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Backstays to the Future

  • By Alvah Simon
  • Updated: March 28, 2013

rigging backstay sailboat

backstay setup

A running backstay is a removable stay that provides aft support to the mast from either the masthead or the point at which an inner forestay is attached. It originated as a response to the material limits of the period. At that time, solid wooden masts, for example, were either too weak or too heavy to be made particularly tall. Therefore, to achieve an acceptable area of sail for the heavy-displacement boats of the day, either the boom had to be extended beyond the transom or a gaff had to be added to the top of the sail—or both. This precluded the use of fixed backstays because the boom and gaffs had to be free to swing across the vessel when it tacked and jibed. As a tack or jibe was initiated, the burdened backstay had to be released and, as the spars swung through, the new, now windward, stay had to be fastened quickly before the entire rig came tumbling down.

With the advent of hollow masts, first of wood and then of alloy, and stainless-steel wire, the aspect ratio of the rigs began to extend to 3-to-1 and beyond. This allowed for the development of the Bermuda or Marconi rig, which eliminated gaffs and shortened the booms considerably without the loss of sail area or performance.

Running backstays, or runners, were then generally found only on cutter-rigged vessels. But through the 1960s and 1970s, the sloop became the rig du jour, and running backstays fell from favor. With the introduction of Freedom Yachts’ freestanding mast and Hunter’s B&R rig, the trend veered toward eliminating backstays, running or not, altogether.

Where are we today? Are running backstays now simply anachronisms that add unnecessary weight, windage, and clutter? I think not, especially in the context of bluewater cruising.

Sloops are fast around the buoys, but in the open sea, they display two disadvantages. First, the sail area is shared by only two large and therefore more difficult to handle sails. Second, in storm conditions, a sloop’s headsail, no matter how much it’s furled, still leaves the center of effort too far forward and too high to produce a safe and comfortable motion.

The cutter rig distributes the sail area over an additional sail, and that inner forestay is a superior position from which to hank on a low-flown storm sail. But with any real force upon it, the inner forestay can distort the shape of the mast; this will require a countereffort. Enter the intermediate running backstay. The arguable benefit of a staysail aside, this lower triangulation of support adds strength and stability to the mast, which translates into a better chance of coming up from a knockdown with the rig intact. Think sailing in the South Atlantic Ocean —it matters.

But alas, when you’re sailing off the wind, these same runners will have to be attended to on each and every tack. In open-ocean situations, this might not happen for days at a time. In confined waters, however, it’s necessary to have a quick and efficient method for setting and stowing runners.

Ideas and hardened opinions on running backstays are diverse and plentiful enough to keep seaside barstools warm all night. See the accompanying images and diagrams to learn about some of the most common approaches to setup and stowage.

If you’re considering adding an inner forestay and running backstays, I recommend that you get professional advice addressing the minimum engineering angles required, appropriate deck hardware, proper tangs and toggles needed at the mast, and wire types and diameters.

I don’t mean to imply that running backstays are suitable for all boats and applications. But if your interests lie in bluewater passagemaking and you take a belt-and-suspenders approach to your safety, I believe that you’ll agree that the added weight, windage, cost, and inconvenience are more than justified.

Alvah Simon, a CW contributing editor, is the author of North to the Night .

Click here for more pictures of running backstay setups . Click here to read about how an inner forestay and staysail can help you beat along in a blow.

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rigging backstay sailboat

The $tingy Sailor

Diy trailerable sailboat restoration and improvement without throwing your budget overboard.

rigging backstay sailboat

Upgrade Your Rig With a DIY Adjustable Backstay

At some point when you get serious about sail trim, whether for racing or just high performance cruising, you’re going to want an adjustable backstay. Most C-22s and similar daysailers were rigged at the factory with fixed length backstays that are only slightly adjustable with a turnbuckle. They’re not intended for adjusting to different wind conditions. You set it and forget it.

Consequently, you only have one setting for mast bend and headstay tension. That’s fine for casual cruising. Set it for the conditions that you usually sail in and it will usually be close. But an adjustable backstay gives you a range of trim positions to optimize the mainsail and headsail shape for any conditions, which are what you can encounter when racing or when you’re no longer just a fair weather skipper. 

Before I continue, a bit of legal housekeeping. This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using those links. Those commissions help to pay the costs associated with running this site so that it stays free for everyone to enjoy. For a complete explanation of why I’m telling you this and how you can support this blog without paying more, please read my full disclosure .

In other rigging posts on this site, I’ve described how to add DIY controls for each of the three sides of a mainsail:

  • Luff –  Control Mainsail Draft with a Boom Downhaul
  • Leech –  Control Your Mainsail Shape Better With a Boom Vang
  • Foot –  Flatten Your Mainsail Foot with an Outhaul

Each of them secondarily affects the middle or belly of the mainsail a little bit but an adjustable backstay primarily affects it and completes the sail trim picture. Genoa car placement also affects the leech and foot of the headsail and halyard tension also affects the luff. An adjustable backstay primarily affects the belly of the headsail. The cool thing about an adjustable backstay is that it affects the belly of both sails at the same time. It’s a two-for-one control that improves performance both upwind and downwind.

How an adjustable backstay improves sail shape

Your mainsail might have been designed and built with a slight outward curve in the luff specifically to take advantage of bend in your mast. With a fixed backstay or a loosened adjustable backstay, the mast (and consequently, the luff) is relatively straight. This lets the mainsail form a more rounded shape in its belly when it’s filled with air, which adds power and is just what you want in light air. The extra fabric width in the middle of the sail has to go somewhere, so it fills to leeward.

When you tighten an adjustable backstay, the top of the mast curves slightly aft. This makes it fit the curve in the mainsail luff, which flattens and depowers the mainsail, just what you want in a strong breeze. Even if your mainsail has a straight luff, the effect is the same. The mainsail is more efficient and the boat will heel less. Hence, you might not need to reef the mainsail as early or at all.

