming out of a tack is short and headsails are easier to deal with than on the 30′ Arpege due to the shorter foot length in spite of being significantly larger. They also have a much broader wind range as they don’t contribute to such an overwhelming part of the drive. The boat can sail under headsail or main alone quite indifferently and still make good speed.

    The relatively large mainsail means that the mast is further forward. Sheeting out shifts the drive forward of the keel and delivers outstanding course stability even though the boom is not squared. An efficient rudder, correct hull shape and forward drive are much more important factors for running than how far the mainsail can be paid out in itself.

    The performance under sail is impressive, but there is more to this than just the rig. Extracting the best requires tuning, nothing unusual to see the speedo climb by 0.5-1 knots after opening or closing the leech of the main, but the gain is on top of more than what you would get from “traditional” arrangements. Go and get it if you want it, and it also makes sail trimming much more rewarding.

    Swept-back spreaders make the simplest and most convenient rig to handle. It is not prone to handling errors or “accidents” like no runners when they were needed, provides some redundancy for the backstay, is somewhat self-tuning and tends to deliver better aerodynamic performance. What is wrong for offshore cruising? I just don’t want all lateral rigging, and I certainly wouldn’t pay a premium for the penalty!

    You clearly won’t get the performance just out of swept-back spreaders on an average cruiser with a low length/displacement ratio and a poor underwater body, but you will still gain more or less everything else. It comes down to how much sweep-back you introduce in relation with the characteristics of the design.

    • John Sep 27, 2011, 8:08 am

      Hi Eric,

      A great and well reasoned comment for the other side of the debate, thank you. I think, as you say in your closing, that the key to this, as in so many things, is moderation.

  • Dave Benjamin Oct 20, 2011, 3:05 pm

    One situation where swept back spreaders is acceptable for cruising is in a very fast boat where the apparent wind remains far enough forward that you’re never really sailing deep wind angles. Also if the boat can be sailed notably faster at higher angles, thus providing better VMG, the sweptback rig is not a big concern.

    This is notably a very small subset of cruising monohulls.

    • John Oct 21, 2011, 9:28 am

      Hi Dave,

      I agree completely. See the last paragraph in this post.

  • Whitall Stokes Jun 3, 2013, 1:00 am

    Another point for swept back spreaders is to better support a fractional rig without runners. While a bit unusual for full time cruisers, fractional rigs have an advantage over masthead sloop rigs (perhaps not cutter or solent rigs) that the shorthanded crew can quickly reef the main without going forward of the mast, and leave the forward sail alone. Advantageous when needed to get upwind or claw off a lee shore as the shape of the jib is not compromised by furling.

    • John Jun 3, 2013, 6:49 am

      Hi Whitall,

      A very good point. There’s a lot to recommend fractional rigs and I think you are right that at least some sweep back in the spreaders often makes sense. To me the problem comes when that gets extreme and you can no longer ease the main out properly when broad reaching and running, where the relatively large main of the fractional rig makes the round up problem even worse.

  • Yanick Levasseur Feb 24, 2020, 11:03 am

    Bob Perry explains:
    “ Almost every modern production and one off boat has swept spreaders today. It allows for one chainplate per side as opposed to three chainplates per side. The sweep angle stiffens the mast for and aft and athwartships. It eliminates the need for runners when used with a masthead rig. It eliminates the forward lower shroud that always causes interference with the jib when tacking. I did my first swept spreader tig in 1979.”

    • John Feb 24, 2020, 11:41 am

      Hi Yanick,

      I have huge respect for Bob, but disagree with him on this one:

      Also, it’s a safety issue, which Bob misses, probably because he has not actually sailed that much offshore:

      He is also, in my opinion, wrong about swept back spreaders eliminating the need for runners on an offshore boat.

      And in my experience the forward lower shroud tends to help an overlaping jib stay clear of stuff at the mast when tacking.

      • Yanick Levasseur Feb 25, 2020, 12:49 am

        I honestly like your arguments better that his, but would not debate with him 😉
        Checked out a few boat designs on renowned models. Surprisingly, the spreaders are swept back on these very expensive ”bluewater” yachts.
        -Oyster 565
        -Amel 50
        -Hylas 48
        Why so? 🤷🏼‍♂️

        • John Feb 25, 2020, 10:56 am

          Hi Yanick,

          The sad thing is that there is no direct relationship between doing things right and the number of boats that so do. The bottom line wins out, and swept back spreaders are a lot cheaper. The same applies to many things. For example most boats have masts where the section rests directly on the step. That’s dead wrong for a whole bunch of reasons but that doesn’t stop it from being common practice. Or how about the use of brass ball valves instead of bronze or maralon sea cocks? I could go on and on.

          • John Feb 25, 2020, 11:21 am

            Hi Again Yanick,

            Here’s a whole post on stuff that’s both common and wrong:

          • Yanick Levasseur Feb 25, 2020, 5:51 pm

            Thank you John for all your insight! We presently own a 2017 Beneteau Oceanis 45, and now realize that we could have gotten a much better boat for our money. As you found out, we “usually” get smarter as we age. The boat is for sale now, and we are piling up and training for our next project. I’m all in for Boreal, but moneywise it’s not likely to be before 7-8 years.

            When is your guide-book going to be published? Put my name on the waiting list please 😉

          • John Feb 26, 2020, 11:19 am

            Hi Yanick,

            Yes, a Boreal is very easy to like, although, to be fair, nearly double the price of your present boat when new I think? Anyway, the Boreal would certainly be my first choice if I was younger and had the money.

            Are you referring to the Norwegian Cruising Guide? If so:

            And you can register for updates there too.

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 24, 2020, 11:27 am

    Hi all,
    I would be surprised (but also curious) if one-off boats were were predominantly done with swept back spreaders (for non-surfing mono-hulls), but that is an area I know little about.
    My best, Dick Stevenson,s/v Alchemy

  • Hans Vernhout Aug 30, 2020, 8:00 am

    Now that Boreal also uses swept back spreaders on it’s newest 47.2 model I don’t read any criticism on MC about this design decision of the reputable Boreal yacht builders.

    John, are your opinions on swept back spreader changing or are you still convinced that swept back spreaders on a cruiser (like the Boreal 47.2) are a bad idea? Just curious because you were (or still are) such an outspoken opponent of swept back spreaders, as is clear in this thread and this pages as well:

    • John Aug 30, 2020, 9:23 am

      Hi Hans,

      Nothing has changed, I still think swept back spreaders are a poor idea and if I were buying a Boreal I would go for the traditional straight spreaders.

      Bottom line, the geometry is irrefutable: if we sweep the spreaders back we will always have an over trimmed mainsail once the apparent wind gets aft of about 120 degrees. The only exception is on boats like an Open 40 or 60 where the speeds are so high that the apparent wind never gets aft of about 120 degrees.

      Boreal have to do what they have to do to compete with the Garcia and others, and that’s what the new OC models are about, but that does not change the fundamentals of geometry and chafe.

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