Sometimes confused with the Bermudan rig, particularly in the USA where for a long time it was a synonymous term. It was introduced by the yacht designer Charles E. Nicholson onto the 15-metre (49.5-ft) Istria in 1912. He did away with the traditional gaff rig where the topmast is fitted on to a fid on the lower mast. Instead, he socketed a hollow topmast into the mainmast, so that it looked like a single spar. This meant that the luff of the triangular-shaped jackyard topsail could be set on a track on the socketed topmast, which enabled it to be raised and lowered much more quickly during a race, a handy advantage. It also meant the topsail yard could be discarded, which saved weight aloft, another advantage when racing. However, this type of mast had to have a complicated series of stays to keep it upright as it was very much taller than that used in the gaff rig. The system of staying made it look like the new Marconi radio masts for transmitting Morse code, hence its nickname.
The use of the Bermudan rig in the smaller racing classes had been encouraged by the introduction of the International Metre Class in 1907, but the technical difficulties of staying the mast, and the conservatism of the owners, prevented its introduction into the larger classes. However, once the staying of the marconi mast had been mastered it was a logical step to introduce the Bermudan rig into the Big Class which raced between the wars.
The marconi rig caused quite a stir when it was introduced, and when one old tar was asked during a regatta what he thought of it, he replied: ‘If I was at the top o’ one o' them, I should reckon I was a long way from home.'
Subjects: Maritime History.