Similarly, your headsail was probably designed and built with straight luff but it can take advantage of an adjustable backstay as well. With a fixed backstay or a loosened adjustable backstay, the forestay should be tuned with several inches of sag in it. Like the mainsail, this lets the headsail form a more rounded shape in its belly when it’s filled with air, again, just what you want in light air.

When you tighten an adjustable backstay, since it pulls the masthead slightly aft, it also increases the tension on the headstay and pulls the sag out. Then it is straight and matches the luff, which removes some of the belly of the headsail and flattens it, again, just what you want in a strong breeze. Together with the mainsail, it too becomes more efficient.

Incidentally, a tighter headstay can also make your headsail furler work better. An adjustable backstay can also make trailering easier without the need for a quick release lever on the forestay. It lets you slacken the forestay, which can make disconnecting it to unstep the mast easier, especially if you have a furler. If you need just a little more slack, pull the mast forward by hand with one of the halyards.

The simple animation below illustrates this simultaneous flattening of the mainsail and headsail. An adjustable backstay deepens the middle of both sails a few inches.

Another benefit of an adjustable backstay is that after a day of sailing with a tight backstay in a strong breeze, you can slacken the backstay to let the rig relax and release tension on the hull while your sailboat is moored.

Direct vs. indirect backstays

Adjustable backstay designs fall into two types: direct and indirect. With a direct adjustable backstay, the adjuster (typically a tackle system) is integrated into the backstay. The adjuster directly controls the length of the backstay and bears the full load of the backstay. This is the type of system that I’ll describe how to make in this post.

The advantages of a direct system are that it is simpler and therefore, more economical to make. It’s also more mechanically efficient compared to indirect systems, as I’ll explain in a moment. The disadvantage of a direct system is that if any part of the adjuster breaks, the entire backstay can fail. That’s not likely to happen except under extreme conditions and it can be safeguarded against by adding a safety wire or strap to back up the adjuster in case of failure.

With an indirect adjustable backstay, the adjuster (also typically a tackle system) is not integrated into the backstay and it doesn’t carry the full load of the backstay. The adjuster indirectly controls the length of the backstay, which can function without the adjuster. The advantage of an indirect system is that it is more fail-safe. If the adjuster breaks, the backstay can continue to work, albeit without adjustment ability. The disadvantage of an indirect system is that is more complicated and therefore, more expensive to make and to maintain.

The adjustable backstay that was installed on C-22s at the factory is an indirect system that looks like this;

rigging backstay sailboat

Tightening the tackle system pulls the center ring down, which pulls the bridle wires together and shortens the overall length of the backstay. Another disadvantage of this design is that the more you tighten the tackle, its mechanical advantage decreases.

The angle of the line through the center fiddle block decreases and the angle of the bridle wires through the wire blocks increases. Both of these effects increase the amount of force required to shorten the backstay. The end result is, it’s easier to adjust at the beginning of the adjustment range and harder to adjust at the end of the adjustment range. It gets hardest in strong winds, right when you need it most. That is why most modern backstays are direct designs.

DIY materials list

Following are the parts and materials you’ll need to make the direct adjustable backstay shown. I used a 5:1 tackle system because that’s what I had on hand but you could substitute a 4:1 tackle (two double blocks, no triple block) instead. It’s important that the breaking load of each part is equal to or greater than the breaking load of the backstay wire. You don’t want the adjuster to be the weakest link.

  • Harken #304 1-1/2″ wire block or equivalent
  • Harken #94 29mm triple block with cam cleat or equivalent
  • Harken #85 29mm double block with becket or equivalent
  • 1/2″ x 13 tpi SS eye bolt. The older C-22s used nearly identical eye bolts for the backstay, keel cable attachment, and the chain plate bolts. They’re readily available and inexpensive on eBay. However, the chain plate bolts are not threaded the full length of the bolt to the flange and need spacing washers. The backstay and keel eye bolts are fully threaded, do not need spacing washers, and are preferred for this project.
  • 1/2″ SS washers (4-6 required if the eye bolt is not fully threaded)
  • 20′ x 1/4″ New England Ropes Sta Set double braid
  • 22′ x 1/8″ 1×19 SS wire w/swaged eyes on both ends. This is the main, non-adjustable part of the backstay.
  • 10′ x 1/8″ 7×7 SS wire w/swaged eyes on both ends. This is the adjustable part of the backstay. Do NOT use 1×19 wire for this piece, which is not designed for use with wire blocks.
  • SS shackles to attach the backstay to the eye bolts

For tips to help you decide whether to make the wire parts of the backstay yourself or to have a rigger make them for you, see How to Replace Your Standing Rigging for Less .

Installation instructions

To assemble and install the direct adjustable backstay shown:

1. If your sailboat already has an eye bolt installed in the port side of the transom, skip to step 2. If your sailboat does NOT have an eye bolt already installed in the port side of the transom, continue with this step. If your sailboat is not a Catalina 22, modify these instructions to provide adequate transom reinforcement.

A. Drill a 1/8″ starter hole through the top of the transom 2″ outboard of the traveler bar (6″ from the port side of the tiller cutout). Place the hole in the middle of the transom thickness. There is a 5/16″ thick brass bar embedded by the factory in the top of the transom for this purpose. Drill completely through the bar.

B. Redrill the hole to enlarge it to 3/8″ or 27/64″ (preferable if you have that bit).

C. Chamfer the fiberglass down to the brass bar with a countersink bit or large drill bit.

D. Tap the hole to 1/2″ x 13 tpi. The finished hole should look like this:

rigging backstay sailboat

2. Test fit the 1/2″ eye bolt in the hole to decide how many washers you need for a tight fit. The tab of the eye bolt when tightened must point toward the cockpit like the picture below.

3. Apply a 1/4″ cone of butyl tape around the bolt and the underside of the lowest washer so that it will fill the countersink in the transom and squeeze out a little.

