Brolga Ball Bearing Turnbuckles | Expert Review

It’s all ball bearings these days…

Imagine yourself tuning up pre-start going to weather in about 20 knots. You find yourself a tad slower and lower than your partner and want to make a rig adjustment. Ok, what next? Stop the boat? Go downwind? Swear because you can’t find the tools that are supposed to always be in the same port sheet bag only this time they aren’t? Finally, find the tools then bash your knuckles about while hoping you’re turning the “right” direction only to realize you’re in the 5 min sequence and your tuning partner is gone? If you sail competitive one design keel boats chances are you’ve experienced this. Enter Brolga turnbuckles, a breakthrough in quick rig adjustment – just grab the knurled cap and start twisting/adjusting. No tools, no fuss.

With a top swage stud that rides on a race of ball bearings inside the knurled cap the adjuster body is allowed to rotate freely and not twist your shroud. As it’s important that your wire remain stationary while the adjuster spins we recommend using Dyform wire with it’s stiff anti-twist properties to aid in preventing shroud rotation while making the adjustment. Once you have finished your adjustments simply screw the knurled lock nut into place. With a calibrated scale etched into the side you’ll be able to gauge relative tension and keep track of numbers. If you’re a detail oriented person keeping track of these numbers in a log will go a long way to replicating that feeling when you know you’re in the sweet spot for a given condition.

Don’t let us lead you astray thinking these are something really new though. In fact, they’re not. They’ve been around for a little while and are actually now in their second generation. The current models are the upgraded MkII that include knurled cap, larger ball bearings, larger diameter adjusting screw (was 8mm, now 10mm)which is manufactured from Nitronic 60 stainless steel good for its anti-galling qualities. But new or not, to ensure easy adjustments on each race day you will need to lubricate the adjusting screw thread plus clearance gap between the swaging shaft and top round bearing housing with lanolin spray. Between events it’s wise to lube them up with some lanloin paste but be careful not overdo it. Paste is great but it can also trap dirt which has the nasty habit of working against you in the lubrication department.

While we don’t think the Brolga turnbuckles are for everyone (in fact, some classes specifically ban them) we think they’re a pretty neat concept and great for certain applications. So where do we see these being used the most? Predominantly in the Etchells class and other classes where adjusting your rigging during racing is allowed. Back in 2006 Jud Smith used these and won the Etchells worlds. Now we’re not saying if you drop the coin on these you’ll win the worlds too (Jud is an extremely talented sailor) but we are saying if you want to be prepared like the champions you might want to consider them.

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4 Responses

  1. Re: What do you guys think is the smallest size boat that can use the Brolga turnbuckles?

    I neglected to mention they are available in 3 sizes for 3, 4, and 5 mm wire. Details about this can be found by following the “Brolga turnbuckles” link in the original post. However, to address your question we can’t really give you an exact answer as it depends more on the wire diameter rather than the boat size. 3mm, or ~1/8″ could be on a pretty small boat but…

    If you have specific questions about your boat please do feel free to give us a call and we’d be happy to discuss.

  2. Would these be worth considering for a 29er or 420? Not sure if class rules allow, and if they are small enough for a dinghy.

    Others have mentioned stamasters. I’m quite familiar with those, having used them on the V15. However, even with practice our entire rig adjustment sequence is about 90 seconds end-to-end, since it takes a few tries to properly restore jib halyard tension. That limits your ability to respond to last minute wind changes before the prep. (V15 rules disallow changing shroud tension during the race.)

    Brolgas could allow for quick adjustments up to maybe 15 seconds before the prep. That’s a nice advantage.

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