Cheaper Set up for Lug Rig – eliminate fittings but still sail fast

This is a reprint of an article from the OzGoose website with a preamble by me and some reorganisation to make it more useful to owners of other boats.

As you may now we are one of the main developers of the knowledgebase for lug rigs, setup, rigging, control and performance. See the list of Lug Rig articles here. We have also started Making Sails with Really Simple Sails.


In the Philippines imported boat parts look extremely expensive compared to local incomes. So we have worked hard to eliminate them as much as possible or replace them. Just multiply their prices by six to get a feeling.

This has been really interesting because we have 17 Oz Geese locally and another 10 in Cebu, so we have all done a lot of rigging a derigging, particularly when there are learner groups or visiting racing sailors

What is easiest and cheap! And works well for racing?

We imagine that many sailors from advanced economies are happy to reduce costs if it doesn’t mean a reduction in boat performance.

The first things to ADD beyond this basic configuration are in this order,

  1. Outhaul to adjust a loose footed sail. Front sail on boat should have the foot adjusted as in the article below for upwind, 1 in 10, but reaching you can allow for 1 in 7. The kick that gives you in medium and strong winds is substantial. And a fairly flat foot running for projected area. Just make sure you have a lacing through the clew eye and around the book to keep the clew eye close to the boom. If you don’t do this the boom will just drop down and make the foot flat again. All sail corners need  to be tied out to the end of the spar as well as tied so the corner eyelets stay the same distance from the spar.
  2. Downhaul to adjust the tension in the luff of the sail and on the Balance Lug to reduce sail twist for control and speed. Also it is the means to get rid of the crease (Causes and Fixes here) that sometimes confounds Lug rig sailors.

And so … on to the Rigging article.

Boats other than OZ Goose need to look at what their designer intended with their sailplan.

The aim of setting up the sail is to reproduce as far as possible the designer’s sailplan drawing in the plan.

Here I use the Goose as an example of getting the reality to match the designer’s intention.

If a boom seems too low in the cockpit or boat has erratic steering then this is an important section to have in mind and check first.

Here is my drawing of the goose sailplanOz Goose sailplan Philippines Mk4 - oz goose sailboat

And here is the photo of a rigged boat.   The sail looks a bit different because it is 3D and not perfectly lined up with the centreline of the boat as in the 2D drawing.  But you can see the boom angle is similar, the amount of sail in front of the mast is similar, the angle of the luff (the front edge of the sail0 is about right relative to the mast angle.

roy's boat in blue Bickie sailing (Custom)

The angle and position of the sail is adjusted with the position of the triple loop along the yard and the position of the downhaul on the boom with some assistance from the preventer/bleater (all explained below).

If your boat is a bit of a dog to sail, this is the first thing to check – a photo against the designer’s drawing to make sure the sail is in the right place. Second thing to check is downhaul tension.  Third thing to check is the depth of the foot (bottom) of the sail is around 1 in 10.

Rigging the first time will take a lot longer than the normal 10 minutes

The goose takes about 10 minutes to rig. But the first time you rig will take a lot longer.

This is Part 1 showing how to rig the boat. Part 2 will show a neat way to unrig the boat so it is ready to put together in 10 minutes next time.  Subscribe top right to receive email when part 2 is out – no spam – promise.

One of the advantages of being involved in a class boat, where there is racing is that there starts to be sharing of information and you can start to see what works and what doesn’t.

Also we can get an understanding of what is durable and what can be simplified.

There are only lessons available if the boat is lightened and simplified.  Go too far and bits start breaking.

But going heavier and stronger is a philosophical dead end.  If it didn’t break or cause problems before, and now you make it stronger – so what!? Weight, complication, labour and expense for no good reason.

The two permanent fittings on the Goose hull – downhaul loop and traveller

A nice example of simplifying is the downhaul attachment for the sail tensioning. It is hard to get a stainless steel saddle or a deck eye in the Philippines, so we started doing spectra loops. See the small loop of blue rope in the green deck close to the left side of the mast. When I specify spectra, I mean it.  Hardware grade ropes will not be enough for any halyard, downhaul or traveller components. Don’t use Vectran as it deteriorates quickly in the sun.

deck eye or saddle replacement spectra loop - Oz Goose sailboat

4mm spectra line through a 5mm hole with a figure 8 knot in both ends under the deck. The holes go through the timber that supports the mast.  The area underneath is open and is not buoyancy.  This method and rope size works fine for the Goose and the Goat Island Skiff.