4. Apply blue thread locker to the eye bolt threads and install the eye bolt snug.

Do not overtighten the bolt or you might strip the brass threads.  If you do strip the threads, then you will need to drill the hole out to 1/2″ and add washers and nuts on the inside of the transom, which is very difficult just to see, let alone work on. This is also a possible workaround if your sailboat is not a C-22. In that case, most owners end up cutting access holes in the front of the transom to install the nuts and then cover the holes with access plates or vents. To make matters worse, the back of the transom has a wood core and is thicker, the front of the transom has no core and is thinner. With the eye bolt centered on the transom, the threaded end of the bolt barely clears the core inside the transom. You will have to cut into the core to create clearance for the washers and nuts. To avoid all this, don’t strip the eye bolt threads.

rigging backstay sailboat

5. Unstep the mast and, if necessary, move it so that you can work on the masthead.

6. Remove the existing backstay and attach one end of the 22′ wire to the masthead in its place.

7. Step the mast and reconnect the shrouds.

8. Reave the 10′ wire through the wire block and attach the wire block to the loose end of the 22′ wire like this:

rigging backstay sailboat

9. Use a shackle to connect one end of the 10′ wire to the transom eye bolt on the opposite side (typically the starboard side) from where you want the adjuster cam cleat to be located (typically the port side).

10. Attach the double block with becket to the loose end of the 10′ wire like this:

rigging backstay sailboat

 11. Reave the 1/4″ double braid line through the double and triple blocks.

Use a double luff reaving order like shown below.

rigging backstay sailboat

Start from the becket on the double block, reave the line through the sheaves on one side of both blocks, through the opposite sides of both blocks in the opposite direction, and exit through the middle sheave of the triple block and the cam cleat. Do not spiral reave the line through the sheaves. Leave a long tail in the line until after the backstay is installed and the rig tuned.

12. Use a shackle to connect the triple block to the remaining eye bolt (typically on the port side) like this:

rigging backstay sailboat

The completed installation should look like this:

rigging backstay sailboat

13. With the adjuster slack, check the mast rake and prebend and the standing rigging tuning. If you’re not sure how, refer to the Catalina 22 Tuning Guide  from North Sails. If you don’t have a tension gauge, consider purchasing one after you read How To Measure Standing Rigging Tension .

14. Tighten the adjuster just enough to take the slack out of the backstay and so that it won’t interfere with the boom when the mainsail is raised. This will be the minimum backstay tension setting.

15. Tie a stopper knot in front of the cam cleat to prevent the adjuster from being slackened any further.

16. Trim the excess adjuster line to leave about a 1′ tail. Tie another stopper knot on the end to give a better grip on the line.

17. Tighten the adjuster to 25% of the breaking strength of the main wire or the bridle wire, whichever is less . This should bend the top half of the mast aft a few inches. This will be the maximum backstay tension setting that you should not exceed.

For example, if the breaking load of the main wire is 1587 lbs and the breaking load of the bridle wire is 1350 lbs, calculate 25% of 1350 lbs, which is 337.5 lbs or a setting of 25 on a Loos PT1 tension gauge.

18. Mark the adjuster line in front of the cam cleat with a permanent marker. Do not tighten the adjuster beyond this mark when you are sailing.

Now go out and practice adjusting your new backstay in various wind conditions to optimize the headsail and mainsail shape and maximize your pointing ability and speed. When you’re done for the day, slacken the adjuster to the minimum setting.

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11 thoughts on “ upgrade your rig with a diy adjustable backstay ”.

Nice description of the why and how to add the direct backstay adjuster. If one doesn’t have a transom with the brass structure to mount to, I assume one would want to use the typical metal backplate when installing that eyebolt? Cheers, and thanks for some fresh inspiration to work on my project boat!

Yep, treat it just like you would a chain plate bolt because it’s doing much the same job.

I had an indirect system when I got my boat and it functioned (minimally) as you describe. I couldn’t tell any difference. Then I installed a system as you outline here. sailing on a close reach in light air and flat water, I could actually FEEL the boat accelerate as I eased the backstay and I could FEEL the boat slow down as the sails stalled when I tightened it up. I played with it for half hour like this just appreciating the noticeable difference from the “indirect” method I had previously uses. This is one of the best modifications you can make to your boat.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Mike!

Did your adjustable backstay make your quick release on the forestay and shrouds redundant?

Hello, Harry

No, I still use the levers with the adjustable backstay, especially on the forward lower shrouds. But I also tune my standing rigging a little tighter than normal for racing. I might be able to pin/unpin the forestay without a lever and the backstay relaxed but it wouldn’t be quick or easy.

Thanks for asking, $tingy

Hello, I have a few questions regarding adjustable backstay for C22. I am planing to replace rigging on my currently acquired Catalina 22 sport. Since I already have eye bolt installed in the port side, I think it would be good idea to install adjustable backstay, for two reasons: adjustment of back stay and better tension distribution (two bolts vs 1 bold). The only concern I have is safety, as you mentioned in your article (“The disadvantage of a direct system is that if any part of the adjuster breaks, the entire backstay can fail.”). So, is there risk that whole mast can fall or can aft shourds still hold the mast up? What is your recommendation for wire or strap to back up the adjuster in case of failure? Thank you.

I haven’t read any stories of adjustable backstays failing but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any, I just haven’t dug deep enough. My guess would be that a backstay failure would result in the mast folding forward above the lower shroud tangs. Assuming the standing rigging was in good condition otherwise, it would take a lot of wind to cause to cause it to fail and it would probably fail at a block or terminal. Sudden failure of the backstay would allow all of the load on the foresail to pull the top of the mast forward impeded only by the mainsail leech, main sheet, and possibly a vang. The upper and lower shrouds would likely survive and hold the bottom half of the mast in place. All this is speculation, of course, and the actual conditions would determine the result.

That said, I don’t have a safety strap on my adjustable backstay even though I do race my C-22 and occasionally sail in winds that can completely overpower it. But if I were to add one, I’d add a short length of wire rope on the static side of the adjuster with one end attached below the bridle block and the other end attached above the bridle block. I’d make it with no slack when the adjuster is at minimum tension. As the adjuster is tightened, the safety strap will slacken slightly and have the most slack when the backstay is at its tightest. Its purpose would not be to maintain tension on the backstay in case of a failure but simply to limit the masthead from springing forward and bending catastrophically. I wouldn’t use nylon webbing, which can deteriorate from UV exposure.

