An outrigger is a boat with a projecting rigid framework which supports a secondary hull located parallel to the main hull of the boat. The word is used to refer both to the secondary hull and to boats equipped with it. The design of an outrigger makes it much more stable and seaworthy than conventional boats, allowing the sailor to load his or her boat up with large amounts of goods and supplies, since it is less subject to capsizing than many other boats. A number of different outrigger designs are in use around the world.
In sailing, outrigging which projects from the side of a boat or ship is sometimes used for other equipment as well. Outrigging may help to secure masts or sails, or be used to attach additional sails to a sailing ship. The term is also used to refer to a specialized type of oarlock for rowing which enhances leverage.
The original design of the outrigger was developed in the South Pacific, and played an important role in the Polynesian exploration of the Pacific. Using strong, stable outriggers, the Polynesians traveled to many of the islands in the Pacific, establishing communities on some of them. The outrigger continues to be an important part of Polynesian life, and traditional outriggers are made by craftsmen who want to preserve Polynesian heritage. More updated versions made with plastics, aluminum, and other modern materials are also used.
Rowing or sailing are the two methods most commonly used to power an outrigger. One well known type of outrigger sailboat is called a proa. Proas are widely used in Micronesia to carry people and supplies. Outrigger canoes are in common use in Hawaii, Tahiti, and many other places around 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. The basic design remains the same in all of these regions, however.
Outrigger canoes are raced in several nations, including Hawaii and Tahiti. A well coordinated crew of up to nine people rows together, and can attain impressive rates of speed. Many outrigger canoe races are carried out in the open ocean. Several organizations around the world promote outrigger trips and racing, especially around the Pacific Rim. Membership is open to people of all ages and levels of ability, since an outrigger canoe can be easily adapted for people with disabilities.