Skerry - Sprit vs. Lug?

 I am planning a Skerry build. I'm leaning towards a lug rig. I think the sprit looks dorky and I like the ability to put in a reef. However, I confess that I basically know nothing. Would anyone care to comment on one versus the other? Thanks in advance.

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RE: Skerry - Sprit vs. Lug?


I'd recommend the lug.  My limited experience with spirt sails like that is that (1) as you suggest, they are difficult to reef, (2) it is tricky to get the various tensions adjusted correctly for optimal shape and, (3) it seems you never get done tightening up the peak sprit snotter.  Mind you, the balanced lug rig (which we have that on our Passagemaker Dinghy) does occasionally need retensioning of the halyard and downhaul after sailing some in brisk wind, but nothing like with a sprit sail.  Once you get the lug's attachment points for halyard and downhaul located optimally (needs a bit of trial and error initially), it is fairly easy to get the sail to set properly without a lot of fiddling around.

The lug sail is easier to hoist or lower in a hurry, which is why it is easier to reef.  In small boats it is common practice with a sprit sail to simply bundle the whole business up against the mast to simplify things, but this might still be awkward in a tiddly boat where it is tricky to stand up.  With the lug rig, the mast can be left standing with the sail neatly bundled up with its yards and gotten out of the way quickly, without the need to stand up and with nothing but the mast sticking up to catch air while one is thus engaged.

The whole point of the sprit sail rig in small boats is that it is possible to set a given sail area on the shortest possible mast, with the long peak sprit still being shorter than the mast.  This is a worthy goal in a boat meant to row as well as sail, as it gives the designer half a chance to keep the whole package short enough to lie down inside the boat and out of the way of the oars and oarsman, but the balanced lug isn't far behind in this regard.  I suppose this is the reason so many small working boats, where the sailing was secondary to the rowing, were given sprit sail rigs.

The chief advantage of the balanced lug here may be the way it responds to wind gusts.  The way the yard and boom flex will tend to flatten the sail a bit as the wind pressure increases, which is exactly what you want to happen.  With a sprit sail, the long peak sprit flexing will have the opposite effect, which means that spar needs to be much heavier than you'd think to be effective.  With the balanced lug (or any other sort of lug), it's the mast which needs to be really stiff in order to keep the sail from going baggy.

I do agree that the lug rig seems to look better than the sprit rig on a Skerry which might, in the end, be the best reason of all. <;-)



RE: Skerry - Sprit vs. Lug?

One of my boats has a sprit and another a blanced lug. Keeping in mind that I'm closer to a casual sailor than a cutthroat racer, I like them both.

First, looks. I think that the sprit has a classic look that actually fits the Skerry's hull. If you look through books, especially from over 150 years ago, you'll see the combination of double-ended lapstrake hull and sprit sail over and over again. The first time my wife saw my boat fully rigged, her response was "It's got a National Geographic sail." All that being said, a well-made balanced lug is also a joy to look at.

Convenience. A sprit is a lot more convenient in a small boat. All the spars fit in the boat. The pieces are small enough and light enough that it's actually possible to unstep the mast and lash the whole rig into a single package that fits in the boat and continue under oars when the wind dies down. I've down this a few times, including with a passenger onboard. My balanced lug's mast is too big to leave room to row efficiently when it's stored in the boat.

Bad weather response. The sprit can be brailed or scandalized. Neither of these is as neat as a line of reefs, but they are effective in reducing sail area. I've also read, though not tried it myself, that in really bad weather old time sailors would unstep the mast and throw the entire rig overboard to act as a sea anchor. Not sure how practical that would be in a Skerry. My lug has 2 lines of reef points with jiffy reefing that work entirely as expected. Folks used to conventional sails know exactly what to do and it ends up looking less messy than a brailed or scandalized sheet. But it has more parts.

Brailing takes only one grommet, reefing needs one for each reef point. To brail, you pull a single line that gets cleated and you're done. Each reef point needs its own line that gets tied and untied, plus 2 lines, cleats and fairleads for jiffy reefing. Scandalizing needs no extra parts, it's done with the standard sprit rig. It's more involved than brailing or reefing.

In really bad weather, instead of throwing the lug overboard, you can just let it fly (assuming an unstayed rig). It will weathercock and reduce power to very nearly bare poles. This works best running before a very strong wind. The big issues are ducking the boom if the wind changes and regaining control of the sail. But if you're just running to a beach to get out of a worsening storm, it works great (been there, done that).

The balanced lug can sail closer to the wind than the sprit. Not a big issue unless you're in a race or a hurry. The balanced lug also has better control of the sail twist than a sprit, unless the sprit has additional lines called a peak vang. Again, usually only an issue when racing or otherwise in a hurry.

