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Thread: Running downwind with lug rig

  1. #1
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    Default Running downwind with lug rig

    Hello, all.

    Yesterday I had a chance to put into practice something I heard somewhere (maybe here on the forum), namely, that to depower the sail and get more control when sailing downwind with a lug rig, you sheet in, bringing the sail closer to the centerline of the boat, presenting less sail area to the wind. This, as opposed to letting the mainsheet fly, which might let the yard get in front of the mast.

    This sound familiar to you all?

    Boat is a 15 foot Ilur with a boomless standing lug. Yesterday turned from a nice little breeze at the beginning of my sail to whitecaps all across the bay by the end, when I needed to head downwind to my mooring. Sheeting in seemed to work, and I had no accidental jibes, but at one point I nearly broached. The boat heeled way over and rounded up.

    She maybe saved me from my errors!

    Thanks for any advice. (BTW, I just made a sprit-boom and am going to try it out for the rest of the summer, which may change the calculus a bit, so thoughts on that are welcome as well).

    Mike

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Sounds like a plan...a bad one.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Letting the yard go ahead of the mast is the bad plan. Leads to rolling, then to capsize as folks sailing Finns and the like figured out decades ago
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    Letting the yard go ahead of the mast is the bad plan. Leads to rolling, then to capsize as folks sailing Finns and the like figured out decades ago
    This has more to do with the mast being far forward in an un stable part of the boat than being a lug rig, no? I think yer average lugger is gonna be more robust vessel than a Finn.
    bruce

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    This has more to do with the mast being far forward in an un stable part of the boat than being a lug rig, no? I think yer average lugger is gonna be more robust vessel than a Finn.
    bruce
    I subjected the matter to some rigorous (if inadvertent) testing, and can report that a lug-rigged boat with the sail much farther aft (a balance lug) WILL experience a shockingly unstable "death roll" wobble, at surprisingly high frequency, if you let the tip of the yard forward of the mast while running downwind in strong winds...

    So no, it's not only boats with the mast far forward that need to keep the tip of the yard (NOT just the boom) aft of the mast.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    Sounds like a plan...a bad one.
    I'm curious--what sounds like a "bad plan" to you? My understanding is that Mike has it exactly right--sheeting in for downwind (also bearing off in a gust, rather than heading up as you might on another heading--do that downwind, and you only increase the apparent wind speed and make things worse).

    Mike, it sounds like maybe you had too much sail up? Were you reefed? It's very easy to have too much sail up for going downwind. Reef early, reef often, and all that.

    When I tie in my deep reef (third reef--going to about 36 sq ft compared to 85 sq ft for full sail), I can handle downwind conditions fairly casually that would cause all kinds of white-knuckle stress and potential broaching problems with more sail up.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    I'd say reef, reef and reef some more. If the sail is sheeted in and she broaches, the wind won't spill just when you need it to.
    -Dave

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    I subjected the matter to some rigorous (if inadvertent) testing, and can report that a lug-rigged boat with the sail much farther aft (a balance lug) WILL experience a shockingly unstable "death roll" wobble, at surprisingly high frequency, if you let the tip of the yard forward of the mast while running downwind in strong winds...

    So no, it's not only boats with the mast far forward that need to keep the tip of the yard (NOT just the boom) aft of the mast.

    Tom
    Very much so, when the yard goes forward of the mast, only possible with an unstayed mast so most sloop rigs never experience this, the thrust vector goes across the boat to the side opposite the sail and it will roll the boat to windward, and may well capsize it on the unexpected side.

    Been there and done that.

    John Welsford
    An expert is but a beginner with experience.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    I have a boomless lug and I try to avoid sailing dead downwind and instead go on a broad reach and have a controlled jibe when I need to. I realize you can't always do that, such as when going downwind in a narrow channel.

    I also have a jib and mizzen.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    In similar circumstances in my Macgregor sailing canoe with a balanced lug sail a trifle too large for the craft (Ian's boats are like that) I combination of a series of shallow gybes and a 6' long canoe paddle used to lever the boat out of a roll saved the day.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Thanks for the replies, everyone.

    It sounds like going to the second reef would have been prudent. My boat has a fairly large main at 116 sq.ft. Tom, thanks for the numbers. I had no idea the Alaska's sail was smaller than the Ilur's. I will be more aware of reefing early from now on! Good reminder also about a series of broad reaches when possible.

