Nearly every new boat has a bowsprit, but what about older yachts? Rupert Holmes looks at what is available on the market for owners of older vessels

The performance benefits of today’s reaching sails in light airs, together with their ease of handling, are so beneficial that almost every new sailing yacht has a bowsprit from which efficient asymmetric spinnakers and Code 0s can be flown.

At the same time, more and more older boats are sprouting sprits for the same reasons.

Some of these are propriety units, with prices starting at around £700, while others are custom-made, costing around £1,500 to £2,000 for stainless steel sprits suitable for a 35ft boat, but double that or more for carbon fibre.

On the other hand, many others are home-made, using materials as diverse as short lengths of scaffold pole to salvaged sections of broken windsurfer masts.

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In all cases the first step is to decide whether it will be used only for nylon spinnakers without furling gear.

This is because sails with furling gear, especially Code 0s, have much higher luff loads.

This means the whole set up needs to be much stronger and a bobstay from the end of the sprit to the bow of the boat near the waterline may be needed to counter the vertical forces involved.

A sprit used for a Code 0 will also be subject to greater compression load, so will need to be stronger and in a few cases may also require side stays.

A second decision point is whether a fixed sprit is acceptable, or whether you need one that can be retracted – to avoid incurring additional mooring fees, for instance.

The third is whether or not anchor handling will be affected.

The best sprits on new boats have excellent integrated anchor rollers and stowage, but this can be harder to achieve in a retrofitted arrangement, unless it’s one that sits on deck.

Bowsprits on the market

Seldén bowsprit

Selden carbon and aluminium sprits

Seldén’s four aluminium and five carbon deck-mounted sprits are popular and easy to fit.

They can be used with nylon sails on boats from 1.5 tonnes displacement up to 26 tonnes.

They’re also rated for use with a Code 0 on smaller boats up to 6.7 tonnes loaded displacement (aluminium version) or 9.3 tonnes (carbon).

This style of sprit is easy to retract or remove to be stowed elsewhere, but the fittings will still clutter the foredeck.

Prices: from around £700 to £2,500

Facnor bowsprit

Facnor bowsprit with deck fittings

Facnor produces a range of four aluminium sprits for boats from 25-57ft that can be used with asymmetric spinnakers from less than 60m2 up to 150m2 and, Code 0s of 37m2 to 105m2, providing a bobstay is fitted in the latter case.

Prices: £700-£1,300

Trogear bowsprit

Trogear bowsprit

Trogear’s neat carbon sprits are typically fixed to the hull, just below deck level at the bow and hinge upwards when not in use.

The six model range suits boats from 25-70ft.

Trogear’s very neat carbon sprits

Prices: £1,040 to £3,500

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