The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

by Jack Clayton
Guest Columnist

Ballanced Lugsails




You are doing nothing wrong. I have a Mixer and a Sunfish, both of which lay the sail up against the mast on one tack. The result is that you are able to point slightly higher (due to the flatter entry), but the mast does distort the luff so that the drive of the sail is somewhat diminished. I race my Sunfish in a one-design fleet, and nobody worries about this anomaly because everybody else has the same issue. However, if you were lining yourself up against a fleet of Farr 40s (THE most competitive one-design keelboat class in the world) then the mast-distorting-the-luff would be a disadvantage. I'll take a guess right here and now and assume that you won't, so in the end it doesn't matter one whittle.

As for setting up the sail, follow Jim M's advice about having a tight luff. The tighter, the better the luff shape will be. Also, the upper spar must be held tight to the mast. I use some funny kind of loop in the halyard that I saw on the Wooden Boat site that will be loose when the halyard is loose, but cinches up against the mast when you tighten the luff. It's perfect for reefing, since the upper spar will need to sit lower on the mast. I don't have any easy way of adjusting the foot tension; I just lower the whole thing and adjust the knots, but then, the sail is only 68 sq. ft. A larger sail needs easier outhaul and peak adjustments. The peak should be pretty tight anyway, but not so tight that you get funny wrinkles in the sail. In stronger wind, though, you'll want everything to be tight as a drum. Oh, and for the larger lugs, you'll want to have something to control that upper spar when raising and lowering. It could give you a nasty bump on your noggin if you're not careful.

My sail was made by a professional, and they made the luff (as drawn from throat to tack) ever so slightly concave so it would never stretch and start flapping. I would definitely recommend that for the other types of materials (polytarp, tyvek, whatever) too.

One last recommendation I have is a very long mainsheet. So long that the main can be let out to the point where the boom is over the bow. That came in handy one time when I ran aground going downwind, and I could still luff the sail so it wasn't driving me further ashore. Not too many other rigs can do that trick.

In all I've been very happy with my Mixer's balanced lug. Don't worry about the mast mishaping the sail and just reellllaaaaxxxxx...