Another Interesting 320 Makeover

The Tabur 320 (scroll down to find the 320 sailing dinghy among the various tenders and fishing boats). It’s a French boat designed by Georges Auzépy-Brenneur, a well-known naval architect and produced at 12,000 units in the 1970’s. It is lightweight and made of plastic, which makes it possible to haul the almost indestructible hull over a shingle beach without damage to the hull, and it is repairable by plastic welding. This ten-footer was designed above all for sailing schools, and you almost have to want this very stable boat to capsize.

This hull has very little freeboard, and one often sails with the lee gunwale underwater. The bow often goes under waves when running before the wind – the sailor has to sit far back towards the stern, leaving just enough space for the tiller. If this happens, the boat can broach in the waves and cause a capsize or something to get broken, especially when beaching. It helps not to be have too much “middle-age spread” for this boat!

With its round bow, the 320 is not the fastest boat on the water, and does not sail well in heavy water. The hull is tough, but the original mast without forestay and shrouds is fragile. Sails and masts for this boat are about as rare as hen’s teeth! The replacement solution I adopted was an English Mirror rig.

terre&mer14The Spaniard Juan de la Fuente, a serious Tabur 320 sailor, has invented another fascinating rig involving the original mast (with standing rigging) and a standard jib, together with a Walker Bay 8 mainsail. In this Youtube clip, he sails on a man-made lake near Barcelona, Spain. It indeed looks like a lovely spot. The boat seems to sail quite fast in what looks like a moderate wind. Señor De la Fuente says in his Youtube thread:

probably the only creative element there is that strange little sail under the boom. The original Walker bay sail forces the boom to pitch up, which is great for headroom but I wanted to add as much sail area as I could. I never seen that type of sail before but it actually works quite nicely.

This clip inspires me to do a video of one of my own outings on the sea. I keep an eye on waterproof digital movie camera prices, and will probably one day take the plunge!

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18 Responses to Another Interesting 320 Makeover

  1. Juan de la Fuente says:

    Thanks Anthony, really kind of you!
    The Tabur 320, at first sight doesn,t look that atractive, but it is a thoroughly efficient design and they were built to last forever. It is stable, not too fast but nippy, easy to govern and almost as comfortable as your favourite armchair.
    Looking forwards for more 320 adeventures!
    Capitán Tifón.

    • Comfortable as your favourite armchair???

      Beating upwind in at least 8-10 knots and you can sit on the gunwale as in any boat. Less than that and you have to sit in the bottom of the boat and put your feet up over the lee gunwale. I have sailed less comfortable boats, but the 320 is a very small and cramped dinghy, even for just one person. I have been sailing this thing for 4 years and have never capsized in it, even in a windward broach or forgetting to change over the jib in a tack. It is a very safe boat – designed for sailing schools and not for serious racing or cruising.

      It’s great advantage is being able to take a scratch without being absolutely ruined, and one man is completely autonomous from the trailer to the water and back to the trailer.

      • Juan de la Fuente says:

        Hi again Anthony,

        I thought you might like this other video in which you can see my Tabur 320 rigged with a crab claw sail and a very small jib.

        You might laugh at the size of that jib, but one of the great things about a jib sail -you’ll agree, is that it tells you exactly how the wind behaves, thus helps you adjust the trimming of the main sail correctly.

        Besides, the crab claw sail, which is probably the most uncomplicated rigging system of all, has a disadvantage: You can’t have a jib sail close to the mast, for it entangles with the spars on every single tack, so you have to move your jib forwards, and that poses further problems. So I came across this small jib arrangement which I think is quaint and elegant, as well as efficient on a crisp breeze.

        I’m sure you’ll enjoy the video!



      • That is the so-called Lateen rig, typical of the Mediterranean countries, and probably from the Sunfish. The centre of effort of this sail is forward, so you don’t really need a jib – unless you have very pronounced weather helm (hard to keep the boat off the wind when sailing upwind).

        Yes, I find the jib gives guidance when sailing downwind. It starts flapping before you reach the point at which the mainsail will gybe, but of course a good sailor feels the wind direction on any part of his head.

        The other variation of this rig is the lug sail. It is quite similar to the gaff rig and has a comparable performance.

        Thank you for the video.

      • Juan de la Fuente says:

        Not quite a lateen sail, for the classical lateen has no boom.

