Spar Catcher for a Standing Lug

by Jerry Barnett

Page 1 of 2

As conventionally rigged, the standing lug has a single main halyard bent to the lugsail spar below its center of gravity. This low pivot creates an imbalance that can make the spar and sail difficult to control.

Many are the Drascombe sailors who have struggled against the imbalance that is inherent part of a lug sail…the peak of the spar gets loose and attacks head and shoulders and crew; the heel of the spar kicks out and fouls; and dropping the sail creates an instant tent or buries the cockpit and all its contents.

The practical problem is that the intended balance occurs when the spar is fully raised and the tack bowsed down. In the interim, it is not balanced.

In that interim, most resort to grabbing the luff or the tack downhaul to create a “bowse” effect to control the attitude of the spar, while somehow hauling or lowering the main halyard. It works…but not that well.

Diagram of HalyardThere is a simple solution: stretch a jackstay (a sling) from the peak of the spar to the chocks, and then, use a second halyard that you attach to the jackstay to pull the peak of spar upright so that it hangs parallel to the mast above the mast thwart.

This is my spar catcher.

Now, instead of the unstable balance that comes from a single low point of attachment, a new, high pivot is created where the halyard is attached to the jackstay.  Hauling the main halyard, the spar balances on the two points: the upper, moving attachment to the jackstay, and, the fixed attachment at the chocks. More importantly, the spar, captured by the second halyard that guides the jackstay, maintains its balance and glides up, until it tops out.

In effect, the spar catcher functions as a spare hand when raising the sail guiding the spar up to the masthead. Conversely, when lowering the sail, the spar is held by the spar catcher and returns it to its original position of repose, standing up and down the mast. See Figure 1.

 Halyard Arrangement 1With the spar catcher in place, raising the main becomes a more simple exercise and lowering or even dropping the main, becomes less dangerous and more convenient. Once the spar is in repose, a single tie taken around the mast, spar and the gathered sail will hold all temporarily.

This makes for a tremendous simplification of the raising and lowering of the sail.

The only disadvantage I can see to the spar catcher is that it may complicate regular reefing. For example, you may need to lower the second halyard slightly to allow the spar to hang where you want it once the reef is in. Or, if you believe it necessary (as some do) to drop the sail in the boat, you can lower the spar on the second halyard to bring all into the boat. The second halyard makes this easier.

Halyard Arrangement 2Also, I find that having the spar and sail in a regular position standing up and down the mast makes for quicker rigging all around. I always have it rigged this way now, even when the mast is unstepped.

Next page