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Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Friday, January 20, 2017

Riglets: A Look at Promising MicroCruiser Rigs

Sven Yrvind showin' us how it's done!

[NOTE: Sven Yrvind may have more off-shore experience in very small boats than anyone alive. His advice is simple, modular mast/sail units that are easily muscled up or down.]

Set a little sail to catch a little  wind,
To lift the hull and give it wings,
And roll us 'round the bend.

Riglets: A Quick Look at Promising MicroCruiser Rigs

In my book, a sailing MicroCruiser is much more than a DaySailor.

It's got to be able to stand up to some shit. It should provide shelter from the elements and sleep its crew aboard. It should carry supplies for a cruise. Human auxiliary propulsion.

So its rig must be handy.

Handy to set and strike. Handy to handle. Handy to reef. Handy to DIY.

Dropping the mast to the deck reduces windage for rowing... free-standing is a plus. Easy handling, especially 'hands-off' from the cockpit via lines, makes for easy, trouble-free sailing, Easy reefing means we can reduce power quickly when ambushed by the wind. DIY 'cuz we're cheap.

'Course, we might be tempted to give a little, one way or the other...

Many traditional western rigs - 'Marconi', sprit, lug, and gaff among others - get lots of coverage. But they present challenges for the microcruiser, as well. To address them, a number of lesser known rigs have been tried. While they, too, need careful implementation and adaptation, each offers a 'new' approach to practical sail.

In what follows, I'll give a very brief description with a pic... the headers and high-lit text are links to further information.

So let's go take a look at some contendahs!

New Haven sharpie drawing

Imagine these cut-off sails are LOM!

Attribution: Barbetorte, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>,
via Wikimedia Commons

A standard LOM, often laced to the sail, with a sprit boom extending forward from the clew and tensioned by a 'snotter' at the mast. It allows adjusting the sail's 'belly' and is self-vanging. The inboard end may be used as a lever in the manner of a sail tiller. Variants include wish-bone booms, possibly with 'baskets'. The booms are low and easy to handle.

This rig is common in sharpies, and favored by Phil Bolger and used in many of his designs. Wishbone variants were common in the line of NONSUCH Catboats

An uncommon option we've used extensively is eliminating a running halyard. The peak is fixed near the mast-head, as is a line running downward to a cleat near the partners. This line is used to spiral wrap the boom (brought vertical) and sail when furled.

This one is perhaps the traditional rig to beat.


Image from Horizon Sails

This is a quadrilateral sail with its peak spread by a sprit rising diagonally from a snotter low on the mast. It may also incorporate a sprit-boom in the manner described in the previous entry. It has the advantage of spreading more sail area on a short mast than LOMs can manage.

These are powerful and, once mastered,  handy rig used by many traditional, sailing fisherfolk, especially in the Occident.

Sven Yrvind has rigged many of his vessels with one or two of this type.


Perry Phillip's BOBBER
Junk Rig

Fully battened, standing lug rig with lazy jacks, sheeted along leech. Hands off, easy reefing. Ingenuity required  for easy set up and take down. Countless variations. I sing its praises here.



A fully battened sail luff-mounted on a short mast and sliding gunter. Similar to Junk rig in shape, it can be adapted for JR's easy reefing with light lazyjacks and batten led sheets.

This rig was used by Frederick Fenger on his YAKABOO, canoe sailing the Caribbean in the early 1900s.


Matt Layden's Lug Rig

Layden Lug

Standing lug rig, roller-furled on the boom. Hands off (though gotta be deft with halyard, sheet and furling line). Boom is easily dismounted and lowered to deck. VERY well proven small boat rig!

This rig was designed well-tested by Matt Layden in designs such as his PARADOX.

More info at


This is a taller version than likely for our needs

Ljungstrom Rig

Twin, flat-cut, triangular sails, fixed along the mast. Open wing and wing with two sheets, or sail into the wind doubled and sheeted as one. Roller reef by rotating the mast. Typically boomless.

The rig was designed for catamarans by Frederick Ljungstrom after his son was tragically lost overboard after being struck by a boom.

The BSD Twins are an interesting, boomed variant for smaller craft.


