|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.
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.