Sunday, May 27, 2012

Headgear Again

The ostensible purpose of today's post is to provide the answer to yesterday's Dhowtful Rigging question.

But the real purpose is to get in another post on sailing headgear.  As can be observed above, in this part of the world, a PFD is only part of the essential gear and a distinctive headgear completes the ensemble. Although stylish, it is not an officially approved OSHA, ISAF, NTSA, NASCAR or other crash helmet, but a hamdaniyah (although in Dubai it is called something else).  This is the everyday headgear, as  distinguished from the more formal gutra which one wears to the office.  The hamdaniyah is just piece of cloth folded and tied around the head and in the regattas some of the local kids wear them - and they stay on even during a capsize.  I would think it also provides some protection against an errant boom, but can't confirm that. More on headgear below.

Back to dhow rigging - to understand the dhow rig (and various other aspects of local culture) you have to think outside the Western box and not make assumptions - in this case, assuming that shrouds stay attached.

That is basically the key - the shrouds are attached only by hooks (see photo above, admiring not only the headgear, but also the hook on the end of a shroud) and can be undone and switched to the other side as needed.  As you can see in the following video of a 22 ft dhow race, as the boats go out there are no shrouds on one side - the side which will be the leeward side.  When the boat gybes - see the video at about 8.30 - the sail blows out ahead of the boat and is sheeted in on the new side - not so different in principle as when the Volvo Ocean Racers roll up their headsail and then unroll it on the new tack.

Traditional manoeuvring on the bigger dhows also involves dipping the front of the sail until the leading edge becomes vertical and then shifting the spar to the other side and pulling the sail around the front while also unhooking the shrouds and bringing them around to the new windward side. The modern racers can tack, although traditionally dhows would often change tacks by gybing around (wearing away) which allowed the sail to billow out front and change sides more easily.

I am not sure, but it looks as if on these 22 ft dhows the shrouds might stay in place once set up, with the sail always outside them.

Another good video is this one of the Groupama team in a 60ft dhow race.  Although alert readers may not recognize Jean-Luc who is sailing without his special Groupama headgear, it is indeed him and I can only surmise that he either wanted to keep his secret weapon intact or he was just bowing to local sensibilities and did not wish to upstage the local headgear. Notice, as in the other video, as the boats are going out the shrouds are only on one side - the side that will be the windward side. And in the action parts - around 4.00 - you can clearly see that the shrouds are only on the windward side.

I have not had the privilege of riding on one of the racing dhows but have talked with friends who have done so and I think I have the above right, but if any alert readers have further info I would be pleased to learn more.

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