    I also need to practice deploying the anchor. I have never done so. If I had gone any farther downwind before turning to port for the mooring field, I would have quickly found myself very close to a lee shore.

    Sounds like the sheeting in is the thing with an unstayed mast. I'll keep practicing and hopefully learning.

    Mike

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    I stand corrected !

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael_Owen View Post
    It sounds like going to the second reef would have been prudent. My boat has a fairly large main at 116 sq.ft. Tom, thanks for the numbers. I had no idea the Alaska's sail was smaller than the Ilur's.
    Wow, that Ilur has a BIG sail! I thought it was around 100 sq ft, not 116. (The Alaska as designed has an 85 sq ft main, and a 49 sq ft mizzen, for 134 sq ft total--but I just use the mainsail). So, it seems like your Ilur has a rig designed for early, deep reefing, while still providing the sail area for light airs. Kind of a "best of both worlds" model, very popular with the PNW sail-and-oar crowd, too.

    I find that I can reef all the way down to my third reef on a broad reach without losing speed, even when I don't need to. It really does tame things down and make everything much more relaxed. It can also keep me moving (downwind, anyway) in winds that are too strong to handle on any other heading--and STILL be pretty relaxed.

    Here's a bit of double-reefed sailing. By this time I was thinking that triple-reefed would have been better, but I was able to gybe and quickly get into shelter before it got worse:



    Tom
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Very much so, when the yard goes forward of the mast, only possible with an unstayed mast so most sloop rigs never experience this, the thrust vector goes across the boat to the side opposite the sail and it will roll the boat to windward, and may well capsize it on the unexpected side.

    Been there and done that.

    John Welsford
    Laser sailors use this momentum to counter act rolling when sailing downwind.
    Works too on a ballanced lug sail.
    Michael Storer wrote about it.
    Ive been playing with it and like it.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    So is this an argument for putting a stopper knot in the mainsheet of a lug rig at a location to prevent the boom & yard from going forward of the mast? Or another bad idea....?

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Check this out mate


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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig


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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Max,

    thanks for posting that. It's interesting, and I know Michael Storer knows what he is talking about. So, why doesn't that match my own experience? I'm a bit puzzled, but I have a few thoughts.

    1. He's using a boomed balance lug, which (I think) causes a significant reduction in sail twist in the upper half of the sail vs. a boomless standing lug. So, perhaps behavior is a bit different between the two rigs? He's also in a yawl with a small mizzen, though I'm not sure what difference that makes.

    2. That said, the only time I experienced the "death roll" was in a Ross Lillistone-designed Phoenix III, which has a boomed balance lug. We were running downwind in LOTS of wind (I think windier than in the Michael Storer video you posted), with one reef tied in. Way overpowered. Sheltered waters inside Whitewater Bay in the Everglades, so almost no wave action at all. Suddenly the boat started rolling back and forth VERY rapidly, with each roll increasing in magnitude--this rolling was far more rapid than I'd have guessed a boat would be capable of. I'm guessing in 2-3 seconds of that, we'd have capsized. As it was, we let the sheet fly and rounded up, then tied in our deepest reef and continued without incident. But it was a very close call.

    So, I'd be very interested to hear thoughts from knowledgeable people about the apparent contradiction here. Given my experience, and my desire to avoid an uncontrolled/unexpected gybe, I'm very very leery of sailing by the lee with the sail so far forward, as in the video. But clearly, it worked for them in the GIS in some pretty windy winds.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Maybe part of the answer is in THIS ARTICLE about gybing? (Also by Michael Storer)

    Here he recommends making sure that no part of the leech goes farther forward than 90 degrees when sailing downwind and preparing to gybe--advice which seems to contradict his "sailing by the lee" technique, where the sail and yard are far forward of the mast. I'm guessing, if you try to gybe from that position without pulling the sheet in to around 80 degrees, as suggested in the gybing article, then you run into problems. But you can sail by the lee with the sail much farther forward safely, as long as you don't gybe?

    Still doesn't explain my "death roll" experience, though, as we didn't gybe--the boat just started rolling incredibly quickly while sailing downwind.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Where's your centreboard set?

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Thanks for the links to the great Storer videos. In his analysis of a capsize he answers my question about a stopper knot and says this "Don’t ease boom out too far. Boom was out too far. If getting used to the boat put a knot in mainsheet before going out when boom is out at around 80 degrees until you get used to the boat."