Hope that helps. Send me a picture of your sailboat if you would like to add it to the Readers Gallery. There aren’t any C-22 Sports there yet. $tingy

I purchased a Catalina Capri 26 about a year ago and have been thinking about upgrading to an adjustable backstay, that’s how I found your article and site which is very helpful. The current (non-adjustable) backstay runs diagonally from the masthead to a chainplate mounted to the transom (exterior – port side) about 18″ above the waterline. I was thinking of adding another chainplate same in the same area on the starboard side. But in order to have the adjusting sheet accessible to the cockpit I would need to reverse the configuration by attaching the Harken double block with becket down below at the chainplate and the Harken triple block with cam-cleat above near the skipper. Is that feasible and something that will work? I look forward to any advice you can offer and of course all your future articles!

Thanks, Kirk

I understand what you want to do but inverting the cam cleat block wouldn’t be very safe. The line tail would hang down and if a crew member or a fouled line accidentally pulled it downward, it could uncleat and unexpectedly slacken the backstay, which could damage the mast. Instead, consider leaving the tackle in the upright position and raise the whole assembly up with a short pendant or a long tang to where the skipper can reach it. Be sure every component in the system is rated to a working load at least equal to the backstay wire. However, I couldn’t find where anybody has done this before so you might be in uncharted territory and therefore I must recommend against it.

I do appreciate you getting back to me I had the same thought about a short pendant. I totally understand why you can’t (legally) endorse that but think I’m going to take a shot at it and make it as bullet proof as possible. Once again, thank you for your articles and I’m looking forward to several projects this winter as I really look forward to next Spring!

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The Running Rigging On A Sailboat Explained

The running rigging on a sailboat consists of all the lines used to hoist, lower, and control the sails and sailing equipment. These lines usually have different colors and patterns to easily identify their function and location on the vessel.

Looking at the spaghetti of lines with different colors and patterns might get your head spinning. But don’t worry, it is actually pretty simple. Each line on a sailboat has a function, and you’ll often find labels describing them in the cockpit and on the mast.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the functions of every component of the running rigging. We’ll also look at the hardware we use to operate it and get up to speed on some of the terminology.

The difference between standing rigging and running rigging

Sometimes things can get confusing as some of our nautical terms are used for multiple items depending on the context. Let me clarify just briefly:

The  rig  or  rigging  on a sailboat is a common term for two parts, the  standing , and the  running  rigging.

  • The  standing rigging  consists of wires supporting the mast on a sailboat and reinforcing the spars from the force of the sails when sailing. Check out my guide on standing rigging here!
  • The  running rigging  consists of the halyards, sheets, and lines we use to hoist, lower, operate and control the sails on a sailboat which we will explore in this guide.

The components of the running rigging

Knowing the running rigging is an essential part of sailing, whether you are sailing a cruising boat or crewing on a large yacht. Different types of sailing vessels have different amounts of running rigging.

For example, a sloop rig has fewer lines than a ketch, which has multiple masts and requires a separate halyard, outhaul, and sheet for its mizzen sail. Similarly, a cutter rig needs another halyard and extra sheets for its additional headsail.

You can dive deeper and read more about Sloop rigs, Ketch Rigs, Cutter rigs, and many others here .

Take a look at this sailboat rigging diagram:

Lines are a type of rope with a smooth surface that works well on winches found on sailboats. They come in various styles and sizes and have different stretch capabilities.

Dyneema and other synthetic fibers have ultra-high tensile strength and low stretch. These high-performance lines last a long time, and I highly recommend them as a cruiser using them for my halyards.

A halyard is a line used to raise and lower the sail. It runs from the head of the sail to the masthead through a  block and  continues down to the deck. Running the halyard back to the cockpit is common, but many prefer to leave it on the mast.

Fun fact:  Old traditional sailboats sometimes used a stainless steel wire attached to the head of the sail instead of a line!

Jib, Genoa, and Staysail Halyards

The halyard for the headsail is run through a block in front of the masthead. If your boat has a staysail, it needs a separate halyard. These lines are primarily untouched on vessels with a furling system except when you pack the sail away or back up. Commonly referred to as the jib halyard.

Spinnaker Halyard

A spinnaker halyard is basically the same as the main halyard but used to hoist and lower the spinnaker, gennaker, or parasailor. 

The spinnaker halyard is also excellent for climbing up the front of the mast, hoisting the dinghy on deck, lifting the outboard, and many other things.

A sheet is a line you use to  control and trim a sail to the angle of the wind . The  mainsheet  controls the angle of the mainsail and is attached between the boom and the  mainsheet   traveler . The two headsail sheets are connected to the sail’s clew (lower aft corner) and run back to each side of the cockpit.

These are control lines used to adjust the angle and tension of the sail. It is also the line used to unfurl a headsail on a furling system. Depending on what sail you are referring to, this can be the  Genoa sheet , the  Jib sheet , the  Gennaker sheet , etc.

The outhaul is a line attached to the clew of the mainsail and used to adjust the foot tension. It works runs from the mainsail clew to the end of the boom and back to the mast. In many cases, back to the cockpit. On a boat with  in-mast furling , this is the line you use to pull the sail out of the mast.

Topping lift

The topping lift is a line attached to the boom’s end and runs through the masthead and down to the deck or cockpit. It lifts and holds the boom and functions well as a spare main halyard. Some types of sailboat rigging don’t use a topping lift for their boom but a boom vang instead. Others have both!

Topping lifts can also be used to lift other spars.

A downhaul is a line used to lower with and typically used to haul the mainsail down when reefing and lowering the spinnaker and whisker poles. The downhaul can also control the tack of an asymmetrical spinnaker, gennaker, or parasailor.

Tweaker and Barber Haul

A tweaker is a line, often elastic, attached to the sheet of a headsail and used to fine-tune the tension on the sheet.

Barber haul

A barber haul is a line attached to a headsail’s sheet to adjust the sheeting angle to the wind. It is often used to pull the clew further toward the center or outboard than the cars allow.