Both sails need constant adjustment for perfection. The lug needs the downhaul adjusted as conditions change and the sprit needs the snotter adjusted the same way. In both cases you can use a 2:1 purchase with a cleat and non-stretch line to minimize this, but if you're in a race or a hurry it's a constant necessityfor either rig. If you're just out for a lazy day of sailing, you can defer until the sail shape looks so slovenly that it bothers you.

I guess I'd summarize as either one will work for the Skerry. The sprit is physically simpler but the lug will get you better performance (but not that much more). Either will give you many hours of enjoyable sailing. Go with whichever you like best, you won't lose either way.

Have fun,


RE: Skerry - Sprit vs. Lug?

   I got the lug rig for my skerry.  It is more sail area than the sprit. That is great in light airs.  Absolutely get it with the reef points.  For the skerry, you need them.  The full lugsail will overpower the skerry once you get above 12 knots true or so.  It may not seem like it, but as I found out, too much sail may make it nearly impossible to either tack or jibe safely.  The skerry is not a planing hull and is quite light, so it gets up to displacement speed PDQ. So, if you are reaching in a brisk wind with full sail, it may seem ok, but you find that trying to tack if there's much chop becomes quite hard.  The alternative is to wear around with a jibe.  "Wearing around" is where you bear off, jibe and come back up.  The catch is the boat accelerates rapidly as you bear off, digging a hole in the water and trying to force the jibe may mean some very quick athletics or a swim.  Reef the sail, and it wears around pretty as you please.

I am trying to figure out if I can easily put some parrel beads on a restraint on the upper spar to keep it controlled and closer to the mast.  Dropping sail if you are on the starboard tack (spar/boom on the port side of mast) means the spar tries to drift away and flail about a bit.  

RE: Skerry - Sprit vs. Lug?

On the subject of the Skerry's sprit rig appearance, I think it would look better without the boom on the foot, with the tack lower than the clew and lower down on the mast, and with the clew pulled out aft a bit so the leech wasn't straight up and down.  The stern of this boat is probably too narrow to sheet the sail effectively without a boom, so we'd need to add a "sprit boom" to hold the clew out.

Here are a few photos of a nice looking sprit sail rig on a strip-built version of a "No Man's Land Boat" cat-ketch based on the lines from Howard Chapelle's book as built by Rex and Kathy Payne.

These were taken at the 2012 Cedar Key small boat meet.  Note that the mizzen has the sprit boom, while the main (fore) sail is loose footed.  The last photo shows how sails furled to the masts kept everything up and out of the way for the fishermen/oarsmen to do their work, the reason this was a common rig for American working boats of the 19th century.  The Brits tended toward dipping lugs, though sprit sails were used some there, too.



RE: Skerry - Sprit vs. Lug?

Has anyone ever set up a sprit using a track to raise the sail. Would it then be possible to furl the sail by spinning the mast (using a detachable lever low on the mast)? I can even imagine an infinitely adjustable sail shortening system by furling the sail and resetting the sprit.

Of course, I've never actually used a sprit rig. But easy furling on a spinning mast might be possible.   

RE: Skerry - Sprit vs. Lug?


You'd end up with the geometry spoiled unless you had a telescoping sprit, which would pretty much negate the simplicity argument for the rig.



RE: Skerry - Sprit vs. Lug?


I put a parrel on my Faering Cruiser's sail. It's a set of wooden beads from a craft store on a nylon line. The beads are larger diameter in the middle of the parrel.

One end is lashed to the yard, the other terminates in a Brummel clip. Another Brummel clip is also lashed to the yard. The parrel is led around the mast and clipped in place. You can see it in the pictures below, sail down and sail up.

Not only does it help with dropping and raising the sail, it controls the shape when reefed.


RE: Skerry - Sprit vs. Lug?

Mummichog -

I too have a Skerry with the lug rig.  With regard to a parrel, my solution is not as elegant as Laszlo's, but it works well for me.  I've run a simple loop of line around the mast, lashed at both ends to the yard.  The lashings are on either side of the halyard where it is secured to the yard, so the parrel is firmly located on the yard.  I've also done the same for the boom.  In both cases I've left just enough clearance to pass over the halyard cleat and the downhaul cleat (one is mounted higher on the mast than the other, so I only have to pass over one cleat at a time).  This allows me to drop the entire rig all the way down, should I wish to do so, though in practice they typically hang on the halyard cleat.  This has worked very well for me;  I haven't seen a need for parrel beads.  The varnished mast is slick enough that there's been absdolutely no tendency to hang up when setting, reefing, or dousing the sail. I should add that the parrel has given me much more control of the sail and the yard when dousing the sail.


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