What’s an Outrigger?

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Stabilizers are boats with a secondary hull that provide stability and are used for sailing and rowing. They were originally developed in the South Pacific and continue to be an important part of Polynesian life. Outriggers can also be used to secure masts or sails and are commonly used in outrigger canoe races.

A stabilizer is a boat with a projecting rigid structure that supports a secondary hull positioned parallel to the main boat hull. The word is used to refer to both the secondary hull and the vessels equipped with it. The design of an outrigger makes it much more stable and seaworthy than conventional boats, allowing the sailor to load their boat with large quantities of cargo and supplies, as it is less prone to capsizing than many other boats. Different models of stabilizers are in use around the world.

In sailing, the buttress that protrudes from the side of a boat or ship is sometimes used for other rigs as well. Outrigging can help secure masts or sails or be used to attach additional sails to a sailing vessel. The term is also used to refer to a specialized type of oarlock for rowing which improves leverage.

The original stabilizer design was developed in the South Pacific and played an important role in Polynesian exploration of the Pacific. Using strong and stable stabilizers, Polynesians traveled to many of the Pacific islands, establishing communities on some of them. Stabilizers continue to be an important part of Polynesian life and traditional stabilizers are made by artisans who want to preserve the Polynesian heritage. More up-to-date versions made from plastic, aluminum and other modern materials are also used.

Rowing or sailing are the two most commonly used methods of powering an outrigger. A well-known type of outrigger sailboat is called a proa. Proas are used extensively in Micronesia to transport people and supplies. Outrigger canoes are in common use in Hawaii, Tahiti and many other places in the South Pacific. In Hawaiian, an outrigger canoe is known as a wa’a, similar to the Maori waka. In the Philippines, the Tagalog word bangca is used to refer to an outrigger canoe. However, the basic design remains the same across all of these regions.

Outrigger canoes are used in several nations, including Hawaii and Tahiti. A well-coordinated crew of up to nine row together and can reach impressive speeds. Many outrigger canoe races are held in open water. Several organizations around the world promote outrigger travel and racing, particularly around the Pacific. Membership is open to people of all ages and skill levels, as an outrigger canoe can easily be adapted for those with disabilities.

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