Boom Preventer

A boom preventer is a line attached to the boom’s end when sailing off the wind. Its function is to hold the spar in place and prevent it from swinging wildly.

If the boat were to get an accidental gybe, it could cause serious damage to the rigging or even harm people on board. It is important for the rigger to be cautious when setting up the boom preventer.

Running Backstay

Running backstays is similar to a normal backstay but uses a line instead of a hydraulic tensioner. Some rigs have additional check stays or runners as well.

Bonus tip: Reefing

The term reefing is used when reducing the effective sailing area exposed to the wind of a given sail. Headsails are usually reefed by partially furling them in, and they often have marks for what we refer to as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd reefs.

The mainsail is reefed similarly with an in-mast furling or in-boom furling system.

On a traditional mast, we use a system called slab reefing. The system has reefing lines running through the boom to reinforced points on the luff and leech, allowing you to pull the sail down to the boom and effectively reduce the sail area.

Having at least two reefing points in the mainsail is normal, but most cruising sailboats have 3. The 3rd is used for the heaviest conditions, giving you only a tiny bit of sail area exposed to the wind.

You want to reef your sails  before  the wind increases to a point where your boat gets overpowered.

It is essential to practice your reefing technique . You will find yourself in situations with rapidly increasing winds where you need to reduce your sails quickly.

Rule of thumb:  If you think setting a reef might be a good idea, do it.

Shaking a reef  is the term used when we sail with a reefed sail and want to increase the sail area back to full.

Hardware used for sail handling and the running rigging

Furling system.

Most sailboats have their headsail on a furling system. A furling system is a tube that runs along the forestay from the bottom furler drum to the masthead swivel.

This system allows you to roll the headsail around the forestay, making furling the sail in and out accessible. It is also convenient when reefing the sail when the wind picks up, as you can easily do this from the safety of the cockpit. These furling systems come in manual versions and electric versions.

In-mast furling

In-mast furling is a system that rolls the mainsail in and out of the mast. To unfurl the mainsail, we use the  outhaul .

In-boom furling

In-boom furling is a system that rolls the mainsail in and out of the boom. This system has been costly and has mostly been seen on big yachts earlier. They are becoming more affordable and common on smaller boats, though. To unfurl this setup, we use the main halyard.

A Stack pack is also called a Lazy Bag or Lazy Pack. It is a bag with a zip attached to the boom where the mainsail is stored when unused. It protects the mainsail from UV rays from the sun and weather elements. It is a very nice and tidy way to store the mainsail and reefing lines if you don’t have in-mast or in-boom furling.

Lazy Jacks is a system of lines running from the stack pack to the mast. The Lazy Jacks guide the mainsail up and down from the Stack Pack and prevent it from falling down on the deck. It is also possible to rig Lazy Jacks without a Stack Pack.

A block is a pulley with a sheave wheel. Blocks are used to change the direction of a pull on a line or rope and give a mechanical advantage. They have many uses, especially onboard sailboats.

A winch is a metal drum that gives you a mechanical advantage to control and tighten lines. These can be operated by turning a rope around it and pulling manually or by a winch handle to get more force. Most modern winches are self-tailing, which means they lock the line on so you can winch the line without holding on to it. Some boats even have electrical winches operated by a button.

Mainsheet Traveler

The mainsheet traveler is a horizontal track that the mainsheet is attached to through a series of blocks. The traveler enables you to adjust and lock the boom at an angle and also plays a critical part in trimming the mainsail.

Most cruising sailboats have their traveler attached to the top of the coachroof in front of the spray hood. A racing boat typically has the traveler in the cockpit near the helm to give the helmsman better control over the mainsheet.

The cars are basically a pulley or block attached to a track on the port and starboard deck that your headsail sheets run through. Cars are used to control the angle of the sheet between the clew and the deck. The cars are handy when you trim the sail to set the right balance of tension between the foot and leech, depending on your point of sail.

The jammer is used to lock a line in place. Most sailboats use these for locking the halyards, mainsheet, outhaul, reef lines, traveler lines, boom vang lines, etc. You can pull or winch a line through a closed jammer, but it won’t run away if you let go of it unless you open the lock. 

As I explained earlier, it is normal to have most or all of the lines led back to the cockpit, and they are usually run through a series of jammers.

The jammers are often labeled with the name of the line it locks, which makes it easier to remember which line goes where.

Spinnaker Pole

A spinnaker pole is a spar used to wing out a headsail when sailing off the wind, particularly the spinnaker. The spinnaker pole should have the same length as the distance between the mast and the forestay measured along the deck. We use a fore and aft guy and the pole’s topping lift to rig a pole correctly.

The rigging varies depending on the layout of the boat, but it usually looks like this:

  • One line runs from the bow to the end of the pole.
  • An aft line runs from near the stern to the end of the pole.
  • A topping lift is used to raise and lower the pole.

Whisker Pole

A whisker pole is similar to the spinnaker pole and is rigged similarly. It is typically built lighter and attached to a track on the mast. These can be found in fixed lengths or adjustable lengths. Ideally, the length should be the same as the foot of the headsail you intend to pole out.

Boom Vang/Rod Kicker

The Boom Vang has a few different names. Rod-kicker, kicking strap, or kicker. It is used to tension the boom downwards. When you are sailing downwind and have the boom far out, the mainsheet won’t pull the boom down as much as inboard, and you can then use the vang to adjust the twist and shape of the mainsail.

Mooring line

A mooring line is a traditional rope lead through a fairlead to the vessel’s cleat and a mooring buoy, key, or pontoon.

Final words

Congratulations! By now, you should have a much better understanding of how the running rig on a sailboat functions. We’ve covered the different lines, their purpose, and the hardware used to operate them. I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide and learned something new.

Now it’s time to take what you’ve learned and put it into practice by getting out on the water, setting sail, and getting hands-on experience with the lines.

Or you can continue to my following guide and learn more about the different types of sails .

