Rigging a Mirror Dinghy

Please ignore this article if you are not interested in sailing.

I found on my statistics page that some fellow sailing enthusiast had been looking for the method of rigging a Mirror dinghy. The most “official” source is the Mirror Book, which gives the method for the gaff rig and the more recent Bermudian rig. You can buy this book or consult some pages from it on the link I gave.

The Mirror is a gaff-rigged fractional sloop with a mainsail, jib and optional spinnaker.

I assume knowledge of nautical terms and an ability to tie a bowline, a reef knot and a figure-of-eight knot.

1 hull, 2 centreboard, 3 seat for rowing or crew, 4 rudder, 5 tiller, 6 stick, 7 bottom boards, 8 foredeck and mast steps, 9 mast, 10 boom, 11 gaff, 12 rowlock, 13 port fairlead, 14 starboard shroud, 15 boom gooseneck, 16 gaff jaws, 17 boom vang or downhaul, 18 mainsail, 19 jib, 20 jib halyard, 21 main halyard, 22 starboard jib sheet, 23 mainsheet, 24 outhaul, 25 sail battens, 26 burgee. Some of these indications are ambiguous and unclear. The list is not exhaustive, and more details will be found in the Mirror Book.

The method is simple. Point the boat, still on land, straight into the wind. Lay the mast on the hull of the boat, aft half downwards, with the foot of the mast near the step and to top of the mast aft. Fix the port and starboard shrouds to the hull fixings using vernier adjusters. Put the loops over the top part of the mast, then do likewise for the forestay and the jib halyard pulley. Make sure the jib and main halyards are in place. Keeping the loops of the shrouds in the right positions by pulling on the forestay, lift the mast into position and place its foot into the step.

Fix the forestay to the bow of the boat using a suitable tightening and cleating device. The type illustrated below is easy to use and loosen for when the boat is not in use.


The standing rigging will need to be tight enough for you to hear a low note when you pluck a shroud or the forestay like a double bass string.

Take the mainsail and the gaff, and thread the luff of the mainsail into the groove in the gaff. Fix the peak of the mainsail to the top of the gaff. I use a shackle. Tie the main halyard to the gaff with a figure-of-eight knot. Tie in the parrel rope once the gaff jaws are engaged on the mast. Hoist up the mainsail as far as it will go and cleat the halyard. Fix the boom to the mast having fixed the downhaul or boom vang. Then take your outhaul rope and thread it through the pulley at the end of the boom and tie it to the clew of the mainsail with a bowline. There are various types of outhauls. You will just have to work out what system is best for you. I use the one I was taught for the Laser dinghy at the Glénans school. Here is a page on fairly snazzy outhaul, downhaul and cunningham systems for the Laser. An outhaul doesn’t have to be drawn very tight, as you need some power in the sail. Also tie a short length of rope between the clew of the mainsail and the boom so that it slides according to the adjustment of the outhaul.

Then attach the cunningham according to the system of your choice. Mine is simple, a rope from an eyelet attached to the mast, a pulley on the tack eyelet and a cleat on the foredeck. My cunningham is on the port side and the outhaul on the starboard side in cleats so that both can be easily adjusted whilst sailing. The typical cunningham of the Mirror is quite strange, and I prefer the adjustable system used by most other dinghies.

The mainsheet is tied with a bowline to the starboard eye on the transom. It then goes through a pulley at the end of the boom and through another pulley attached to the port side of the transom. I then take it to a pulley at the centre of the boat so that it is hauled upwards, which makes hauling in for beating upwind a lot easier.

Then the jib: tie the luff eyelet to the same place where the forestay is fixed with a short piece of rope with two bowlines. Engage the hanks onto the forestay, unless you have a furling jib system. Tie the jib halyard to the peak eyelet with a bowline, haul up the jib and cleat the halyard. Tie on the jib sheet, going through the cleats and fairleads on the hull, round the outsides of the shrouds and tied to the jib with a bowline at each end of the jib sheet rope. There are other forms of the jib sheet, but I prefer the “loop” because you can pick it up easily even when heeling after tacking the boat to haul in the jib.

All that remain are the centreboard and the rudder, and of course your life-jacket and portable phone or VHF radio. I also have an anchor with 50 m of rope and a 4 m chain and a waterproof plastic box containing flares. Don’t cheat on safety! The boat should also have a towing rope, so that if your mast comes down and you have to be rescued, the rescue boat can tow you to the beach.

Another search was made for the boom tent. It is simply a piece of canvas thrown over the boom and attached to the gunwales of the boat to provide a place to sleep for the night with the boat on the beach or at anchor. Some people make the most amazing cruises in a Mirror. It’s not rocket science!

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1 Response to Rigging a Mirror Dinghy

  1. Pingback: Sailing Questions | As the Sun in its Orb & New Goliards

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