Appendices -- Useful Supplemental Information

Most traditional small craft do not use the “big boat” ways of attaching sails to the spars – bolt-rope slots or sail track on masts and booms, slides or slugs on the sails’ edges. Simple, dirt-cheap techniques descended from the ancestors of our small craft are used instead. The spars are usually round, and sails, whether Bermudan or quadrilateral, are bent to them with light line – or less commonly wooden or plastic hoops.

HOOPS are only used on luffs, edges that move along the spar when making sail. Sometimes specified by small-boat designers (perhaps for the salty look), they do have a few drawbacks: they drag on the mast when raising sail, can be hard on paint or varnish, and unless fitted with quick-release hoop connectors are not very suitable for craft that are trailer sailed. Hoops have the advantage of ensuring the luff will be perfectly parallel to the mast.

ROBANDS (shortened from “rope bands” by colloquial usage) are short lengths of line tied around spars at each grommet in the luff, head, or foot of the sail. Each roband is carefully sized to keep the boltrope evenly spaced off the spar, but fussy to tie and untie them all if the sails aren’t kept bent on between sailings. They can be hitched into the grommets so they stay with the sail when it is removed from the spars. When used on luffs, they, like hoops, can drag or jam when raising sail. An advantage might be the option of adjusting the finished circumference of selected robands to change the shape of the luff, head, or foot of a sail.

LACINGS, the most common choice for traditional small craft. Easy to reeve through grommets and around spars. A simple continuous spiral lacing is appropriate for attaching the head of a gaff, lug, lateen, or Gunter sail, or a boomed foot (unless loose-footed, of course). The lacing is adjusted once and tied off, can even be left in place if the sail is small enough to roll up on the spar(s). A simple continuous spiral lacing does not work very well on luffs, however, because gravity and friction will tighten the upper portion of the lacing as the sail is raised, even to the point of jamming the boltrope against the spar. So luff lacings are usually shown “back and forth” through the grommets – reversing direction at each one. This reversing direction at each grommet retards the tendency of the lacing to slip down and tighten up as the sail is raised. If there are many grommets, this can be tedious. Even with the extra friction at each grommet, the long lacing easily gets out of adjustment. If the mast is of a large diameter, and the back-and-forth lacing brings the boltrope fairly close to it, the luff is liable to be pulled in a different direction at each successive grommet, resulting in a laddered effect, which can spoil the sail’s airfoil.

A good variation of luff lacing is a spiral composed of short “lacing pendants” or “lacelets,” each connecting only two, three, or four grommets. Being short, they don’t need to be reversed through the grommets. They don’t tighten up or get out of adjustment. (You could think of a lacelet connecting only two grommets as a diagonal roband.)

Even a 20 foot luff, with grommets spaced a normal 24”, can be quickly bent on with only three lacelets. They remain tied or spliced in their starting grommets when the sail is taken off and bagged. After a careful first adjustment to make sure the luff will be parallel to the mast all the way up when tensioned with halyard or tack downhaul, they can be marked, for quick repeatability, where they should be hitched or stopper knotted through their ending grommets.

We used this system of “interrupted luff lacing” on the gaff main of our 22-ft catboat for many years, with perfect satisfaction.

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