Mini-Brig Project: Rigging & Sails: Step 3 - Running Rigging

Step 1:  Choosing the Halyards & Sail Configuration:

On the Mini-brigs we have used double blocks on each of the top masts. The foremast has two halyards one for the jib and one for the topsail. In the case of the bottom "course yards" these are fixed. Sail is taken in by the use of "bunting lines" with the topsails being lowerable by a halyard.

The double block on the main mast is to facilitate the use of a stay sail. To date we have not added a stay sail in order to keep the boat easy to sail, but it may be added at a future date. You may want to experiment with sail configurations & rigs. This may require adjustment of the standing rigging to your design.

For a real traditional look, you may want to make some rope stropped blocks - you can find information on making those here: 

Sail Configurations:

Brigantine (Commonly):

hermaphrodite brig, or brig-schooner, is a type of two-masted sailing ship which has square sails on the foremast combined with a schooner rig on the mainmast (triangular topsail over a gaff mainsail). As such it has a mix of the two main types of sail plan, hence the term hermaphrodite.

English common usage is to refer to this type of vessel as a brigantine.

Another explanation given by Antony 'Tiger' Timbs, an  owner of a brigantine, is, that the correct term for a two-masted vessel with square sails on foremast and fore-and-aft-sails on main mast is anyway 'hermaphrodite brigantine'. A real brigantine also uses square sails on main mast. As the type is so scarce now, the term 'brigantine' was used for the hermaphrodite brigantine, too. 

In the late 17th century, the Royal Navy used the term brigantine (often contracted to brig) to refer to small two-masted vessels designed to be rowed as well as to sail, rigged with square sails on both masts. By the first half of the 18th century the word had evolved to refer not to a ship type name, but rather to a particular type of rigging: square rigged on the foremast and fore-and-aft rigged on the mizzen. Many sloops were "brigantine-rigged".

In any event, in the truest sense of the early term, the mini-brigs are brigged rig, with four squares on both mast. Originally, the mini-brig did not carry a gaff or fore and aft sail on the mizzem or main mast. In later years, the Gaff "spanker" driver was added, with a gaff boom, but no lower boom - to avoid being hit. This is known as a loose-footed gaff sail, and is held taught with the aid of a traveller.


Adventures Gaff
Adventures Gaff Rig

Mini-Brig Adventure gaff Rig
Gaff rig furled



The traveller system for the "loose footed" gaff



Table A: Illustration Of A Brig Versus Brigantine Rig


Brig Diagram


Brigantine Diagram


When the brigs were first built, in deciding on the rig type, help with simplicity, and ease of sailing, we kept the "course square" on the main/mizzen mast, but did not add the gaff. A gaff could be added by the use of a small 2nd mast adjacent to the mizzen/main, this was commonly referred to as a "Snow" Brig and is very common in the 18th century. In 2010 we removed the course main, and added the gaff for increased sailing performance. The gaff allows for brig to sail closer to the wind. Although, a traditional square rigger like Nelson's victory could get no closer than 60 degrees to the wind. The mini-brig typically gets no closer than about 50-60 degrees, which means they are difficult - if not impossible to tack through the wind, and often must wear about. In comparison, a modern sail boat, marconi rigged can get anywhere from 90-80 degrees to the wind (much more effecient!).

The "Inspiration" For the Mini-brigs:

In early 2002, the Swedish Navy submarine rescue ship HMS Belos was on a routine exercise* in the middle of the Baltic Sea, when the side scan sonar caught a strange-looking wreck. The on-board ROV Sjöugglan – Swedish for sea owl – was sent down 100 metres to the bottom.

Despite bad visibility near the bottom, the crew got a spectacular sight on their TV monitors – an old ship standing upright with its two masts standing and bowsprit, perfectly intact. The reason for sinking is a mystery, since both hull and rigging are intact.

Mystery Brig
The Mystery "Brig" Found Off The Coast Of Sweden

Optional/Alternate Forms Of Sails :

Basic Lug Sail


Lug Sail

Sharpie Sail

Sharpie Sail

How The Running Rigging Works:

The Course sails on both masts are attached via a shackle and eye. In the simplest form of the rigging,The yard can rotate around the mast via use of an "iron" u-bolt which passes through the yard. The topsail yards are not fixed, they are able to rotate around the mast, but are pulled up and down the mast via the use of halyards which pass down through a hole in the fighting tops.

In later versions yards are atatched using various methods, such as a swivel pin, and even rope gaskets, etc. 

Yards can be rotated around the mast to enable setting to the wind. When running downwind the yards are set perpendicular to the ships center line. When the wind comes from starboard (right) the yards are moved anti-clockwise, comes the wind from port (left) the yards will be moved clockwise. When a ship, due to the force of the wind heels over, the yards are not horizontal resulting in less efficiency. To re-establish maximum efficiency, the yards can be tilted to be set horizontal again


Mini Brig Top Sail Layout
Picture 1: Topsail Layout from the aft.

Mini Brig Square Sail
Picture 2: Course Sail and Topsail Layout From Stern
(Notice bunting lines on the Course Sail)

Jb Sail Adventure
Picture 3: Mini-brigs Sail Layout From Bow Quarter
Note: Deck Guns In Place


Fore Top-Sail Adventure

Step 2: Braces and Sheets:

  • The Course braces are connected together from each eye on the course yards. This is accomplished by a shackle and small diameter rope with a shackle at the other end. A brace line then comes down from the rear (mizzen) brace and passes through a block, which is then cleated off at a cleat secured at the aft most "plywood plate".
  • The main sheets then pass in front of the mizzen shrouds and are cleated off at the second "plywood plate".
  • The fore-course sheets then come in aft of the fore-shrouds, and is cleated at the third "plywood plate" from the stern.
  • The Jib sheets are cleated off on cleats placed on the outermost part of the crossbrace, two more cleats are placed inside these to allow the jib halyard and topsail halyard to be cleated.
  • The sheets & braces are formed by a spliced eye and thimble which is attached to the sail by way of quick links, caribeeners and/or shackles.

Braces & Sheets
Picture 1: Course Brace Linkages and Sheet Positioning

bracke blocks
Picture 2: The Brace Block


Brace Link

Diagram 1: Red Line indicates Course Brace Linkage

Brace Link
Diagram 2: Red line indicates sheet locations