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Yep, I saw that about the knot at 80 degrees in Michael's article. But the boom is clearly way past 80 degrees in the "sailing by the lee" video.

    I generally have the centerboard raised all the way for broad reaching or running--not sure if that question was directed at me, or at Mike in the OP.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Oh boy, the "Death Roll"!

    Been there, Done that, with a standing lug sail with a sprit boom and a balanced lug too.
    I never capsized, but did come about as close to it as you can and stay in the boat...

    My trouble was to durn big a sail (even with all reefs ties in) and to small and light a boat.

    Worst case, I let the sheet fly, and the sail go out over the bow. I could do that because none of my boats have standing rigging. That saved me from swimming several times.

    I've tried keeping the sheet in, and "tacking" downwind, but none of this really helped because I was simply in conditions that were to much for the little boat.

    I've been meaning to try running a light line to the end of the yard, and see if I can control it a bit and prevent that rhythmic pumping that leads to Death Roll.

    These days, I drop sail and row downwind with the mast still standing. Works fine.
    Once the wind was so strong I had to drop the mast too, just to be able to control the boat.

    Next step would be to throw the whole durn rig, mast, sail and all, overboard and keep the sheet tied off, and use it as a sea-anchor.
    Ain't had to do that yet, and I do hope I'm slowly getting smart enough not to go out in those conditions in tiny skiffs....


    Edit - When things get bouncy I leave the board down when sailing downwind! It helps to dampen the roll, of course.
    Last edited by Etdbob; 07-20-2021 at 02:18 PM.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    I sail a short, beamy and quite heavy boat with an unstayed mast and single balanced lug sail. My only capsize in this boat was in far too much wind for the sail I had up, and with the waves going far faster than the boat. I got in a right mess and capsized on the "wrong side" — i.e sail on top of me.

    My wife says it may be the most over-analysed capsize in the history of sailing, but I think at least part of the problem was letting the sail out too far. with the wind behind me and the boat already wallowing which gave the "vortex shedding" something to amplify. A sort of low-speed death roll.

    Ever since then, I have been more nervous about sailing downwind than on any other point of sail.

    Definitely, it feels better to sheet in a bit. Not only does it spill some of the wind, but it also means that the boat will have a definite bias to heel one way. This is easier to compensate for that than when the boat has no natural direction of heel — i.e. dead down wind, sail out at 90 degrees. It's similar to the way a small amount of weather helm to work against can be easier to steer than a completely neutral helm.

    Reefing early is also a good idea if you have a displacement hull. A planing hull can easily convert a strong gust into more speed; a displacement hull that is already at hull speed can only convert a strong gust into more heeling or push the bow down.

    I have been told, and generally find it true, that a small bit of centreboard helps with stability, but too much centreboard can "trip" the boat, by which I mean that the boat cannot skid sideways across the surface if you find yourself rounding or even broaching during a strong gust.

    My plan is therefore reef early, because once the boat is at hull speed, any extra power is a nuisance; sheet in a bit; try to avoid a dead run; use a small amount of centreboard; and be willing to round up and tack rather than gybing.

    Another big consideration is weight distribution. In strong winds and a chop, my boat is far easier with two on board. However, I usually sail solo. Going downwind, I sit well aft. I also find that keeping my weight away from the boat's axis of roll keeps her steadier. Indeed, I sometimes feel safer standing at the helm than sitting.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Elvstrom analyzed the death roll years ago. It can happen in any unstayed boat where the sail can go ahead of the mast as Mr. Welsford points out. In the sailing by the lee case, the sail is far enough out so that there are no opposing vectors which is how you get into trouble. There are also some other bits: heeling the boat to windward which keeps it running straight without having to use the rudder. And the S turn in a gybe. Off a touch when you initiate a gybe, then a touch of counter steer as the sail comes over to counteract the tendency of the boat to turn up wind.
    Ben Fuller
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott de M View Post
    So is this an argument for putting a stopper knot in the mainsheet of a lug rig at a location to prevent the boom & yard from going forward of the mast? Or another bad idea....?
    Bad idea. One of the heavy weather techniques that I use is to round the boat up to beam on, just momentarily, on the tack with the sail on the lee side, then, letting the sheet run free, bear away straight downwind letting the sail flag off the bow. That completely depowers the rig, leaving the boat on its most stable axis relative to the wind.
    It does require that the mainsheet is long enough and may need the downhaul or halyard to be slacked off a little , and of course can only be done with an unstayed rig.