        Ever seen a lateen rig on downwind? You lower the top side of the spar to almost horizontal position, thus the sheet comes nearer the centre of the boat, the sail is allowed to bulge and you get performances similar to a square sail.

        Good comment about the jib on a downwind run. Had not thought of it but now I see you are right.

        I find the jib useful also as a tell tale on a tight upwind course, for its luff begins to flap a couple of degrees before the main sail, telling you to bear away, so the thrust is kept.

        The jib is a wicked sail.

        Anthony, allow me one question:

        What is the English marine expression for the manoeuvre of hauling the jib on the windward side while releasing the main sail sheet for it to depower and flap while tying the tiller full on to the leeward side in order to have both hands free while the boat keeps its position on a hault?

        I am trying to find a translation with no success.



      • For your question, the English term is heaving to (capa in Spanish, cape in French). A boat in this position is hove to. However, the boat is drifting with the wind and will need to be anchored to hold its position for any amount of time.

  2. Juan de la Fuente says:

    Heaving to. Thanks!
    Looking forwards to see your first videos with your Mirror rigged Tabur 320.

  3. Juan de la Fuente says:

    Hi Anthony,

    I just found the original Tabur 320 mast and boom available second hand, without the main sail and was wondering wether you know if a bermuda type Mirror mainsail could be rigged onto the original Tabur mast, as I know you once had the original mast yourself. Do you know anything about this?

    Still looking forwards to see a video of your gunter rigged Tabur in action!



    • The sail of the Tabur 320 (I still have mine but I haven’t tried it on the Mirror rig) is comparable in terms of the length of the luff, and it should thread into the mast with no problem. You want it the other way round, a Mirror sail on the Tabur 320 mast and boom. If the luff of the sail is too long, move the boom gooseneck down by the right distance (drill out the rivets or undo the screws, and put it lower down the mast), but that will give you a lower boom. If the mast were longer… The foot of the Mirror sail is shorter and your centre of effort will move forward – you will have less weather helm, and even less with the jib.

      I need to borrow a video camera and do a video. If you want to see some amazing Mirror sailing and technical aspects, see this fellow in the south of England. I have corresponded with him, and I might see him at the Semaine du Golfe. I hope to go there if the dates are right and if they admit my boat into the Voile-aviron (sail and oar) section. If they allow plastic boats, you might like to come too to south Brittany. It’s usually in May or June.

  4. Juan de la Fuente says:

    Hi Anthony,

    I purchased on ebay a second hand set of Mirror sails that I am looking forwards to rig onto my Tabur 320, and I will probably need to ask some advice from you about the characteristics of this adaptation. I am having to manufacture a new boom and gaff spar, and my first question is whether you found the weight of the spar and height of the sail to affect significantly the balance of the boat compared to the original Tabur rigging which you destroyed by rolling over the beach.

    The other concern I have has to do with the size of the jib, which under first impression seems to overlap quite substantially behind the mast. (I assume that the original Mirror dinghy had a greater distance between the mast and the front end of the boat where the stay is fastened.

    My concern is whether you found this overlap to (1) create turbulences between both sails and (2) the jib sail creating problems during a tacking manoeuvre by tangling against the mast rather than flapping over the other side.

    I hope you will be having great fun in the voile aviron in south Brittany and I am looking forwards to see some video footage of your adventures at sea over there.

    My best regards from Barcelona!

    • Nice to hear from you, Juan,

      As you are making your spars, you may know the dimensions to go with your standard Mirror sails. If not: mast 3m27 and 50 mm diameter, boom 2m30 and the gaff is 2m80 plus the jaws. Look up in my blog for rigging and reefing details.

      The spars are heavier than my original aluminium mast and boom. The skipper is too, and that has a lot of effect on such a small boat. I never capsize. The boat allows me time to analyse the situation and react and my weight is always enough, together with standard sailing techniques.

      If you make your mast the right length, you can use standard standing rigging, which you can order from, and which is good and strong.

      The original Tabur rigging with a single sail is not well balanced. The weather helm is very bad and the boat easily gets “in irons”. The Mirror rig gives better balance, which you can fine-tune by the set of your mainsail and jib for the angle of sail.

      You might experiment with a smaller jib. I find that the Mirror jib does overlap, but no more than a genoa on a larger vessel. The mainsail can be difficult to set because of the jib. You could try a short bowsprit – but watch for lee helm. A boat needs to have weather helm, so that it points to the wind (and capsizes) if you fall into the sea.