Shown about half reef

Holopuni Quick Rig

This loose-footed, Leg O' Mutton sail roller reefs around the free-standing mast, while the light boom spreads the sail. It's travelling clew outhaul doubles as sheet landing on the boom... both move toward the mast as the sail is reefed.

Note that this could easily be implemented as a half-Ljungstrom!


Illustration may be from one of Daniel Spurr's great books?
Fully implemented, this would be the main.

Stays'l Rig (aka Delta Rig)

Mast stepped well aft, flying large single or double staysail. Roller furling may be used. The LOM 'mainsail'(?) 

Aft placement is handy to the cockpit. Roller furled staysail provides clear air for the leading edge and develops upward lift as well as forward drive. Lies well to anchor. Must be strongly tensioned for windward efficiency. I'd lean the mast aft with amsteel stays set running.

Wharram TIKI 21
Jib optional

  Wharram Wingsail

A short spar gaff sail with an 'envelope' around mast and halyards, reducing turbulence. Can be used with or without a boom.

The short gaff sail was often used in Herreschof designs. James Wharram (and Hanneke Boon?) pioneered the envelope.


T-Modified Crab Claw Rig

This is essentially a Crab Claw Sail set on a short mast with a swiveling yard. Rotates around three axies (vs the normal one)! Very versatile, and possibly a good-to-great rig.

Unfortunately, it demands a lot from a monohull crew in terms of a steep learning curve. Although it holds promise, I can't recommend it as a serious microcruiser rig without further evidence that it's manageable.

Holopuni Canoes refers to this rig as HSS Rig... haven't heard back from them with the inventor.


Transition Rig

Rig based on a bird's wing! Stretch fabric and bone joints allow 'reefing' by extension and flexion. Folds down as a wing folds in. Really. Check it out! Not as low-tech as some, but...

I wouldn't say this one is ready for our needs. But definitely one to watch!

This genius rig was developed by Richard Dryden.  


So there's a quick tour of some rigs a little off the beaten path.

Hotbeds of innovation include,,,

There's a whole world of sailing out there...

Fair winds!


  1. What makes the modified crab claw such a challenge for the crew? I'm a sailer want-to-be looking to add a small sail to my canoe as a cheap way of learning. The modified crab claw would seem to be my first pick As it would allow the sail to be kept low and when tacking would rollover head instead of my needing to duck so low under it. Of course I'm asking because I have no experience which means that I have no idea what I'm missing with that train of thought.

    1. Hi,

      The main problem for me was that, since it rotates around 3 (vs usual 1) axies, all the factors that seem simple with one change by a factor of about eight (2^3)! I'm sure that after plenty of exposure/experience, it's a way cool, handy, versatile rig.

      In terms of a canoe or kayak, the very small area would help tame it. The remaining problem would be complexity... 4 spars (mast, yard, 2xlimbs) and 3 controls (downhaul, 2x sheet/limb downhauls).

      For your purposes, Ljungstrom Rig is much simpler. We used it on a skiff. Check out a full fan Batwing in George Dyson's BAIDARKA, too.

      For a full report on our CC, see

      Hope this helps!

      Dave Z

    2. Rereading, I see I petered out on that axies paragraph...

      Consider the Center of Effort (CE) of the sail. Normally, one sheets in or out, and the CE moves in or out, affecting mostly weather helm (out cranks the boat into the wind more than in).

      Now we can rotate the sail toward horizontal in profile (side) view, too. The CE now moves aft as we lay it down. This affects weather helm, as well in ADDITION to the first change.

      Now we roll the sail toward flat, directing force upward. The CE is now reacting to all three components.

      In gusty conditions, this gets to be a complicated calculation, fast. It can be downright paralyzing to try to analyze the balance of all these possibilities on the fly, with adrenaline surging.

      I feel that we got a beginner's handle on it in the two months we played with it. Being able to risk dumping in warm water would definitely help.

      It's a rush, but steep learning curve!

      Dave Z

  2. Thanks Dave, I see what you mean about the 3rd dimension mobility complicates a quick correction. Especially as I'm getting a feel for sailing.