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#1 18 Feb 2020 6:40 pm

Registered: 16 Oct 2017
Posts: 5

rigging balanced lug

I recently found an article by Michael Storer on setting up balanced lugs. ( It really refers to the Goat Island Skiff). The section that particularly interests me is his description of how he uses the halyard to hold the yard close to the mast. He recommends placing a block at the midpoint of the yard and attaching the halyard to the front of the yard running it on the opposite of the mast thus holding it close and from there through the block and back to the masthead hole. It makes a lot of sense to me but if I were apply it to the passagemaker I think it would bring the yard too far forward as the normal way to set up the halyard on the passagemaker is to pass it through a hole well forward of the midpoint.

I have not tried it in practice yet even in the garden as the boat is under cover  - maybe it does work but I cannot see how. I have looked at photos of the Skiff under sail and the attachment point deems forward of the middle of the spar.

I would be very grateful if a Skiff owner (or indeed any other balanced lug owner) could shed some light on this


#2 2 May 2020 12:29 pm

New Member
Registered: 2 May 2020
Posts: 1

Re: rigging balanced lug

HI Eain,

The method we use for the halyard was lifted from the Dixon Kemp Manual of Seamanship and sailing from around the 1870s.

It does work. And it does solve some of the problems that some perceive in the balance lug rig.

The most important thing that is not immediately obvious is that after the halyard is threaded through the attachment near the middle of the yard it proceeds to the front of the yard BUT ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE MAST TO THE YARD - so mast is trapped between the halyard one side and the yard on the other.

It doesn't only get used on the Goat Island Skiff. It has been so successful it is on all my designs and many other designers use the system. It is not my idea.

Phil Bolger in his 100+ boat rigs book claims the Lug has four downsides "otherwise would be the perfect small boat rig".

He clearly wasn't using the Dixon Kemp Method. Here are the answers to Bolger's critique.

1/ The peak of the yard doesn't suddenly drop when the halyard is released as the halyard goes to the midpoint of the yard (45 to 50% back typically)

Dixon Kemp method - Yard comes down horizontally with no sudden movements.

2/ There is no need for a parrel and its balls which can jam when the halyard is released as it acts like a Spanish Windlass as the yard drops at the peak. This requires some setup to get the tension of the parrel loop tight enough but not too tight.

Dixon Kemp method eliminates any setup or parrel balls or special fittings. Everything is done by the halyard. Ease the halyard and there are no obstructions to the sail coming down. No possibility of jamming as nothing to jam.

3/ The yard is always close to the mast whichever reef is tied in.

It is the the halyard tension - set up by downhaul tension that holds the yard close to the mast.

I can't remember the other one.

But main things are nothing else to buy and the halyard does all the jobs required - . A spectra with polyester outer halyard typically lasts around 3 seasons on our fleet of 74 Oz Goose sailboats in the Philippines racing fleet.

There are two downsides.

1/ The yard (and boom) droop slightly if with the deeper reefs. This can be eliminated by sliding the loops that attach the halyard at midpoint a little further up the yard.

2/ I have tried it on larger boats. Seems to work fine up to around 26ft and 160sf of sail when the boat is sailed how most of us sail our boats. One boat of this size was used for extensive cruising up and down the east coast of Australia and down to Tasmania. It was prone to chafe with the continuous movement of the boat in light winds and swell for days on end.

But a halyard will last 3 or more seasons on the boats we race in the Philippines.

I hope this helps.

We also learned a great deal from the late and missed Brian Pearson who raced in the, also lug rigged, Keyhaven Scows and some of that information has been put together on our Lug rig page.

20 Things from controlling sail twist to supercheap rigging with no loss of racing efficiency.
tinyurl DOT com/yarm5wr5

The main thing .. you just need the halyard - nothing else, so why not try smile

Best wishes


#3 4 May 2020 3:00 pm

Registered: 16 Oct 2017
Posts: 5

Re: rigging balanced lug

Many thanks for the helpful and detailed explanation.  I must add that I have studied with great interest your articles on your web page so thank you also for them. In France we are currently under a very strict confinement regime (due to virus) and can go neither on the lakes or the sea until further notice. However I have set up as you described in the garden.

This method did a very good job of holding the yard to the mast. I did have a problem hoisting up the yard as for some reason the friction on the halyard increased enormously. You are probably aware that the passagemaker mast has a hole at the head for the halliard to pass through which even using the system specified in the passagemaker handbook does not make for an easy hoist. If I was building it again I think I would try to arrange a smoother running system - maybe a pulley wheel in the hole.
I do envy your local abundance of lug rigs and concentration on simple and cheap solutions. Where I live it is all very high tech and the craft of choice are racing catamarans like the class A and Tornado so there is no-one around to steal ideas from.

When France opens up again to normal life I will continue experiments.

Thank you again



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