Balmain Bug?

Is there any good information on building or sailing a Balmain Bug? I’d really love to try one and don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. I know IanHB has some info and Bill H has done some checking so I’m hoping to get some leads. I couldn’t even locate any video so far. Thanks in advance for any assistance. If I do one at 12" or less I can at least call it a Footy.

Take care,


Brent, the main man on Bugs is Steve Crewes.
He has written two books and this is his website.
Has been a little inactive of late as he is also the Australian Model Yacht Historian.
Anyway visit here for some more info and then ask if you need more help.
I do have a plan which I have drawn which I will dig up and scan with my new all singing and dancing printer.
It will not happen overnight but it will happen.
Watch this space.

I think i right in saying that Andrew Cook built one


John Gale built me a 6 inch version from the plans in one of Steve’s books. It had lots of beautiful brass fittings and a solid wooden mast. It was too heavy and, floating with zero freeboard, would carry only 3 oz if lead. I stripped it and used the hull as a plug for a version made in newsprint and Burgess wood sealer, a water based resin. Using carbon spars and minimal fittings, I was able to get 8 oz of lead onto her and she sails. Not elegantly, as the bowsprit is under water most of the time, and not very fast, but effectively.

Lesson, keep the structure weight down. Shrunken pop bottles might be the best way. The problems are less if you build bigger versions. The photos of two foot skiffs suggest that they were very effective, carrying very big rigs without having to sacrifice all their freeboard.

Photos in due course, when I can find them


some photos of the paper 6 inch skiff. The only departure from traditional rig was the outrigger to take the end of the main sheet.


Some more photos


I’ll be looking forward to the plans, thanks for taking the time to do this.


Thank you for the great photos. Your hull weight comments have me thinking this may be a good place to try pink foam for the hull. I may try a boat in the 8, 10 or 12" range to see if it is easier to get more freeboard and a higher ballast ratio. My current pink foam Footies weigh about 470g ready to sail with 280g of ballast.

Dropping the RC gear may come close to compensating for larger rig and sliding keel hardware. I was thinking of inverting a piece if aluminum channel in the hull bottom for the keel to slide in. I think I read last night at one point that one of the 12" boats had 13oz/365gr of ballast.

I also notice some of the small hulls were quite deep. I have a 50mm beam Footy that works quite well. The stern is submerged about 50-60mm.

Take care,


Looks like it could benefit from a swept keel (that still keeps the CLR the same) to get the bulb a bit farther aft so the bow wouldn’t ride so low. Sure looks like a lot of sail for such a little boat!]

Thanks for posting the pictures!

Bill Nielsen
Oakland Park, FL USA

I know that gospectre from another forum sells kits. I’ve not ordered one, but have often considered.

I wouldn’t if the 507 is anything to go by!


In contact with Andrew, considering a 507 as a “travel RC sailor” to tak on our sailing vacations in the BVI’s!

The big deal with the Balmain Bug is the sliding keel.
Without it you are doomed to failure.
This is the main reason that you have not yet seen a successful R/C version.
Some have tried but to my knowledge none have succeeded.
Andrew from Sydney has a glass hull which as a starter would eliminate a lot of work and research if that is your want.
Personally, the look and feel of wood and all the digging about for facts and figures is where all the fun is.:graduate:
If you want a plastic toy yacht then buy a "Seawind or similar, right?:heks:

If someone has a brite idea for moving the keel via R/C then lets hear it.:idea_125: But really that is not what we need to work on to make these beautiful old models come alive again.

The Balmain Bug is a historic craft and IMHO should be built and sailed in the historic tradition.
Wooden boats rule OK.:jump4:

What could be more beautiful than this ?

This my own version of a Balmain bug “Pimpa

LOA 160 mm ( 6.3" )
Displacement 100 gr ( 3.6 oz )
Ballast 40 gr ( 1.5 oz )

Hollow balsa hull, and mahogany keel and rudder

Sail area is not so extreme as a real Balmain Fashion, due to the fact that she was designed to manage wind speed in exceeding 15 kts.

Performances are delightful, she goes upwind at “average swimmer speed”, and is balanced on all points.

All considered a nice free sailing toy to be used during summer bathing


You’re absolutely right about the lead being too far forward. I have made a series of adjustments until the lead is secured to the fin by a single bolt through the eye of the lead and the back corner of the fin, but it’s still not enough, What it needs is a new lead: same weight, but different profile to get the CG lead further aft altogether. This is a more straightforward solution that an angled fin.

If yoiu’re going to use a piece of channel for the sliding device, it might be better to put it on the fin and retain the simplicity of a flat sheet screwed to the bottom of the boat, rather than some complexity of build to get the channel recessed into the hull. Also, less weight of metal to produce the engineering you need. Be aware that in any but the smaller sizes, the wringing strains on the fin attachment are severe and the slide attachments need to be robust.

The whole point of these beasts is the ridiculous sail areas they carry. I attach a photo of a two footer scanned from one of Steve’s books


Flavio shows us how to do it elegantly.




I hope I didn’t offend with the suggestion of a foam Balmain Bug. I am considering it because it is such a simple medium to experiment with. Once I get a successful design then I can devote the time to carving a real hull. I first want to see if I can make the thing sail.

I agree there is no substitute for wood, I had my own business building custom wood furniture for seven years.

I would at least simulate wood finish on the foam boat as I’ve done with several of my Footies. From 3 feet away most people think they are wood. :wink:

I plan to try freesailing first but would the movable keel be that hard in RC? Think of it in terms of moving a very light hull in relation to a heavy keel. After seeing the movable ballast in the Aquataur Skiff I think someone can come up with a decent solution.

I want to see one of those big rigs flying…

Take care,


Brent, no offence taken my friend.
Your idea of a foam hull is a good one.
Getting a craft sailing is the number one priority, after that comes the nicety of Mahogany waterline insets in a Cedar hull with a Jarrah keel all topped off with a Spruce deck and Laminated Oregan mast and booms.
Brent, your business background makes you an ideal builder for these most adventurous craft.
I have located my plan and will try attaching two sheets here.
It may be best if you PM me with your mailing address and I can post you a proper copy done on a professional machine.
Cheers. Ian.

Well that didnt work............ I will try resizing and have another go. Dont hold your breath but we shall see. I know enough to be dangerous.

Don’t give up, Ian…I’d like to see the plan, too.

A few years ago I tried to locate a copy of Steve’s book that has a plan or two, but couldn’t come up with one.

I have a .bmp file for a hull plan, and one for a sail plan that I got somewhere. I converted it to a .jpeg, but when I resized it to meet the forum restrictions it was useless.

I could probably email it, if either of you want it. It was drawn by Bollard from a boat built by Barnett in 1935.

Thanks…Bill H

Thanks for the offer Bill.
The plan I have is the same one as yours.
It appears in Steve Crewes second book and I have drawn it up full size from the book at one foot long.
I am about to contact Steve to seek his approval to send a copy of the plan to Brent.
I do not want to upset Steve or indeed anyone else with copyright abuse.
I am in enough s**t here as it is…:slight_smile:
Cheers guys, keep smiling.

ps. I have both books with dedications from the author.
Bill if you would like me to give you Steve`s address so you could obtain copies just say.