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Skipper, Electrician and ROV Pilot

Robin is the founder and owner of Sailing Ellidah and has been living on his sailboat since 2019. He is currently on a journey to sail around the world and is passionate about writing his story and helpful content to inspire others who share his interest in sailing.

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Sailing Eurybia

Two Humans and a Dog sail Mexico on a Sea Maid Ketch

Rigging Your Cruising Sailboat Yourself

April 14, 2022 1 Comment

a dramatic picture looking up the rig of a tall ship

Aside from holes below the waterline of your hull, losing a mast is about the scariest thing that can happen to your boat. Did you see the dis-masting in the movie Master and Commander? This is the stuff of nightmares for a cruising sailor. Since the general advice is to replace wire rigging every ten years most of us have to confront this task at least once during our sailing lives. And even among sailors who take on many repair tasks on their boats, replacing the standing rigging is something many sailors would not consider doing themselves. We are now on our second re-rig (different boats) and can say that, with several caveats, it is a very doable task for most handy folks. In this article I walk you through what we do so you can decide if re-rigging is a DIY task or not for you.

In general, any situation requiring a redesign, whether total or partial, we feel should be done only after consulting with professionals. This includes any situations involving change of materials or geometry. For example if we were going from rod to wire rigging, or from wire to HMPE (High Modulus Polyethylene e.g. dyneema), we would consult professionals. Likewise if we were replacing a mast or spreaders we would involve professionals because these situations create different loads on the rigging and therefore may require resizing the wire or attachment points. And of course if you have any reason to feel that the current rig is not adequate you do not want to repeat those mistakes in the new rig and you will also need a redesign. Get a professional involved in these cases.

You also need a professional shop if you want swaged rigging. But if you want mechanical fittings you can do it yourself. If you currently have swaged fittings, as we did on both the boats we have rerigged, then you will need to research and buy some different terminals, but the design can remain the same. We will talk about what we used below.

However if you feel that your current rig is adequate, just aging, you may wonder what is involved in doing it yourself. Besides saving money on someone else’s labor, you would have the satisfaction of know how your rigging is put together.

Your boat may be quite different from ours, but here is our experience with re-rigging a boat with swaged fittings and converting to Sta-Lok mechanical fittings.

Eurybia is a ketch with one unusual feature – a solid triatic. A triatic is the stay connecting two masts. Usually this is a wire stay, but our boat was designed and rigged with a solid bar running from the mizzen mast to the split backstay of the mast. The solid triatic resists both pushing and pulling so that backstays or swept spreaders are not required on the mizzen. I will not talk much about this feature as most people do not have to worry about this. Everything else about our re-rigging applies to other Marconi / Bermuda rigged boats such as sloops, cutters, ketches and yawls since we are just talking about the wires and the attachments.

Rigging Nomenclature

A rigging diagram of a typical sailboat

The Cap Shroud goes from the top of the mast to each spreader and then to the deck beside the mast.

The Aft Lower Shroud goes from the mast just under the lowest spreader to the deck aft of the mast. The Forward Lower Shroud goes from the mast just under the lowest spreader to the deck forward of the mast.

If you have more than one spreader each additional spreader will have its own shrouds that go from the mast just below the spreader above it, through the spreader end, to the deck beside the mast. These can be called the Upper Shroud or Intermediate Shroud .

The Forestay goes from the top of the mast to the bow of the boat – on Eurybia this is part of the jib furler and is not part of this re-rig

The Backstay goes from the top of the mast to the stern of the boat. On Eurybia there is an upper backstay about 20′ long, then a junction where two lower backstays proceed to a point on either side of the boat just aft of the mizzen mast. This junction is also where the solid triatic bar connects to the top of the mizzen mast.

Running backstays go from just under the top spreader to the deck aft of the mast ending with a rope tackle so it can be easily loosened or tightened.

Continuous / Discontinuous . Most boats have shrouds that are a continuous piece of wire as they go past the spreader, others are discontinuous at the spreader requiring additional attachments points here. Eurybia has continuous shrouds and our last boat had discontinuous. It is possible to convert a discontinuous rig to a continuous one but you will have some redesign of the spreader ends.

Eurybia’s main mast has two spreaders and therefore has port and starboard cap shrouds, port and starboard intermediate shrouds, port and starboard lower aft shrouds, and port and starboard lower forward shrouds for a total of eight. There is also a forestay as part of the furling jib and a split backstay. Finally there is a running backstay on either side. The mizzen mast has one spreader and therefore has two cap shrouds, two lower aft, and two lower forward shrouds. There is no backstay or running backstay on the mizzen. The equivalent of a mizzen forestay, the triatic connects the backstay of the main mast.

Rigging Tools And Supplies

Caliper for measuring shroud thickness. Eurybia has shrouds of 1/4″, 5/16″, and 3/8″. For an inexpensive digital caliper see Amazon . Harbor Freight also has inexpensive digital calipers.

Hacksaw for cutting wire. We recommend that you do this manually rather than using an angle grinder or other electrical saw because the speed of the electric saws can affect the strands, even melting them a bit so they are difficult to untangle.

a wooden block with a hole near each corner serves as a sawing jig. the rigging wire passes through one of the holes.

Sawing jig for holding wire and preventing the strands from separating. (see image)

Vise and work table for cutting wire and installing terminals. The vise should have aluminum or brass jaws so as not to mar the stainless terminals.

50-100′ Measuring tape. We used a long cloth tape on a roller such as is used for landscaping. For our 45 foot boat the longest shrouds were 50′ but yours may be even longer.

6′-25′ Measuring tape for measuring the hardware.

A place to lay out and measure the wire . Here in Puerto Penasco, Mexico we are working in a very dusty yard and are using the mast (lying horizontally at working height on sawhorses) as our “table” for laying out wire. First we taped the zero end of the landscape tape to the top of the mast and taped it down every few feet to the foot of the mast. Eurybia is keel-stepped and the mast is longer than the longest shroud – if you have full backstays or are deck-stepped you might have to add another horizontal surface to have enough room to measure the longest wires. The mast track made an ideal place for capturing the wire rope while we measured and cut it.

Notebooks and pens . There are a lot of numbers to capture!