    If you watch the kids in their Optimists sailing in really gusty weather, you may see this in action.

    John Welsford
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Loads of interresting stuff here.
    Tom my experience in this case is limited to a boomed balanced lug sail.
    My guess would be that an boomless sail behaves different due to the twist.
    I would try it in moderate winds to see how the boat reacts on it.
    In strong winds I avoid runing dead down wind too.
    Better tacking down wind then. Cautious steering is then important too.
    When sailing by the lee I move the sheet very little and smooth but constantly around the point there the sail pulls to one or the other side.
    I usually keep the centerboard down, as it dampens rolling.
    In high winds and waves I found that more comfortable.
    Scott I thought a while about your knot after you asked and agree with John.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Roger Barnes, in his book The Dinghy Cruising Companion, writes about avoiding a broach and a gybe sailing downwind in heavy weather and (conveniently for the OP) he also sails an Ilur. He recommends reducing sail, sitting well aft, sheeting in to spill the wind instead of easing the sheets, and steering directly down the face of any wave.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Quote Originally Posted by Max F View Post
    Loads of interresting stuff here.
    Tom my experience in this case is limited to a boomed balanced lug sail.
    My guess would be that an boomless sail behaves different due to the twist.
    Thinking about this more, I think the boom-no boom distinction is a crucial difference--a boomless sail would probably not sail by the lee with the sail well forward, as in the Michael Storer video. Instead, it would simply balloon out into a huge wind-catching parachute. In high winds, you want a flat sail, but you'd be getting the opposite.

    So, for a boomless rig, I'm with Roger Barnes. Heading downwind in heavy winds, sheet in to limit exposure to gusts, sit well aft (there is a noticeable difference in behavior from sitting on the keel with my back against the sternsheets bulkhead, vs. sitting in the sternsheets themselves--though that does restrict steering a bit).

    Also key is NOT to head up into the wind on a gust, but instead bear away downwind. If you turn up in this situation, you increase the apparent wind speed, which has an effect opposite to what you're looking for.

    Interesting to hear how many people report keeping the centerboard down. I've always understood that conventional wisdom is "board up" to avoid tripping and broaching. That's what I do, generally. I haven't noticed a bothersome amount of rolling, though there is some, for sure.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    If you're alone in any sailboat without an autopilot, reef early, and also have a method of heaving-to so you can reduce sail -- or drop it entirely -- under way in building seas. I sail Drake solo that way. And my sail plan is very conservative -- wimpish, even.

    Letting the lugsail spin around the mast and flog out to windward is fine if there aren't rocks waiting in that direction -- or an ocean crossing -- but Murphy's Law...

    Does anyone use a trysail to haul to the masthead in strong winds, set flying, sheeted to some point on a gunwale?

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    079137DC-9D78-4B02-8239-73AF2BE9BDF8.jpg
    Someone say something about vicious rolling downwind?

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Quote Originally Posted by amish rob View Post
    079137DC-9D78-4B02-8239-73AF2BE9BDF8.jpg
    Someone say something about vicious rolling downwind?
    Come on, now--can't be that vicious if your boat is still upright, can it?

    Tom
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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Oh, baby! That (relatively) long, skinny thing would ROLL, by God. I learned quick to never let that boom get too far out.

    And, I can attest to the emergency let go of the sheet and let the sail flog method. You will drift away, but it won’t be a death wrassle. Hahahaha.

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    On one particularly bad day, I let the sail flag forwards more than once. Getting it back to the right position took time and courage, easing the boat round under the mast without filling the sail too much. That was fairly early in my time with this boat before I had worked out how to reef!

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    Default Re: Running downwind with lug rig

    Thanks for all the info. It would seem that there are many rigs and conditions forming many experiences on sailing downwind.

    I'm glad to have at least some corroboration of the sheeting in technique. And maybe I'll try letting the sail go forward sometime in moderate conditions.

    Last night I went out again and there was a light breeze. Perfect for trying the new sprit-boom and snotter arrangement. So far, so good. Tacking was a pleasure. Probably had more to do with the flat sea-state than the rig though. Here's short video I shot before putting my phone in a dry bag.

    Mike


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