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What Is a Gunter?

By Paul Scott
Updated May 17, 2024
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A gunter is a variation on a basic gaff sail rig featuring a vertical gaff orientation and generally used on smaller sailing vessels. There are two ways of rigging a gunter sail setup. A sliding gunter sail features a line which runs from one one end of the gaff to the other and is used, by means of a sliding block and halyard, to raise the gaff into an upright position. The gaff in a parrel gunter rig is secured to the mast in the upright position by a number of beaded parrel lines. In both sliding and parrel gunter rigs, a halyard secured at the throat, or mast end, of the yard hoists or lowers the sail.

The gunter rig is an efficient and fairly popular sail configuration for smaller craft such as dinghies and sailing canoes. It is based on the gaff rig which is a square, fore and aft sail setup. The main difference between the gunter and gaff sails is that the gaff in a traditional gaff rig is peaked at an angle while a gunter rig is raised vertically. This orientates the square sail so that it sets much like the triangular sail in a Bermuda rig, but only using a shorter mast. The shorter masts inherent in these rigs have several benefits including easy mast stepping and convenient stowage of the mast when the boat is transported.

There are two ways of rigging this type of sail: the sliding line and parrel line. The sliding line setup features a line or wire attached to either end of the gaff and equipped with a block or a shackle which slides up and down the line. A halyard is attached to the block or shackle and used to raise and secure the gaff into its vertical position. The gaff and sail are hoisted or lowered on the mast with a second halyard which is attached to the gaff at its throat or mast end.

The gaff in a parrel line rig is simply attached to the mast in its upright position by a series of beaded lines. These are lines which run firmly around both the gaff and mast, thereby securing the gaff in position. A number of wooden beads are threaded onto each parrel line to prevent it from chaffing and cutting into the mast. The parrel rig is raised and lowered in the same way as the sliding rig with a throat halyard.

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