On sailing a Folksong – spinnaker preparation

I went aboard during the slack tide to do a few jobs – strengthen the mooring lines, make it easier to drop the pick-up line and also the anti-chafe plastic piping on the stern lines had slipped and need re-securing. I ran the engine and remembered how much it needs a service.  And there was very little water in the boat – one pull on the hand-pump was enough.


When I bought Blue Mistress, I inherited a spinnaker that had seen better days and, having written it off, I have been content to sail without one. However, I have recently acquired a nearly-new spinnaker from a Folkboat –  (North Sails), so am now looking at ways of setting it.

The idea is to prepare the ground for doing it single-handed and then, for the first few times have a crew, to test out the the theory.

By sewing tags onto the spinnaker bag at the forward ‘angles’, I can tie it to either side of the pushpit forward of the stanchions. It will be held open by the line to the forestay and fixed at the base to the bow roller. The bungee cord can be tightened or loosened to control the size of the opening and keep the sail in the bag until needed.

Having worked that out and found the halyard was not long enough to feed back to the cockpit, which could be a problem –  (and dropped the bag back into the dinghy to bring home for sewing), I looked at the pole.

I wanted to decide on lengths – length of sheet/guy and downhaul.

By shackling a block forward, and feeding the downhaul back to the cockpit, I can control it from there.

The sheet/guy can be fed to the second track aft of the main sheet track and brought round the winch to the usual cleat, (Blue Mistress does not have self-tailing winches – doesn’t seem to need them).

I know it’s possible to do this single-handed because it happens on Fram.

In theory, given a good day and light winds, I could probably manage this sail – but, hey, that’s theory and I have a way to go yet. (All suggestions gratefully received).


By the time I came to leave, the flood tide was well under way and it carried the dinghy back to the slipway.

Just the two of us on this trot at the end of February – Blue Mistress and Charisma.

On sailing a Folksong – evolving designs

In the Trechandiri post  a week or so ago. I was thinking about evolving boat design, talking about it in old man’s ‘generation-to-generation’ terms. But, of course, boat designers are continually modifying their ideas – and boat owners continually modify the designer’s ideas with ideas of their own.

Below is an extract from an interview between Frank Rosenow and Thord Sund, the designer of the Folkboat. It first appeared in Sail Magazine, June 1979, and was reproduced in Yachting Monthly, October 1979 under the heading “Folkboat Encounter”.


“”I first designed her (the Folkboat) with a fully battened mainsail. It took me quite a while to realize how impractical that arrangement was . . . , another brainstorm was when I saw that a canvas cot I had intended for the cockpit would fit into the forepeak with room to spare.

Another twist was that I had conceived her as a weekend cruiser, with the simplest possible rig and equipment. There were no winches of course since the jib halyard and the jib sheets could be taken care of with two-part tackles.

In spite of all this simplicity, or maybe on account of it, people started sailing Folkboats to and from every conceivable corner of the world. And I’m glad the boat proved equal to it, even without a self-draining cockpit and all the rest of it. . . .”

In 1966, Thord Sund redesigned the Nordic Folkboat for production in fiberglass. On the “inter­national Folkboat” he retained the proven hull sections but increased the freeboard from 550mm to 660mm to obtain more room below.  He also drew out the bow and rounded off the stern, for appearance’s sake. The clinker pattern of the original’s fir planking was dropped, marginally reducing wetted surface.

This time, he opted for a self-draining cockpit, mainly because potential buyers seemed to think it would make the boat safer “They” also wanted a spinnaker, so he raised the headstay attachment point on the mast and settled on an altogether new rig. The new rig configuration allowed the use of higher aspect ratio jibs and of large  over-lapping genoas. Halyard and sheet winches were now called for.

Sunden’s final variation on the folkboat theme came in the mid-1970s when, again responding to popular demand, he designed the M26 (Sunwind) with an even higher freeboard and provision for a Volvo-Penta diesel engine.

Then, with another quantum jump in the freeboard, she had come to the box-like apparition we were sitting in – “Of course, she does have a hell of a lot of space.” mused Sunden.

