balanced lugsail is one of the cheapest and easiest rigs
to set up on a small boat.
can even outperform the modern bermudan sail in certain conditions
and points of sail.
The Basic Rig
less windage when the sail is dropped,
it is much easier to stow, especially when trailering,
and a much easier climb to fix mast top fitting on a permanently stepped mast.
tend to describe the balanced lugsail as being ‘square’ however,
strictly speaking most are quadrilaterals, as the opposing edges are
The basic characteristic of all lug sails is that the sail is hung from a yard in such a way that the majority of the sail hangs behind the mast while the leading edge extends forward in front of the mast.
The yard is raised and lowered by means of the halyard and is loosely held to the mast by a short length of line known as a ‘parrel’.
It is normal to find a Lug sail hung from the port side of the mast, this seems to be from convention rather than from any practical reason.
With the balanced lugsail the lower edge of the sail is attached to a boom, which also continues forward of the mast to hold the luff of the sail.
The boom usually has a parrel holding it to the mast, a controlling sheet at the clew end and most importantly it will have a downhaul at the forward end.
The downhaul is used to control the luff tension.
While a balanced lugsail mast is usually short and stiff, the yard and boom should have some flexibility, which is another good reason for using wooden spars.
A certain amount of flex in the boom and yard will allow the sail to develop some curvature.
The amount of hardware/fittings required for a balanced lug will depend on the size of the sail.
Basically you need a block or sheave at the mast head to take the halyard and somewhere to tie off the halyard.
Tackle and rope clutch to control the downhaul.
And somewhere to tie off the sheet.
Clearly the larger, heaver and more powerful the sail the greater will be the need for extra purchase, especially on the halyard.
However, as the forces involved and need to constantly adjust are minimal there is really no need to spend a fortune on hi tec, fancy, ‘friction free’ blocks.
The only concession to hi tec might be the use of low stretch rope for the halyard.
It is possible to set up a jiffy reefing system that could be operated from the cockpit or even roller reefing around the boom.
But to my mind this will only detract from the beautiful simplicity of the rig.
And with every added complication comes the risk stuff going wrong, line tangles extra friction, etc.
What could be simpler and less prone to snarl ups that a set of reefing tapes sewn on and ready to tie.
One slight complication that might be worth while considering is a combined topping lift / lazy jack to make dropping the sail that bit tidier.
The balanced lugsail is one of the best traditional rigs, especially for small boats.
It is a rig that is capable of very good performance, however this depends on getting the shape and set up right for your particular boat.
The position of the mast and how the spars and control lines are attached will also affect how she performs.