Junk Rigged Yacht Sail Well

Share This Post

History of the Modern Junk Rig

Early Development and Traditional Origins

The junk rig, a type of sail design traditionally used in Chinese and Southeast Asian waters, has a history spanning over a thousand years. Its distinctive features include fully battened sails, multiple panels, and a flexible, fan-like appearance. This rig was praised for its simplicity, ease of handling, and robustness in various sea conditions. Historically, it was used on a variety of vessels, from small fishing boats to large ocean-going junks.

Introduction to the West

Interest in the junk rig in the Western world began in the early 20th century, spurred by explorers, naval architects, and sailors intrigued by its unique characteristics. One of the early Western advocates was Herbert “Blondie” Hasler, a British sailor and innovator. In the 1950s, Hasler became fascinated with the junk rig’s potential for cruising yachts and self-steering capabilities.

Blondie Hasler and the Pioneering Spirit

Hasler’s experiments culminated in the 1960 single-handed transatlantic race, where he sailed his junk-rigged boat “Jester.” His success in the race demonstrated the junk rig’s practicality and resilience, capturing the imagination of many sailors. Hasler’s subsequent book, “Practical Junk Rig,” published in 1974, became a seminal text, providing detailed instructions and designs for adapting the junk rig to Western cruising boats.

Development and Refinement

Following Hasler’s pioneering work, other sailors and designers began to explore and refine the junk rig. Key figures included New Zealander Tom Colvin, who designed numerous junk-rigged vessels, and Dutch sailor Jan van de Wiele, who voyaged extensively in junk-rigged boats. Their collective experiences contributed to a growing body of knowledge and improvements in the rig’s design and performance.

Junk Rig Association and the Spread of Knowledge

In 1979, the Junk Rig Association (JRA) was founded to bring together enthusiasts and promote the rig’s use and development. The JRA provided a platform for sailors to share their experiences, designs, and innovations. Through newsletters, meetings, and publications, the association played a critical role in spreading knowledge and encouraging experimentation.

Modern Innovations

In recent decades, advancements in materials and technology have further enhanced the junk rig. Lightweight and durable synthetic battens, improved sail fabrics, and better construction techniques have increased the rig’s efficiency and ease of use. Notable modern adaptations include the use of cambered panels for better upwind performance and hybrid designs that combine elements of the junk rig with conventional rigs.

Contemporary Popularity

Today, the junk rig enjoys a dedicated following among cruising sailors, particularly those who value simplicity, low maintenance, and ease of handling. It is particularly popular for long-distance cruising, given its ability to be easily reefed and its robust construction. The rig is also appreciated for its aesthetic appeal and historical significance, reflecting a deep connection to maritime heritage.


The modern junk rig represents a fusion of ancient maritime tradition and contemporary innovation. From its roots in East Asia to its adoption and refinement in the West, the junk rig has evolved into a versatile and practical sail system. Its enduring appeal lies in its simplicity, durability, and the passionate community of sailors who continue to explore its potential.

How to Make the Lifestyle You Dream of a Reality even if You don’t Love Your Job