“We live in a different age.” he said, almost angrily. “People swarm onboard at the boat shows wearing muddy clogs, and the only thing they are interested in is standing room by the galley. So here you have it, the private flush toilet, the walk-in closet, a wall-to-wall carpet and all that garbage.”

He proceeded to decant the sherry, his heavy-lidded, sea-blue eyes staring sadly at the cork.”


At the same time as Thord Sund was thinking along these lines, Eric Berqgvist had taken the idea and produced the Folksong – this post. He too evolved his design as production proceeded.

All this was happening thirty or so years ago. Since then, technology has leapt forward, construction materials have developed, design ideas are continually being modified. These are exciting times.

Nevertheless, I picked the Folksong for the ideas that Berqgvist and Sund were working on. It suits me.

(With thanks to Mike Burns for pointing out both articles).

On sailing a Folksong – Interview with Eric Bergqvist (continued) . . .

Here is the the continuation of the interview with Eric Bergqvist by Ted Bradbury, who, at the time, was looking for a seaworthy cruiser to sail to the Azores – (with thanks to Mike Burns). I guess this would have been sometime around 1982/83:

Ted: I do appreciate how reasonable your prices are – (hull and deck mouldings £1750 +VAT – ed.), but doesn’t that mean that the boat has been designed to its limits – minimum bulkheads and thin laminates etc?

Eric: Not at all. The long low profile of the Folksong uses less materials as well as contributing to the boats sailing performance. The laminate is of chopped strand mat construction resulting in a thick hull which, although hand laid, is quick and easy to make. The deck is an economical one-piece moulding and the bulkheads and other interior fit-out all wood.

Ted: Why is the wood interior economical? It must take a lot of time to fit and finish.

Eric: It will take longer to fit than the kit of moulded and pre-finished parts that you would have to buy to complete a modern production yacht but these kits are expensive because you are paying for someone else’s labour and overheads. Such kits also offer very little, if any, flexibility or freedom of design. Our basic interior kit is simple and straightforward because it’s been designed specifically for the home-builder who can keep the layout as it is or add his own ideas and innovations as he goes along. We sell bare hulls and decks to customers who want to do it all themselves, or part or fully finished boats to those who haven’t the time or inclination for fitting out. Admittedly the finish we use, painted plywood with varnished hardwood trims, is time-consuming, but it is also relatively inexpensive. It has a warm classic look and can be smartened up each spring with a fresh coat of paint.

Ted: I think I see now why you haven’t attempted to give the Folksong standing headroom, but surely this is unacceptable to most prospective buyers.

Eric: I agree that the lack of standing room is a drawback but a box cabin high enough to allow for this would ruin her lines and performance and increase the cost. There are plenty of 25 footers to choose from with standing headroom but few that can be built as economically as the Folksong or perform as well. In fact the Folksong’s headroom rarely concerns my serious customers because the Folksong design appeals principally to experienced sailors. Like you and I they have the ultimate ambition of making that long ocean passage and are confident that the Folksong can help them accomplish such a dream.

Ted: Finally, Eric, have you made any improvements to the Folksong in the three years you’ve been producing her?

Eric: Of course. The design is constantly developing. From the fifty or so boats built we’ve had a lot of customer feedback and each year a new interior is planned for a customer’s own specific requirements. Recently a new cockpit layout was added with an outboard well, and the Folksong hull has been successfully used for other hone designed cruisers. At the moment, two customers are building Chinese junk rigged Folksongs. One of these is a replica of Blondie Hasler’s Folkboat, Jester, that made so many single-handed transatlantic crossings. And what better recommendation for a Folkboat than that!


Well, there you have it from the designer himself. He wanted the Folksong to be good-looking, economical in its simplicity, have a good performance – hence the low profile, be flexible in its design and be capable of ocean voyages by the ambitious and the experienced.

That’s what I saw the day I first saw Blue Mistress. What about you?

