View Full Version : Chinese lug rig (opinions wanted)

11-07-2002, 11:11 AM
I'm still dreaming about the boat I want to build someday. First I have to solidify my foothold for myself and my dog, but that's another story.

Anyway, I've long been interested in the developements of this rig, starting with Blondie Hassler right up through the rigs in some of Benford's dories.

Does anyone have experience with them? Any thoughts?

It seems the greatest drawbacks are the chafe involved with all those lines used for sail control, and the fact that it isn't a very weatherly rig. On the plus side, it's easy to make and repair, with minimal hardward, and it is very easy to manage, even short handed. But that's only from reading about it. Any experience out there?


landlocked sailor
11-07-2002, 03:11 PM
I, too, am very interested in the junk rig for my ultimate cruising boat. I read Annie Hill's "Voyaging on a Small Income" last spring. Her enthusiasm for the rig is infectious. I was finally able to get hold of Hasler's "Practical Junk Rig" through an interlibrary loan and read it in 2 days last month. Tiller Publishing tells me they will be reprinting it in the next 6-10 months.
I think the best way to deal with the windward problem is to have an adequate engine.
Phil Bolger has some interesting things to say about his fully battened "Chinese gaff rig" presented on his recent design for "Fiji", a 38' all purpose cruising boat, in MAIB on 10/1, 10/15/ and 11/1/02 issues. He discusses chafe, windward performance and ease of handling. Very interesting stuff.
I, however, have no hands on experience! Rick

Ian McColgin
11-07-2002, 03:25 PM
There's a lot of bilge out there about the need to go to weather anyway. The Marco Polo, of which Grana is a good example, is lucky to get 50 - 55 degrees into the wind and if it pipes up over 45 kt I find it best to ease sheets and foot along at 60 degrees off the wind to have the power to carry on with reefed sail.

While many 'modern' boats really can point amazingly high and most sloops can point at least to 45 degrees in moderate wind, they all need to ease off a bit when it pipes up, if they are capeable of real fresh breezes at all.

The balanced lug rig is a super rig interms of handeling, simplicity, strength, low center, etc etc.

Learn to say euphroe and enjoy . . .

11-07-2002, 08:21 PM
Ian, I am planning on buying a new fully battened balanced lug for a dual purpose rowing/sailing Whitehall, (17'6" by 4'6"), after experimenting with a rather crude standing lug for two years (cut from an old racing dinghy sail). With a balanced lug, how do you decide how far forward of the mast to project the boom (and yard)?. I have tentatively settled on about 20" with a ten foot boom. Does this sound about right?

Thanks, Tony.

Todd Bradshaw
11-08-2002, 01:57 AM
Basic Guidelines (with a certain amount of wiggle-room):

The yard needs to be tail heavy when hoisted, so position the yard/mast intersection around 35%-40% of the yard's length aft of it's forward end (heel).

The sail's luff is usually pretty much parallel to the mast and the boom extends far enough forward of the mast to allow for this, though both the luff and mast can either be plumb or raked (and still be parallel or close to it). Raking the mast allows more clearance between the aft (outboard) end of the boom and the surface of the water when sailing downwind with the sail eased out. This can be nice when you're broad reaching and the boat is heeling.

The foot of the sail can be either laced to the boom or loose-footed - but not both, as they require different shaping on the bottom of the sail, so decide before having the sail made.

Todd Bradshaw
11-08-2002, 02:20 AM
One thing that nobody has mentioned about true Chinese Lugs is that they tend to have pretty high weight-aloft per square foot of sail area ratios. With a mast that's sturdy enough to be un-stayed and those heavy, mini-boom-like battens, you can end up with a fair amount of wood up there. I think you would want to be sure that the hull had enough beam or bulk to stand up to what can be a pretty heavy rig pitching around.

The good news is that with parrels on each batten, the sail-raising and lowering process is pretty controlled, despite the sail's weight and the thing is basically "gravity reefing".

Bruce Hooke
11-08-2002, 02:35 PM
Originally posted by Tonyr:
Ian, I am planning on buying a new fully battened balanced lug for a dual purpose rowing/sailing Whitehall, (17'6" by 4'6"), after experimenting with a rather crude standing lug for two years (cut from an old racing dinghy sail). With a balanced lug, how do you decide how far forward of the mast to project the boom (and yard)?. I have tentatively settled on about 20" with a ten foot boom. Does this sound about right?

Thanks, Tony.Tony, if there is any way for you to get your hands on The Practical Junk Rig, even through interlibrary loan, I would highly recommend doing so, because it goes into all the details about things like how far ahead the boom and yard should project ahead of the mast as well as lots of other details that might not occur to you until you started using the sail but that you would then discover where rather important. The book really gets into all the nitty-gritty details of laying out a the sail and rigging.

11-08-2002, 03:02 PM
Thanks for the replies.


I was thinking a staved spruce spar, or if flush at the time of building (HA) perhaps something high tech like carbon, and then something light, like perhaps glass for the battens.

Anyone know how well carbon fiber spars resist chafe?



Todd Bradshaw
11-08-2002, 07:02 PM
I think wood is the way to go for both mast and battens. My only experience with carbon fiber tubing is with high-end cross-country ski poles, though some of the characteristics probably carry over to bigger tubes. They are incredibly light, incredibly stiff and have pretty thin walls that don't tolerate irregularities caused by abrasion. A mast would no doubt be a lot heavier duty, but I don't think I'd feel very safe if parts of it were getting chewed up.

The Chinese used the flexibility of their unstayed wooden masts to their advantage. In a big puff, the mast would bend like a big pine tree in the wind, which acted as a built-in shock absorber. That feature would probably be lost with a carbon mast. I'd think a big bird's mouth spar might be just fine.