Figure 8 knot.  There are many great video tutorials for knots on youtube.


There is no theoretical reason for it … just to make all the boats rig similarly and make it easier to explain … so we always put the downhaul loop on the left (port) side of the deck as you look forward.

Spectra is quite cheap now.  It is low stretch, abrasion resistant and UV resistant.  Using any other type of rope here would end it tears in the short to medium term for a large proportion of users – we put a huge amount of load on our downhauls.

There! That is the advantage of a having 16, now (as of last weekend) 26 Oz Geese sailing in the Philippines.

The other place where we use a similar simplification is the traveller – red rope in the photo below for the mainsheet block.  It is suitable for the front sail. If your boat has a jib, you should not use such a traveller for the mainsail but a bridle with a central loop and instead of being as tight as possible it should be as loose as possible.  This is because if the mainsail is used with a jib it needs to be brought in to a tighter angle.  But with a single sail here or any sail at the front the normal tightest sheeting angle is 10 degrees from the centreline. At least until you get up to very fast boats like the faster catamarans and the like.

IMG_20160514_133629396 (Custom)

For the goose only the distance of the holes from the back of the boat is 420mm They are drilled straight through the 19x19mm epoxy glued gunwale – be careful if using other glues for construction you might need screws to prevent the gunwale breaking off.  The holes are 5mm through the gunwale as close as you can get to the hull ply (measure please) and the spectra rope is 4mm (that’s OK up to and beyond the 105sq ft Goat Island Skiff Mainsail)

ut the block on the traveller before tying the second end.  Leave the rope over length by about 150mm on one end. The spectra will stretch first time it is used so we tie it off with a figure 8 knot under the gunwale both ends and then heave on the middle of the traveller mightily to stretch the spectra.  Then we work the figure 8 knot up as close to under the gunwale as possible.

GOFAST TIP – put tape around the traveller block if it is a swivel type as shown to prevent it from swivelling. You will get fewer twists in the mainsheet

So that’s the setup of the hull.

Setup of mast fittings on a freestanding lug rig

Only two fittings on our normal mast setup.

Fitting at the top on back of mast is a substantial plastic deadeye (12mm minimum eye) with two stainless machine screws (bolts or metal threads – names in different countries) (3/16″ or 5mm) diameter threaded into the mast by 25mm (1″) – Holes predrilled at 4mm or 3/32″ diam) – you don’t need to go nuts with length.  We put epoxy in the holes so these fittings become very permanent.  This halyard fitting needs to go as close to the top of the mast as possible with the top machine screw about 15mm from the top of the mast.

Alternative. We have recently started experimenting with a simple stainless steel ring held on the mast with a spectra loop. The spectra loop goes through two holes in the top of the mast and is tied with two figure 8 knots. This is still experimental and be clear that a spectra halyard is quite tolerant about going through bends. We would recommend the diameter of the stainless steel is about 6mm, 1/4″, and the ring diameter not too large.

Halyard attachment top of mast lug sail - oz goose sailboat

We have also used a strong small pulley on a rope loop similar to the downhaul loop on the deck (top photo) but the pulley needs to be strong and light.  Hardware cast stainless or brass pulleys will just break under the downhaul loads needed for speed and long term reliability.

Halyard cleat – 4″ plastic with two holes – mark a position on the mast 850mm from the base.  Put the mast in the step and drill on the opposite side to the downhaul loop already fitted through the deck next to the mast. Use two bolts that extend out the bottom of the horn cleat by 25mm (1″). Holes (4mm or 3/32″). Epoxy in holes and on the threaded part of the metal threads before final assembly.

halyard cleat for lug sail rigging - Oz Goose sailboat.

Mast finished.

Hoisting the sail

The halyard is 4mm spectra.  In the Philippines all the boats we make have a blue coloured halyard. The rope that pulls a sail up is called a halyard.

The halyard is normally stored on the mast ready for pulling the sail up.

Put the mast in the forward mast step. You can see the downhaul loop in the deck on the port side (just visible) and the mast goes in so the cleat is on the opposite side to the downhaul like the photo below.

IMG_20160514_133706028 (Custom)

Put the sail on the same side as the halyard with its front end forward.  The front end has  two holes in the wooden pieces (spars) tied along the top and bottom edge of the sail.

lug sail in position for rigging - oz goose sailboat

The yard is the smaller of the two pieces of wood attached to the sail. The blue halyard goes from the top of the mast  through two of the loops placed in the middle of the yard (here in red) and then continues forward toward the mast. The final loop of the red rope will pull tight around the yard and prevent the halyard from sliding around.

