Bob Telford’s first race sailing a dinghy with a standing lug


Standing lug sail from W P Stephens classic Canoe and
Boatbuilding for Amateurs

Bob Telford called by the yard currently restoring his impressive Maurice Griffiths-designed Idle Duck (type the word Idle Duck into the search box top left for more on this boat), only to find himself roped in to what sounded like an interesting round-the-buoys outing. Instead, though, it turned out to be a learning experience…

‘I knew something was afoot when I trundled into the inner sanctum known to some as Alan’s Community Center, for Retired Shipwrights, Dockyard Mateys and Associated Layabouts, and saw him and Peter look up, saying ’just the man…d’you fancy sailing in the Swale Match in me dinghy?

‘”Yes,” says I, without thinking.

‘The boat is a 10-ft lug rigged clinker job, so there I was, on my own, in a dinghy I had never rigged, let alone sailed, heading for the line for a race against four 16-ft fully crewed gaff-rigged dayboats.

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Read the rest of Bob’s story:

‘The night before I had a drink with my mate Steve, who kindly described the problem of balancing a standing lug, and the way the centre of effort moves in relation to the CLR, due to the mast being so far forward. “If you let the sail move forward of the mast, in a strong breeze, he warned, you are in danger of diving under…”

‘I was bowling downwind in a F4 with the sail firmly held abaft the mast, sitting as far aft as possible. So far so good, I am getting the hang of this, thought I. Surf down to Sand End, beat back to Receptive, back down to Sand End, beat up to… I even ate a sandwich.

‘But could I get her to come about consistently? I could not, and I was now at the back of the fleet due to taking several minutes to come out of almost every tack.

‘Something that I did not know about standing lugs is that if the boom is not sweated down to stiffen the unsupported luff, which is forward of the mast, then a strange phenomena arises where the boat can be caught in irons, due to the wind catching the leeward side of the sail forward of the mast, and acting as a backed jib, forcing a ‘hove to’.

‘The sail takes up an S-shape on the tack where the sail is pressed against the mast; on the other tack, the problem is less marked, but still occurs.

‘If you let the sheet out, it exacerbates the situation and the bow is forced to windward; if you try to bear away, the power of the after part of the sail pushes the bow back to windward; she is effectively weather cocking, and there seems to be bog all you can do about it;

‘The stronger the wind, the worse the effect.

‘The only way out is to wait for a lull and gradually use a combination of relaxing the sheet and bearing away until the bow is sufficiently off the wind to allow the sheet to be tightened to start sailing again.

‘Well, I had resorted to the “if I abuse it loud enough” method, but was losing the battle and was bobbing around like a kid with arm bands at the deep end, when I noticed that my view of the finishing line, exciting, and privileged under normal circumstances, was taking a sinister turn.

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‘The smack that had just taken the gun, relaxed, pleased with success, and bore away from her pinched course across the line, and was now aiming squarely for me. Oh bother, thought I, in addition to my verbal attempts to coax the now half water logged tub out of danger.

‘A rapid helm down on the smack left me looking at a boom scything down to remove my mast. I ducked, expecting to be thrown out; the boat rocked violently as something, probably their main sheets, pulled the mast over, and then I was upright again. There was a volley of abuse from the skipper, but as I was on starboard and he was on port, my first reaction was to protest…perhaps not…

‘That was the point that I decided to call it a day, down sail, bail out and row home.

‘I crewed dipping lugs as a young man, and am aware of the power of the rig, and I know that the techniques for getting the best out of the rig are quite different, but when properly trimmed, they are very exciting.

‘So I must sail a lug rig again soon, to resolve the problems I had, because she sailed extremely well, up wind and downwind, well balanced and easily controlled even in the F5 puffs. Reduced sail may have helped, but the penalty of stopping to reef, well, you know, when you are racing…

‘And then some bright spark said: “Why didn’t you jibe round instead of tacking?”‘

Well, I guess we’ve all been reminded of the need to get the luff of our balanced lugs good and tight, but also that these old-fashioned rigs can be satisfying to sail. It’s a pity that there are so few boats rigged this way that most of us may never get the opportunity. The last time I sailed one was on The Broads, which must be the balanced lug’s last fortress.

For more on Idle Duck click here: A great find at the Eventide Owners Group website

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One thought on “Bob Telford’s first race sailing a dinghy with a standing lug”

  1. I was struck by this post at Jim Michalak's excellent newsletter about his boat designs. Go to this page and scroll down to the description of a Toon 19. The guy might have built a low tech little sailer in his backyard, but he used a piece of Harken racing kit to get his luff right.

    I find myself strangely attracted to the Toon 19, I must say. It fits in neatly with some of my favourite theories about cheap small boats for recreational sailing…


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