It's hard to find a material more abrasive to sailcloth than glass fiber. Just look at any old Hobie Cat where the sail has been in contact with the shrouds very long. The wire doesn't cut the fabric, but the fiberglass battens in the pockets sure do as soon as the sail is pressed between the battens and shrouds.

Other than switching to a modern sail fabric, I think it's going to be pretty difficult to justify drastic changes in the traditional Chinese rig and the materials used to build one. No matter what you do, the boat is probably not going to point higher or show any big increase in performance. At the same time, an awful lot of the people who use fairly traditional Chinese Lugs seem to rave about them and very few of those rigs have any exotic materials used for the parts. Sometimes sticks and string are hard to beat.

11-09-2002, 03:50 AM
Ish; I believe the Hall's mast was a fiberglass tube made for some other purpose (light pole?) and was quite cheap. I'll have to dig out my copy of her book to check for sure. Last I heard of the Halls is that they have sold "Badger" (a Jay Benford 34' dory design with a bolt-on high tech 'keel' - one of the Hall's innovations) and are in S. Africa building a cat - his 'n her hulls ;) Both of her books are worth the read - that lady knows how to make a penny squeal smile.gif

Please also have a look at the post I just added to "Schooner Porn - and for sale" in this section of the forum. The boat described there was orignally a junk rig.

Dave Williams
11-09-2002, 09:08 AM

I have one seasons experience sailing my junk rigged boat, and I have become a BIG fan of the rig. She is a big stretched Swampscott dory, nearly 30 ft overall, around 23 ft at the waterline and 8ft in the beam so pretty lean, and maybe 2500 lbs. displacement. She is a junk rigged schooner. The sails were made by Port Townsend Sails and are more than 20 years old and still in great shape although they were stored for 5 or 6 years. At this time she has no motor and just a big Yuloh for power.

I am very pleased how well she goes to weather and I think with a little tinkering she will do even better. She does have a big metal centerboard to the tune of about 450 lbs. The other attributes of the rig as you are probably aware are light sheet loads, no slatting of sails as she comes through tacks, very controlled gybing, and reefing and furling the sails can be done litteraly in seconds. I was out sailing one day with a few people and the wind was picking up. I had been fiddling with the rig and I reefed both sails and several people didn't even notice until later. It's that easy! She tacks like a witch. The schooner rig keeps the CE low and is very handy for manouvering.

The masts and battens are solid wood.

I had never considered a Junk rig until this boat but now I would almost not consider anything else. I am not able to post pictures but I could email you some if you are interested. Also there are some good web sites out there if you do the search.

Good luck and if I can help further I'll try.


[ 11-09-2002, 10:11 AM: Message edited by: Dave Williams ]

11-09-2002, 02:29 PM
Todd (and others - a good, helpful discussion); Thanks for your comments. I had not realised that it was normal to have parrells at each batten, but it makes sense now that I think about it. The principle of minimising weight aloft is interesting. I was wondering if laminated white pine would work for battens, as being relatively light and (with chosen, knot free wood) pretty strong. Perhaps two inches wide by half an inch thick from the luff to the mast, reducing further aft?? I had thought of staying with my existing 8' yard, to keep it manageable. The proportions of a 10' boom and 8' yard seem nice to look at in my sketches(and keep the CE low), with the luff 18" to 20" forward of the mast. Four battens laid out proportionately as on page 252 in your book also seem plenty.

All this results in something more than 80 sq ft (with 11' of unstayed mast above the partner), which is plenty singlehanding in light to medium conditions with an easily driven boat.

For really windy days, re-cutting the old sail to be a leg-o-mutton a bit smaller than the one on page 248 of your book seems simpler than over-reefing the big battened lug. Thoughts, anyone?

Plans, plans....


Bruce Taylor
11-09-2002, 05:14 PM
Jack, if you haven't been there already, stop by Craig (dadadata) O'Donnell's Cheap Pages. There's some good stuff there.


11-09-2002, 05:21 PM
Treasure trove of junk rig links:

11-10-2002, 10:57 AM
Thanks guys. I keep forgetting to mention (to you and myself) one of the parameters for my dream vessel, and that is the ability to creek crawl. One of the reasons I thought of high tech spars on a junk rigged boat is that I imagined it would be a fairly simple matter to step and unstep them, with a helper. And I see no reasonable way to mount them in a tabernacle.

I'm still thinkin'. I wonder if a gaff ketch isn't more what I have in mind.



11-10-2002, 11:17 AM
Wish I could remember more of this.

I've seen a working "modern junk" that had tabernacles (a small schooner on Lake Superior; don't remember her name or home.) The parrells go more along the battens than around the mast. They were not permanently attached to the battens; there was an eye that slipped over the leading edge, and another that slipped around the batten onto a toggle in the parrell. Lower the sail, slip off the toggles, the sail, battens, and parrells were free of the mast (well, there were still a bunch of strings, but the mast was free to move.)

11-10-2002, 11:25 AM
Hmm, when I think "junk" I think unstayed, and when I think tabernacle, I think shrouds and forestay. What am I missing?

11-10-2002, 06:28 PM
My memory is from Duluth harbor, in the 1980's. I don't know how he managed to rig a parrell line, perhaps he didn't have one. But I'd read about them before, probably in Junks and Sampans of the Yangtze by G.R.G. Worcester, which the Minneapolis Public Library (of all places) had. Lots of rivers in China, boats going up and down, the tabernacle would be an "obvious" invention. If I remember correctly, it's a Bolger-like hinge where the mast is contained in a three-sided box wtih a pin on the bottom, and another pin above that when the mast is erected.