You can also see that the yard is the wooden piece attached to the diagonal edge of the sail.  The bigger peice of wood is the boom and the corners of the sail attached to the boom are close to 90 degrees.  Note the apex of the sail in the photo below, it is the top corner.

rigging a lug sail halyard - oz goose sailboat

Close up of the red loops and the blue halyard.  Front of the boat is the end farthest from the camera. You can see the mast. For the Oz Goose the loops are exactly halfway along the yard.  Other boats might be slightly (but not greatly) different unless they have very short masts.

IMG_20160514_133934079_HDR (Custom)

The halyard then goes on the opposite side of the mast just resting on top of the cleat as shown here.

best halyard setup for lug rig boats - oz goose sailboat

It then ties through the forward hole in the yard using a bowline knot.

halyard attachment for lug rig setup - oz goose sailboat

Bowline Knot


Feel where the wind is coming from.  Turn the boat so that the front of the boat is closer to the wind. Now the sail can be pulled up.  If there is a lot of wind have a friend hold the front of the boom as the sail goes up. This is my friend Job hoisting the sail. (Now you know why the rope is called a halyard – it means “haul yard”.

In the photo below you can see that the tension from pulling the sail up tensions traps the mast between the halyard and the yard.  See the track of the blue rope and how it will hold the yard close to the mast.

IMG_20160514_134106154_HDR (Custom)

The sail needs to be hoisted until the front end of the boom is about 400mm (16″) above the deck.  If the mast is a bit shorter than will allow that then pull the halyard so the yard hits the top of the mast, and then drop the halyard down by 50mm (2″) to give a bit of slack so the yard can rotate when sailing.

Tying off around the horn cleat

There is a lot of advice about this that I disagree with strongly. I was told a long time ago by one of the old time wharf workers that you should never, ever use a knot to finish off tying around a cleat.  One day it will pull tight and it will be impossible to undo. Cutting highly tensioned ropes is a very dangerous past-time. I recommend handling small boat ropes the same way you handle big boat and mooring ropes.

This is the way I was taught. I take the end of the halyard permanently through the hole in the base of the cleat (if there is one – it is tidy that way.

First do a full 360 loop around the base of the cleat.  If the cleat has been designed properly this provides about 70 percent of the holding power as the second time around will sit on top of the first time, jamming the rope.

Using a horn cleat the right way - oz goose sailboat

Next you do one or two figure 8 patterns around the horns.

using a horn cleat the safe way - oz goose sailboat.

Then you finish off by going around the base several times (three or four) and pull tight.

cleating using a horn cleat the right way - oz goose sailboat

There is no twisted loop knot over one of the horns.  Thank goodness for the advice.  I’ve dealt with boats that have been hung by their marina ropes when the tide has gone out – and seen halyards having to be cut on larger boats when someone has fouled up.

The old salty guy, who we all called “Farmer Bob”, long dead now, had spent 7 decades around the waterfront (and that was 35 years ago).  Seemed grumpy, but I think he saw lots of examples of people doing things in ways that could get other people hurt.  He would grumble quietly “Unnecessary … Unnecessary” and shake his head as he walked past such examples. With my half hitch on a mooring cleat example he had said “Do you want to kill someone there, son?”.

So that’s the sail pulled up.

Next .. the Downhaul – the most important rope on the boat for performance.

Secret to good performance on lug rigs – downhaul tension

Just a note for the racers and people who know about rigs already.  The downhaul on a balance lug like the goose has two functions.  It acts like a downhaul/cunningham but it also works like a boom vang to control sail twist. Add that it acts like forestay tension for the unsupported lug luff and you see its importance.  Think of vang tension and you know it has to be very tight in most conditions.

The downhaul is permanently tied around the boom 250mm (10″) behind the metal eye in the sail – tie a figure 8 knot in the end of the rope and then do a clove hitch knot with that same end around the boom. Pull it really tight so the figure of 8 jams against the clove hitch.

Clove hitch with Figure 8 knot – the photos of the boat show how tight it has to be – the red rope.  Also make sure that when it is tight that the Figure 8 knot is against the underside of the boom.