On sailing a Folksong – Fram and Eric Bergqvist

I am not the only one owning a Folksong. In fact, compared to some, I am very much the novice – (as anyone who has read this blog for a while can testify). However, I have learnt a thing or two and I know a gem when I see it.

Kite gybe

This is Fram. The picture speaks for itself.

Mike Burns wrote at the end of last month:

“I home completed a Folksong in 1984 . . . and still have her . . .

“Maiden voyage in 1985 was circumnavigation of the north of Scotland, ie. clockwise Fortrose to Fortrose via the Caledonian Canal.

“Raced her last weekend single handed, flew spinnaker & also had to anchor up when wind dropped & strong tide, only came third out of 8 mixed handicap boats. Had to winch up the anchor with the genoa winch!!”

He has kindly sent images of Fram and copies of his original documents, and has given me permission to publish them here which I am delighted to do. Thank you, Mike. I hope we will exchange more details as time goes on.

~ ~ ~

Among the documents is an interview with the Folksong designer – Eric Bergqvist.

In it, he says: “I wanted a yacht fit for sailing single-handed in the Irish Sea.

“The first of my three requirements was that she had to be attractive. Pride of ownership is always a top priority and a gentle evening’s sail followed by a few pints and a chat at the club can be just as rewarding as a landfall after a long passage.

Fortrose Harbour

“My second priority was performance – speed on all points of sail and the ability to keep going in a short steep sea where you’ve the combination of wind over tide in shallow water. Self-steering is, in my opinion, the best aid to navigation, enabling the skipper to keep dry, warm and alert. The Folksong’s long keel gives good directional stability and suits the construction of a very simple self-steering device.

“My third requirement was ease of construction. Simplicity is the essence of both good design and economy, and I’m not in the position of having a lot of money tied up in a yacht.

These three requirements: looks, performance and economy all add up to a fibreglass Folkboat.”

With dolphins

That sums it up for me. Even though I have spent more money than planned on Blue Mistress – (yeah, well . . .), she is still more economical than many similar boats from the more well-known classes. She performs well and looks good.


Now, some detail. In the extract above, he talks of “the construction of a very simple self-steering device.” Do any Folksong (or Folkboat, Folkdancer or similar long-keeled boat) owners know which one from the early eighties he may have been referring to?

On sailing a Folksong – Lazy Jacks

Lyme Regis to Lands End including the Isles of Scilly
Outlook: Southwesterly 3 or 4 becoming variable 3, then southeasterly 4 or 5 later in west. Smooth or slight. Mainly fair. Moderate or good.

I think I’ve solved my lazy jacks problem.

I was pleased they were already fitted when I bought Blue Mistress.

They do have certain advantages:

  • when lowering the main, the sail folds relatively neatly onto the boom.
  • this is good when single-handed or with inexperienced crew. I can drop the sail without having to grab hold and furl it immediately.
  • also, when slab reefing, the loose sail is contained and need not necessarily be controlled with reef points.

But they have disadvantages too:

  • the primary one being that, with a battened mainsail, the first and often the second batten get caught during hoisting, especially in a hatful of wind. This means lowering the sail slightly to free it and start again. Single-handed this is very frustrating.
  • also, they have to be loosened after the sail is set and the topping lift released to a) allow the leach to take the weight of the sail and b) to release the full belly of the sail.
  • this means leaving the helm, going forward and making adjustments both sides of the mast.
  • and this means that they are loose and untidy during sailing.

To solve the problem, I have previously:

  • juggled with the wind and the heading of the boat, using the auto pilot to keep her head to wind. This gave only limited success. It kept the boat head to wind, but required more speed to do so, which, in turn increased the apparent wind, which, in turn, increased the sail flapping.
  • turned to head into the wind, to combine it with the boat almost stopped. Limited success again, needing a very swift hoist. If this failed, the half raised sail would allow the head to fall off the wind and jam the sail part way up. Back to the engine.
  • shortened the lazy jack lines, which had the effect of bringing the the blocks forward as well as  lowering their position. The idea here was to allow the battens to clear the confines of the lines lower in the hoist. This works better in light winds, but not in heavy ones.