Painters tape and sharpies for labeling the wires.

Velcro Cable Straps or Electrical tape . This is to secure the long lengths of wire in loops so it is easier to handle. We didn’t have cable straps so we used ALOT of tape during the process.

The old shrouds for measuring from. Before unstepping the mast we marked with painters tape the location of the turnbuckles on each shroud so we would know the ideal length of each. While unstepping the mast these turnbuckles will be loosened but the tape allowed us to return to the design length. It is also essential to label each shroud with its position (cap shroud port, lower port fwd, etc) as well as its diameter (3/8″).

1x19 stainless wire is made from three rings of strands. The outer layer has 12 strands, the next layer has 6 strands, and the last strand is in the center.

The new wire in all the appropriate diameters to match the old shrouds. I think all modern wire rope rigged sailboats use 1×19 stainless wire. Wire can be 304 stainless, or 316 which is a little less strong but more resistant to corrosion. Diameter of the wire MUST match the old wire but the 304 or 316 does not matter. Your preference.

Terminal ends for both ends of each shroud. You will need new mechanical terminal ends for a swaged rig. If your rig currently has mechanical ends, you can reuse these at least once and just replace the cones. If replacing the cones get some extras. Sta-Lok and Hayn still make these parts. Hayn is probably the best and most expensive. If your boat currently has Norseman fittings you will have to decide whether to continue with those parts as Norseman is no longer in business. You can still get the cones from Tylaska if you happen to already have a Norseman system.

We chose Sta-Lok.

Wrench for putting the terminal end on and the vise to hold the terminal eye end while turning the cone end of the terminal. We used a 12″ crescent wrench.

Sta-Lok System

An eye from the Sta-Lok system.

To replace your current eyes at top and bottom of the shrouds with Sta-Lok fittings, go to the Sta-Lok website .

We used Sta-Lok eyes at the top of each shroud. We replaced the swaged toggle on the end of each turnbuckle with a new toggle. Then the pin on these new toggles inserts through the Sta-Lok eye. (see image below)

Turnbuckles and eyes for a conventional sailboat rig.

Basic Steps for Rigging

Make wire cutting jig.

Cut a square piece of wood about 3-4″ on each side. Hardwood would be best but we used epoxied plywood and it was adequate. For each diameter of rigging wire your boat requires drill a hole that size near the corner of the block. Write the diameter near the hole with sharpie. You will insert the wire through this hole in order to hold it for cutting and to prevent the strands from separating.

Using a skillsaw cut a slice in the middle of the block starting at the corner and continuing through the hole you just made. This is where your saw blade will go while cutting the wire.

Repeat at each corner of the block for the sizes of wire you require. (Eurybia used 1/4″ 5/16″, and 3/8″).

Before Unstepping the Mast: Document Existing Rig

Mark Turnbuckles. Assuming your existing rig is currently optimally tuned or close, use painter’s tape to mark the location of the turnbuckles. This will help you to return close to a tuned length.

Label shrouds and chainplates. Label every wire both at deck where it connects and the wire itself. Remember to indicate port or starboard, which mast, which shroud – so “Mizzen Cap Port” or “Main Upper Port” or “Main Lower Port Forward” etc. For the deck markings “Cap”, “Lower Fwd”, “Lower Aft” etc is sufficient.

Measure Old Shroud Assemblies

Unstep the mast.

If you are in a dirty yard like we currently are, using the mast as a place to lay out the wire is far preferable to laying the clean new wire in the dirt. Place the main mast with track facing up on horses at working height (if you wish to use the mast to measure and lay out the wires).

A sailboat mast laid horizontally with a 50' measuring tape secured down the face. The rigging wire lies in the track the mast next to the measuring tape.

Tape a landscape measuring tape the entire length of the mast track. Secure it every 5 or 10′ down the length. See image.

Remove all the old shrouds. Return turnbuckles to the tension marked by the painter’s tape.

Measure each old shroud from center of the top eye to center of the bottom eye and enter the length and diameter into your notebook. This is the “assembly” length and is the total finished length.

Measure and Cut New Rigging

Gather the top and bottom terminals (including turnbuckles etc) that you will use for the this particular shroud, either removing them from the old rig if you are reusing, or the new hardware if you are replacing it. You need two numbers – one is the length of top hardware from the center of the eye to where the wire will start when inserted in the terminal – write this down. Then the second number is from the eye of the bottom hardware – including turnbuckles – up to where the wire will end when assembled. Add these two numbers together – top and bottom – this is the “hardware length” of the new rig. Subtract “Hardware length” from the “assembly length” to get “Cut Length” – the actual length of wire that you need. Write this down.

A chart of measurements for a rig including the name of the shroud, the assembly length, the hardware length and the wire cut length.

After you finish documenting the lengths and cut lengths of all the shrouds, you are ready to start cutting (and labeling!) wire. It is simplest if you do all wires of one diameter before moving to new wire.

Measure and Cut. Lay the new wire on the mast track and slide the jig you made onto the wire. Measure the cut length carefully and mark the wire with sharpie. You can cut it in place, but it would be best to move the wire to a workbench with a vise. Clamp the jig in the vise and slide the wire until the mark is centered in the block. Using a hacksaw cut the wire. Slide the block past the cut, ready for the next cut.

Tape both ends of the cut shroud so the strands don’t unravel.

Label the wire (“Lower Port Aft” or whatever). Roll, tape, and set aside.

Repeat for all the wires of this diameter and then repeat for each diameter wire.

Install Terminals

Use the instructions for the type of terminal you are using. We used Sta-Lok terminals and these instructions . In most instances you will place a terminal eye at the top and the terminal eye connected to a turnbuckle at the bottom of the wire. Although many people put 5200 (NOT recommended) or Silicon sealant into the terminals before inserting the wires, Sta-Lok doesn’t actually recommend this. We did not use Silicon this time.

We spent approximately 2-3 days to cut the wires for our two masts and apply the terminals. The wire and terminals we bought at Fisheries Supply. Even including the extensive measuring and record-keeping this is straight-forward work that most people could handle.

