Monday, May 26, 2014

Lugsail Performance - Better than you may imagine

I've lost count of the number of times that I've read comments from people saying that lugsails may be simple to rig, easy to reef, and convenient to use, but that there is a high price to be paid for the good points, and that the price is poor performance to windward - especially when sailing without a jib and/or staysail.

Concentrating hard on getting our 45 yr/old dinghy up to windward in order to weather a sandbar, using a balance lug rig without a jib.

The prejudice against lug rigs is made worse because so many people are disturbed by the asymmetry of having the yard, boom and sail on only one side of the mast - to most theoretical observers it just seems wrong.

I admit to having suffered from the same prejudice, and the only thing that forced me to attempt an asymmetrical rig was my interest in Chinese lugsails. Back in 1984 I rigged my boat with a Chinese Lugsail (a.k.a. Chinese Junk rig) just so that I could learn about the performance and operation first-hand.


This rig proved to be an exceptionally good cruising rig, but it required lots of development work with the shaping of the battens before starting to really sail well. For heavy weather sailing in tough conditions, I've never had anything better. However, it was heavy and complex for use on a dinghy.

Well, despite the fact that professional seamen used lugsails for centuries, today's sailors seem to find it very difficult to overcome their feels regarding asymmetry and the perception of  poor windward performance.

Recently a group of sailing friends spent a few days at Lake Wivenhoe in south-east Queensland, Australia, and some interesting video has emerged (videos courtesy of Paul Hernes) showing Rick O'Donnell and John Shrapnel sailing against each other in Rick's Iain Oughtred-designed Fulmar and John in the Periwinkle I designed and built for him. On this particular day Rick had a single reef tied into his mainsail, and John had removed his 52 sq.ft mizzen sail altogether, so both boats were carrying reduced sail area.

Rick's Fulmar is somewhat longer than designed, as I believe that he increased the station spacing during construction, and I think she is about 18 ft LOA. Periwinkle is 17 ft LOA and has a cut-away forefoot, so she is handicapped by a significantly shorter LWL than Rick's Fulmar.

In the video below, you can see for yourself how the lugsail performs against a more conventional rig. Note that the lugsail is on the "bad tack" - i.e. the sail is wrapped around the mast, which is a frequently heard argument against the practicality of the "asymmetrical" lug.



So, don't be put off a lugsail just because you feel uncomfortable about asymmetry, or because you think they don't perform well to windward. Lugsails are cheap and easy to make, simple to handle, a breeze to reef, and very quick to rig and strike. The easier a boat is to rig and un-rig, the more likely it is that you will use her. In a later post I'll show you how you can improve the windward performance of the lugsail even more, using nothing more than a short length of V.B. cord.


8 comments:

  1. Really enjoyed this and your previous posts... Thanks Ross.

    "In a later post I'll show you how you can improve the windward performance of the lugsail even more, using nothing more than a short length of V.B. cord."

    I'm looking forward to this upcoming attraction :-)

    Simeon
    SCAMP #11, "Noddy"

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  2. Me too! Especially if I can prevent my usual sailing partners from finding out about it... :)

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Sure it looks easy, they're going downhill!

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  5. Ross, you wrote "This (junk) rig proved to be an exceptionally good cruising rig, but it required lots of development work with the shaping of the battens before starting to really sail well..."

    Have you looked into junk sails lately? No batten shaping to get the camber, rather camber shaped into the panel cloth by the cut and broadseaming/darts as is usual for most sail making. There's various methods of calculating panel shapes, but Arne Kverneland's "chain calculator" is a good'un ( https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/junkrig/files/Arne%20Kverneland%27s%20files/1%2C%20Technical%20files/ https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/junkrig/files/Arne%20Kverneland's%20files/ )
    See the rest of Arne's comprehensive junk rig development info in files and discussion here: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/junkrig/info
    and here
    http://www.junkrigassociation.org/arne

    Suits dinghy to yacht sizes.. and has aerodynamic attributes equal to modern conventional rigs...

    cheers
    Graeme

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