The dipping lug

I’m still not sure how he does it:

He seems to have solved one of the primary reasons sailors don’t use the dipping lug on modern boats. The dipping lug is a beautiful sail and those with it aboard report it is powerful too. So it should be, as it uses the principle of the foot running along the gunwhale from the bow for more powerful airflow. This is as the crab claw uses, another powerful sail.

It truly has to be one of the easiest handled once it’s up – it’s just a jib, after all – and in most eyes, it’s a sail of elegance.  The critical words though are “once it’s up” because that is the issue. Various sailors report that they’re knackered after having to go about or change tack a few times.

With the modern sailboat, the craft goes through the eye of the wind, the sails set on the other side and that’s that. Modernists can rightly ask why anyone needs anything more.

Well, expense for a start. The ubiquitous tall Bermudan rig requires major bracing for the increased stresses – spreaders, diamonds, stays, backstays and heaps of lead in the keel to balance the monstrosity. The sails are good upwind but not downwind and so spinnakers are required – another expense. The boat leans far more than with the old styles.

A lug is just a sheet of material with a bit of wood holding it aloft, the mast can be short and fat, requiring no stays beyond an optional running backstay, the centre of effort is low to the water, making the motion much more pleasant and taking the stresses and strains out. This was why the design was used for so long – it works.

The problem with the yard on one side of the mast is tacking the boat – changing sides.  Traditionally, it took a few men to drop the yard, dip it so that the peak goes down and round the mast, the whole of the sail needs to be pulled through and the sail rehoisted and reset – every single time you change direction.

The price of beauty.

And the danger was legendary.  That yard on a 600 sq ft sail packed a wallop and if the sail got into bother, that was a a lot of force acting on the crew.  Modern sails, though they place near impossible forces at points of the hull, don’t have these issues.  So why bother with the dipping lugger?

Well, some of the reasons were given above but square foot for square foot, this is a most efficient sail, giving you more “bang for your buck” to employ an excruciating Americanism.  Once up, it sets beautifully, as stated and the boat moves well – this is a lifting rig, keeping the bow up.  It’s also conducive to a shallow shoal keel.  it’s a beautifully controlled sail, which is why the fishermen used them.

Now, if the tacking problem is solved as the man in the clip appears to have done – and I don’t consider having two sails, one either side, alternately raising and lowering, is a solution – then it comes right back into contention as an option on a cruising boat where tacking is less important than straight line ability, especially downwind.  Put two of these on a boat, using the solution in the clip and you have more power, including windward ability, than you would need.

This makes for lower masts, less area, less expense, more easily repairable, lower stresses and costs all round, quite easily reefed.

I like it.


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