The week before last I struggled for ten minutes or so to get the sail up and finally decided that I would get rid of them altogether if I couldn’t come up with a better solution.

I spent Friday night on the boat again and wanted to rig a stretch of canvas over the boom to make a tent over the companion way. The lazy jacks were in the way, so I loosened them off and led them to the mast, hooking them around their respective cleats before tightening the lines again – instant solution to the tent problem and instant solution to the sail raising problem.

In the clip above you can just make out the port lazy jack lines leading along the bottom of the boom and around the cleat.

On Saturday morning, the mainsail went up in one steady haul, the engine was stopped and we were sailing.

The next decision has to be taken at the end of a day’s sailing as to when to reinstate the lines.

On sailing a Folksong – rudder 4

Further to my previous posts, here, here and here, the following is taken from “Singlehanded Sailing”, by Richard Henderson.

He is talking about the Folkboat – (the Folksong is a Folkboat derivative):

“She (the Folkboat) has considerable aft rake to her rudder, which results in less lateral plane and less wetted surface. There was a time when some sailors thought this feature was detrimental to self-steering, but this thinking is not so much in evidence today.

. . . a considerable rake aft often causes the rudder to operate more efficiently when the boat is heeled or rolling, at which time the resultant of force components working on the rudder is acting in a more lateral and thus more effective direction. It is also true that gravity tends to keep such a rudder amidships when the boat is unheeled*. The really important concern with regard to self-steering is the directional stability of the hull, which is generally achieved through a reasonably symmetrical shape with somewhat balanced ends and an ample, but not necessarily extreme, length of keel.”

* And presumably the heavier rudder will be more effective in maintaining this.

On Blue Mistress, I am able to leave the tiller and go forward to adjust lines at the mast – (usually to loosen the lazy jacks which interfere with the mainsail shape if left too tight). She holds her course for the time it takes.

On sailing a Folksong – rudder 2

Blue Mistress has a very heavy rudder – “overworked”, the marine surveyor called it.

It might have graced the stern of an early twentieth century vessel.

Compared to similar sized craft, it is also slightly short of the keel . . .

For example, another Folksong 26 . . .

a Folkboat . . .

a Contessa 26**  . . .

This may mean that Blue Mistress’ rudder has been repaired sometime in the past, but it may not . . .

So, I’m looking for the answers to three questions:

What is the effect of a heavy rudder on the sailing performance of a long-keeled boat?

What is the effect of a shorter rudder on the sailing performance of a long-keeled boat?

What is the effect of rudder shape on the sailing performance of a long-keeled boat?


A younger me would have searched for a definitive answer.

Now I don’t think there is one answer – but a series of ideas about rudders that, put together, mean we can learn more about small, long-keeled boats.


For example, a Google search showed the Swedish Folkboat Association having a useful note on this – here.

In their submission to the Nordic International Folkboat Association, they state: “We have consulted Lars Larsson, professor in hydrodynamics on Chalmers (Gothenburg’s technical university), folkboat sailor, and earlier three times Swedish Champion in Folkboats. He thinks that the lifting power 10 kg has a moderate effect – the same as if the whole crew (250 kg) moves 0.1 m forwards in the boat. Hydrodynamically it can be a favour to make the rudder a little thicker, so that the water follows a harmonic bend along the keel and rudder on the boats windward side when it tacks with a rudder angel of about 5 degrees ( to prevent the boat from turning up against the wind). The shape of the leeward side is of less importance. To make an even thicker rudder is a disadvantage hydrodynamically.”

The Association then dealt with it in a formal fashion, i.e. there is a revised class rule to be adhered to – here.


Fair enough. But here are no class rules with a Folksong 26, so we have some leeway, which means we can work it out for ourselves . . . with a little help from friends.

If you have answers, part answers – or even more questions, please feel free to comment..

**(I am very grateful to Nick for allowing me to use this picture of Constellation. I enjoy his blog and highly recommend following and supporting his venture back to Australia on Big Oceans/Tiny Boat)