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.


4 comments for “The dipping lug

  1. David-Paul
    February 2, 2017 at 17:37

    It strikes me that any problems of large sail size are easily overcome by just breaking it down ie a ketch or schooner rig. I think these lug rigs need a good hard going over by modern designers. I have a bermudan fractional sloop and I don’t think it would survive ay deep sea work. The whole highly stressed rig is just nuts and all the wires are always in the way I just don’t trust it.

    • February 2, 2017 at 20:25

      I’ve now looked every which way, every permutation from square to fractional Bermudan.

      As you say, the best ocean-going rig is the full keel ketch or yawl. Not so much the schooner as that has a massive amount of sail at the back to control. The beauty of the ketch or yawl is that the main sheets right where you want it, with most of the sail afore you.

      All those cruisers out there can’t be far astray.

  2. David-Paul Newton-Scott
    February 3, 2017 at 14:12

    It is often said that a gaff rig is superior to the bermudan as it is able to set more sail lower down and was particularly powerful at dragging fishing nets. The problem is that the top of the sail will tend to turn off away from the wind directing the wind upward generating a force component downwards the is of no use in driving the boat forward.

    The same with a bermudan rig to a much less extent so what can be done more tension, battens new expensive materials masts with spreaders so they can be taller etc etc. All intrinsically unstable and expensive, really really expensive what happened to the time when people just built boats and sailed them. We have been conned into buying into this dependent technology it’s the boiled frog syndrome business slowly persuading us we need things we don’t.

    Prior to having a really hard look at the dipping lug I considered the gunter rig it has its attractions espessially the short stiff lower mast but yet again it will be twisting out at the top. Lastly I looked at the junk rig but I don’t really like the look of it and I am not sure that wouldn’t also twist out.

    Apart from all of this stuff it is also desirable that a sail should not have a mast at the leading edge causing turbulence which makes the delta boomless rig but that is a triangle not ideal and necessitates roller reefing money and breakdowns. That reefing system will reult in a sausage of rolled up sail with probably worse turbulance than the mast.

    Going back to the dipping lug and what do we have a sharp leading edge and an offset top allowing it to fly like a kite but sideways but because some of the sail is ahead of the mast this will counteract the tendency to twist out, the fault of all the other rigs.

    I don’t know if this has been done but I think there should be the capability to alter the balance position at the suspension point to keep the sail ‘straight aligned’. This now raises the question do we really need that boom or any sort of pole at the base? I would say not.

    Apart from all this stuff on another subject keels I am against them have a look at traditional Dutch boats like the lemsteraak leeboards higher centre of effort pushing through the boat not trying to tip her over. Plus all of the shallow draft coral reef passing and beachability. put all that together that rig on a lemsteraak hull and you have the perfect boat. By the way I am also against pionty boats and transoms, transoms are evil but thats another story.

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