You can see the red rope is tied around the boom.  This knot is chosen because it jams in position. Take the red rope through the spectra eye in the deck beside the mast.

downhaul the most important control on a lug rig - oz goose sailboat

Next the downhaul goes over the boom again. Keep this second up and over the boom behind the clove hitch knot.  Not in front.

correct downhaul setup for balance lug rig - oz goose sailboat plan

The only time the downhaul should be a little loose is if the wind is so light it is difficult to get any boat sailing.  As soon as there is enough wind to get the boat moving the downhaul needs to be very tight.  In strong winds you have to go crazy with tension as this helps reduce excessive power from the sail.

GOFAST TIP – Downhaul tensions

  • Very light winds – can’t get boat moving – get rid of slack but only light tension
  • Light winds but boat moves OK – very tight downhaul
  • Strong winds – unbelievable super tight downhaul

Today it is about 5 knots of wind. Light but the goose will move well so Job is pulling on the downhaul and pushing down on the boom at the same time to make the downhaul very tight.

downhaul tension for light and moderate winds on lug rig - oz goose sailboat

Finally the downhaul is tied off with two or three half hitches.  If someone ties more than three you are entitled to think “amateur” 🙂  Excess rope is pushed down the extra hole or just dropped into the front of the cockpit.

IMG_20160514_134535185 (Custom)

Two Half Hitch knots used to tie off. They go around all the ropes of the downhaul to tie them in a bunch.  Not just one.


The preventer is the final rope at the front of the boom.  The Goat Island Skiff guys and I like to call it a “bleater”.  Would that make it a “honker” on an Oz Goose?

GOFAST tip – The Preventer has two functions.  One is to prevent the boom from going forward under mainsheet or downhaul pressure.  Second is more important than I imagined … it is to keep the boom close to the mast.  I underestimated the importance of keeping the boom close to the mast, but racing has shown it to be essential.  For every 50mm gap between mast and boom appearing and disappearing with the gusts means the sheeting angle is changing a degree.  And the sail is effectively sheeting in for the gusts and easing out in the lulls – exactly the opposite of what is needed.  If 10 degrees is somewhere near optimum for upwind sheeting angles it is not good for that angle to be varying in the opposite way to what is needed in an uncontrolled way.

Here the preventer/bleater is the blue rope in this photo that is tied around the boom behind the downhaul with a bowline that can slide on the boom. The other blue rope in the photo is the halyard.

downhaul the most important control on a lug rig - oz goose sailboat

The preventer bleater is passed through the front hole in the front of the boom.  Then it is tied to make sure the distance between the corner eyelet in the sail and mast doesn’t become bigger than 250mm (10″).

IMG_20160514_134609805 (Custom)

The end is then tied around the boom with two or maximum three half hitch knots.

IMG_20160514_134634457 (Custom)

Remember we can quietly call anyone who ties more than two or three half hitches an Amateur 🙂

Rigging the Mainsheet to control the Oz Goose Balance Lugsail

The mainsheet (a softish “double braid rope”) of 6mm (1/4″) diameter is used to control the large mainsail. We have found that very adequate for the Goose.  For the bigger Goat Island Skiff mainsail (105sq ft) all ropes are the same size as here except the mainsheet goes up to 8mm – but not necessary for the Goose and using larger than a 6mm mainsheet will mean you have to buy much more expensive blocks/pulleys)

To get the best performance from a balance lugsail on a unstayed mast the mainsheet should be long enough to allow the mainsail out so the boom is a bit more than 90 degrees to the angle of the centreline – ie the boom can be eased out so that it is at 90 degrees to the centreline of the boat and then around 10 to 15 degrees further than that.

We have been using a method of putting the load directly into the mainsail and keeping as much load out of the boom as possible.  The fixed end of the mainsheet is tied through the eye in the back corner of the sail, but the boom should be in that mainsheet loop too.  The loop should be small enough to keep the sail eye quite close to the boom.

The lashing for the mainsheet block (pulley is also tied around the boom passing through the sail eye.  This means all tension from the mainsheet is directly applied to the sail.

Sorry about the quality of this photo. I will replace it. It is of the back end of the boom showing the mainsheet and the separate rope to tie the pulley on going through the sail eye but both are also completely around the boom.  Make sure the lashing for the block is set up so the block is oriented correctly relative to the direction the mainsheet wants to go.


BEST GOFAST TIP – the front sail on a boat always needs some depth in the bottom of the sail. It should not be pulled tight. First of all the bowline in the end of the mainsheet that goes around the boom needs to be quite small so the sail is kept near the boom.  Then the rope that pulls the sail out to the back end of the boom can be loosened to give the bottom of the sail a nice curve.  We are looking for a 1 in 10 curve for the bottom of the sail at the front of the boat. The following is a sketch of the top view to see if you have enough curve in the bottom of the sail.