      When tacking, begin your tack and almost immediately release the jib. Go through the tack quickly whilst holding the mainsheet. Grab the lee jib sheet as you change sides and haul it in as you sit on the weather gunwale. If you tack smartly and quickly, you will rarely get tangles on the mast fittings.

      I still have no video camera, but I will take stills of the Route du Sable when I go at the end of June. See the website Route du Sable.

      Bon vent,


      • Juan de la Fuente says:

        Thanks Anthony,

        Can you tell me what does the cross-section of the boom measure? Is that something like 4*4 cm?

        I am also intrigued by the cross-section of the gaff, as it appears, I’m looking at pictures- to be thinner at the top end than at the jaws end.

        Considering the fact that to make the groove for the mainsail luff to be threaded in, two pieces of wood have to be glued together, that very thin section at the top of the spar gives me the impression that the spar could easily split apart.

        Any information you think might help before I get down to manufacturing the gaff spar?



      • Yes, the boom is 40×40 mm square with the edges rounded off.

        The gaff is slightly over 40 mm crosswise throughout its length. In the fore to aft (where there is the groove for the luff of the mainsail) direction, it tapers from slightly over 40 mm to about 30 mm. You have to use special tools for the mainsail luff groove and glue the two halves together. I had exactly the problem you described – it split apart at sea! I re-glued the split part and put in stainless steel screws every 30 cm for either side. This has solved the problem. The screw heads are visible but that doesn’t bother me.

        Look carefully at my rig. The positions of the halyard points on the yard / gaff are critical as is the position of the boom on the mast. With the lengths of the spars exactly as I have given you, you need to observe the following, assuming your Mirror sails are standard:

        Bottom of mast to boom goose-neck – 63 cm
        Bottom of gaff (not including jaws to “normal” halyard point) – 104,5 cm
        Bottom of gaff (not including jaws to reef halyard point) – 153,5 cm

        You must have the tack of your mainsail sufficiently above the boom to be able to tighten your cunninghan. The Mirror cunningham is attached to the boom. I disagree. I take the cunningham from securing point on the bottom of the mast, through a pulley attached to the tack of the mainsail and down to a cleat.

      • Juan de la Fuente says:

        Thanks Anthony, I’ll take note of every single thing.

        At the moment I am still e-baying for bits and pieces.

        So I guess it won’t be until May that I actually get down to assembly the lot. I am having to
        re-adapt virtually everything in the boat to the new sails and that will take time.

        I’ll keep you posted!


      • Your problem is getting to England from Spain to buy spars, because they are easy to find. Typically someone’s boat hull rots and they are left with the rig and sails. For the groove in your gaff, you will need a router. Only use top quality pine for your spars.

      • Juan de la Fuente says:

        Yes, England is brilliant for boat parts.
        Pine you said? I was meaning to do it from Mahogany, Iroko or such like harder wood.
        The groove will be done at my local carpenter’s workshop. I don’t have tools to do that myself.
        Pine…I’ll look into it.
        Thanks again Anthony!

      • Don’t use hardwood. It’s too heavy and it breaks too easily due to the shorter wood cells.

        There are several reasons why soft woods are the chosen type of timber used in the making of masts and spars. The first and most obvious is that so any soft wood trees grow exceedingly tall and straight. With their long cells, they have developed the ‘elasticity’ to withstand everything the elements can throw at them. Soft woods are also lighter in weight.

        Sitka Spruce (Silver, Tideland or Menzies Spruce) has long been the top choice for mast builders.

        Other possibilities are:

        – Douglas fir (British Columbian, Oregon, Idaho, Red pine also known as Red or Yellow fir)
        – Scots pine (European redwood, Northern pine, Red pine, Redwood, Scots fir, Norway fir, Swedish fir, Finnish fir)
        – Port Orford cedar (Oregon cedar, White cedar, Ginger pine, Lawson’s cypress)

        The spars must be varnished before use. At least 8 to 10 coats. Use epoxy resin varnish or yacht varnish.

        Only use the best quality seasoned timber with no knots.

  5. Juan de la Fuente says:

    Don,t seem to find where your email address is to send you some photos of my newly rigged Tabur 320. So I scrambled a few on my wordpress with some comments. This is the url:

    On tuesday will be taking it to the water for a first test.
    I,m sure you,ll enjoy the photos.


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