VIDEO: Oz Goose sail used for Ethel Canoe Yawl by George Holmes 1888

The Ethel was designed as a Balance Lug Yawl by George Holmes

This Ethel III canoe yawl was built in South Australia and was bought secondhand by an old friend AJ.

This is how it appeared in the original drawing.

a sail for a classic Ethel canoe Yawl. sailmaker.

AJ’s purchase had been redesigned to take a Jib on a bowsprit and a gaff main rather than its original balance lug main.

AJ found with the jib gaff ketch that is …

Ghosts along in nearly no wind, but behaves badly in strong wind with savage weather helm.

Long rig and derig time of near an hour.

Changing the Ethel Canoe Yawl back to the original rig – Video

So AJ decided to pull the old mast out, put a new mast in the original design position, toss out the jib and use the stock 89 sq ft RSS Oz Goose for the Balance lug. Order a stock sail from Duckworks or a custom sail from me; menu above.

He found traditional canoe yawl of a totally different character to its previous rig.

Revised rig changes the character of the boat completely.

Barely 20 minutes from arrival at beach to launch

Mild weather helm depending on mizzen set.

One of the big advantages of the Balance lug is rigging time. It is so fast. But remember really high tensions are needed on the downhaul in anything above a drifter and brutal downhaul tensions on balance lugs in stronger winds.

Here is AJ’s video of the Ethel III canoe yawl with his comments.


I’ve had a little to do with canoe yawls over the years.

This is Holmes’s Ethel I holmes Ethel canoe yawl. really simple sails

The drawing above was about 4 inches (100mm) long in John Leather’s book “Sail and Oar” and David Wilson from Duck Flat fell in love with it at first sight.

So we set about recreating a whole boat from the tiny drawing using our joint skills and imagination.

This was in about 1992

At the time I was building my boxlike sailing canoe BETH so they made very strange building companions, the boxy BETH and the curvacious Ethel.

Here is Ethel being built with BETH on the right of the shot.

building a classic yacht ethel canoe yawl and find a good sailmaker.

Though they both ended up looking great on the water. Even the boxy BETH.

I handled any of the design issues and David handled the construction side and worked up all the construction details, foils, sparring and details for this beautiful Ethel 1. All the aesthetics are David’s. He’s one of the best boatbuilders I know when it comes to aesthetics. His execution of the coaming was just gorgeous. We both like to try to keep boats very simple to operate, so that was our common ground.

George Holmes designed Ethel Canoe yawl.


We found that George Holmes had made some interesting errors in the original drawings. The mast was far too far back in his tiny sailplan on the original drawing. And the rake had more artistry than science involved as a more vertical mast suits a Balance Lug sail much better.

Plus there was a weird geometry problem that came from the halyard having to be too far back along the yard and the battens and boom. You could release the halyard but there would be a strong tension fold in the sail from throat to clew that would prevent the front end of the yard moving forward. This meant the yard would push its loop attachment to the mast so hard that the parrel balls would bind. And the position of the attachment to the yard so far back made gust response a bit strange. Like an overbalanced rudder.

The Oz Goose mainsail and the Ethel III setup would avoid this problem completely. I think George Holmes might have learned a thing or three from Ethel 1 to Ethel III.

Ethel travelled far and wide behind David’s Renault 16. Until he sold her to build his catboat.

Most of the sailing was done in the same waters as AJ’s Ethel III.

One of the interesting things was river sailing. Me in the fast and furious planing hull of Beth and David in the gracious and graceful Ethel which he named Willow.

I’d get a gust and plane off at high speed getting about half a mile ahead. Then some trees would make the wind go flukey and I’d struggle to keep BETH moving. I’d look around and David would be ghosting up beside and past me in Ethel. Not surprising at all with the size of Ethel’s sailplan and that she doesn’t have the “wide flat sections” that people take to be a sign of speed. She has none of that additional wetted surface area.

Classic Tortoise and Hare. The canoe yawls are just so fast in light and variable winds. Very speed limited in terms of outright speed, but are boats of high averages.

At the same time Robert Ayliffe was building his now very famous Norwalk Island Sharpie “Charlie Fisher” which I worked out the foil and sparring details for.

All in all three very different boats that did a lot of sailing together.

Final Words on the Oz Goose stock Balance Lug sail

RSS OzGoose / OzRacer sail on a George Holmes “Ethel III”. I’m not quite ready to ditch the mizzen, but the sail perfectly matches the needs & character of the boat.

Wind here around Adelaide on last few weekends has been too strong to try un-reefed. 15′ Ethel III canoe yawl probably has the stability of an 8′ OzRacer with 7′ of pointiness added…

Video is snippets of 28km covered in 4.5 hrs. Some beating, some reaching, some running. Gotta be happy with that from a boat with theoretical max hull speed 8km/h.

Great job with the sail MIK.

Welcome and Well Done AJ!

One thought on “VIDEO: Oz Goose sail used for Ethel Canoe Yawl by George Holmes 1888

  1. Wow, very interesting. Thanks for sharing

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