Outhaul adjustment for front sail of boat

GOFAST TIP – a ratchet block can be used to reduce the load of holding onto the mainsheet in stronger winds.  They are not cheap, but they really help efficient sailing (and wear and tear on your hands)

IMG_20160514_134745787 (Custom)

So to run through the system – photo below – the fixed end of the mainsheet is tied through the eye at the back of the sail with a bowline (again). Then it goes down through the block on the traveller.  Then back up to the block on the boom that is also tied through the eye at the back of the sail.  It then travels forward to the block that is placed on the boom vertically above the back of the seat.  The end is then tied off so it cant be lost by tying around the hiking strap in the boat or some other structure.  That way, if it is dropped it can still be reached.

One tip is that the front block can slide toward the back of the boom.  We just put a stainless steel screw (1″ x 10 gauge with flat or countersunk head) behind the rope it is lashed on with to block the rope from sliding back.

Mainsheet for a balance lug dinghy - Oz Goose sailboat

Setting up the rudder and centreboard for the Oz Goose

The rudderbox height is set by making sure the tiller has a clearance above the top of the transom of about 12mm (1/2″).

IMG_20160514_134909350 (Custom)

The tiller and extension must pass under the traveller.  We all have forgotten it at some time and it is no fun at all to get it wrong.  Usually means rushing to shore only partway under control.  So get it right.  This way the mainsheet block can slide right over the tiller without any problems.  Sorry about the grey rope being in the photo.  It is meant to be a loose rope through the handle of the rudderblade and around the tiller so the rudderblade cannot be lost.

IMG_20160514_134914760 (Custom)

The shockcord/bungee rudder blade retainer is a minimum of 6mm diameter. Real shockcord is much better than bungee bought at the hardware.  It can be two separate loops.  They need to be quite tight when the rudder is in place.  The front of the bungee has moved up in this photo.  It needs to be close and parallel to the timber reinforcing at the bottom of the rudderbox (as low as possible) to have the maximum power.

The handles at the top of the centreboard and rudder are just spectra loops with figure 8 knots in the ends.  Note how they are tied so one Figure 8 knot is on each side of the board.  These knots stop the boards from being pushed down too far. the holes are 5mm about 125mm (5″) apart.

It is not easy to tie knots in bungee.  The most effective knots are lots of half hitches pulled really tight. We use a modification of the Fisherman’s Bend Knot.


IMG_20160514_135000516 (Custom)

Fisherman’s Bend Knot


Our “modification is just to add several more half hitch knots. Finally it is not “amateur” to do so 🙂


The tiller extension is attached using a short piece of rope with a Figure 8 knot top and bottom. For experienced sailors it is floppy and a bit annoying, but I still win most races using it.  The reason behind it is both trying to keep the cost down and to use what is available in the Philippines and other more remote areas.  If you want a manufactured one the simple flexible polyurethane ones are way better than the stainless steel mechanical ones – lighter and less prone to jamming.  But you will need a hollow tiller extension to fit the polyurethane type – see how complications add to one another to make the boat more expensive – a fancy swivel means you need a more fancy tiller.

Anyway, here is our “el-cheapo” knot version.  Make the knots as close together as possible by pulling the rope through the knot bit by bit. 4mm spectra through 5mm holes.

Tiller extension swivel universal for a few cents - oz goose sailboat

The centreboard has a handle just like the rudder.

The 5 to 7mm diameter bungee/shockcord it tied between the handle on the centreboard and the base of the mast – use lots of half hitches pulled tight to secure the bungee.  If it has the right tension the centreboard will stay at whatever height is required.

GOFAST TIP – A little trick when raising or lowering and raising the board is just to pull the top so the board is vertical and then it will slide easily.  If the bungee is allowed to pull the top forward then the board will be hard to move.

IMG_20160514_135118918 (Custom)

Single most important tip for sailing

People who have sailed boats with jibs often get the angle of the boom wrong when sailing upwind.  The boom should never come in to the centreline.  This drawing give an idea of the tightest ever angle that you might pull the sail in.

People who have sailed on boats with Jibs do have to pull the mainsail in tighter than this.  But in this case the sail is the front sail, so it need to have a wider angle like a jib. The second sail from the front can be in narrower  to the centreline and is also tighter on the foot

Getting sheeting angle rig for balance lug boats - Oz Goose sailboat

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