I think I will measure in centimeters next time. Less risk of arithmetic and recording errors!

I would love to hear from any of you about your own re-rigging experience or questions you have about doing this yourself.

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Jon Raney

As the other half of the described rerig there are a few things I would do differently. I would scrutinize the existing rig more closely, top and bottom, of each shroud and stay. I assumed that the pin sizes would be the same on both ends of each piece of rigging which turned out not to be the case on several. I would take far more photos of each tang and it’s attendant connections than I think necessary which would simplify reassembly. I would use StaLok studs at the turnbuckle end of each shroud and stay rather that toggles. It …  Read more »


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Tuning A Sailboat Rig


If your sailboat seems slower, follow our how-to on tuning your rig for optimal performance.

Sailing the deep blue sea

Photo: Bigstock

Spring is a time of prepping your boat for the coming season. While powerboaters fine-tune their engines, sailors should consider fine-tuning their rigs. Doing it yourself may seem intimidating, but it shouldn't be. Anyone reasonably handy can do it in a few hours. The reward is easier and faster sailing throughout the coming season.

Let's start with the basics for new sailors. With a few exceptions, a sailboat mast is held up by a series of stainless-steel wires. But those wires also perform several other equally important functions. When a sailboat is at rest and there is no wind blowing, the stress on these wires is very light with almost all the load downward toward the keel. However, when the boat is sailing and heeled over in a fresh breeze, more stress is placed on the wires and they have to work harder to hold the mast upright and stop it from bending.

The wires that prevent the mast from moving from side to side are called shrouds, and the ones that prevent fore and aft movement are called stays. The larger and taller the mast, the greater the load, and the number of shrouds and stays required. On a typical cruiser, say up to about 35 feet, there will generally be one forestay, one backstay, and two shrouds on each side.

To get the best performance from your boat and sails, the rigging needs to be set up correctly — often called "tuning the rig." The rig should be tuned with the boat in the water on a day with little to no wind. You'll also want to be away from wakes and other boats that can rock your boat. To start, the turnbuckles for the stays and shrouds should be hand-tight only. This is sufficient to hold up the rig but places no strain on anything — yet. Lay on your back on the boat's foredeck and sight up the front of the mast. It should be perfectly straight with no bends or kinks. Next, tighten the lower shrouds — these are the ones that do not go all the way to the top of the mast and often attach to the mast at the base of the crosstrees (the two horizontal spars at the upper ends of the topmasts).

You'll need a large screwdriver to rotate the turnbuckle, and a wrench to hold the shroud fitting and prevent it turning as you tighten. Give a couple of complete turns on either side. Have a helper release the main halyard and keep a little tension while you pull down the end that normally attaches to the mainsail until it just touches the top of the toerail adjacent to the chain plate. Have your helper cleat off the halyard, then swing the halyard over the boom and check the measurement on the other side. They should be the same. If not, adjust the turnbuckles until they the measurement is equal on port and starboard.

Tuning a sailboat rig

Adjusting and tuning a sailboat rig will often bring benefits such as easier handling and better performance.

Next do the same for the cap shrouds, these are the ones that go to the top of the mast, but note that due to the length of the shrouds, it is easy to bend the mast to either port or starboard. With the shrouds adjusted, sight up the mast one more time to ensure that it is still straight.

Next comes the fore and aft adjustment, which is made with the backstay and forestay. Masts should be plumb or lie back slightly. It should never rake forward. A good starting point is to tighten up the forestay and backstay a little over hand-tight. Use the main halyard as a plumb bob. Cleat off the halyard so the free end is just clear of the top of the boom and let it hang. If the shackle on the end of the halyard hits the mast, the mast is likely too far forward, so slacken off the forestay and tighten the backstay. Adjust a little at a time until the end of the halyard hangs free — 4 or 5 inches is a good starting point.

You'll need to install cotter pins into the turnbuckles to prevent them loosening over time, but before doing that, take the boat for a sail when the wind is blowing about 10 knots and see how everything works. With the boat on a beam reach, note the tightness of the windward shrouds. If they appear slack, they will need to be adjusted up. If the boat is hard on the tiller or wheel and tries to turn into wind, the mast has too much aft rake, so you'll want to slacken the backstay and tighten up on the forestay a little. If the bow wants to turn away from the wind, the mast is too far forward, so you'll need to move the mast back a little.

If you are at all unsure about tackling this task, play it safe and smart — seek out the services of a qualified rigger who has access to rig tension gauges and other specialized tools.

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Getting the Most From Your Backstay

  • By Mike Ingham
  • Updated: September 15, 2015


While coaching, I’m often asked the best order of depowering. It is a good question because there are several options such as sheets, steering and controls, which all contribute to keeping the boat flat in a breeze. All of these tools should be used, but for just about any boat and condition, my suggestion is to start with the backstay. It’s a control that considerably reshapes both the headsail and mainsail at the same time. Since use of the backstay has almost no downside, it’s an excellent tool to depower the sails. Let’s explore why.

The discussion needs to start with how mast bend and forestay sag control the power of the main and jib, respectively. As a quick review, there’s inherent shape built into sails using what’s called “broad seam,” whereby the panels that make up the sections of the sail are designed and cut with curves on the connecting edges, or seams. There’s not much we can do to change it on the fly. The rest of the shape is built into the main and jib with luff curve and luff hollow, respectively. For the mainsail, luff curve is extra cloth added into the luff, in an arch from tack to head. When the mast is straightened, it pushes that material into the sail, adding depth. When the mast is bent, it pulls the extra cloth, and thus shape, out of the sail. The same is true with the jib, except cloth is cut out of the luff in an arch from tack to head to create luff hollow. When the forestay is sagged beyond that luff hollow, cloth — and shape — is pushed into the sail. When it’s tightened, cloth is pulled out of the jib luff, thereby flattening the sail.

The backstay takes advantage of luff hollow and luff curve simultaneously to depower the sails, much like an airplane lowers its wing flaps for high lift and retracts them when high lift is not required. With the backstay eased, the mast is relatively straight and the forestay is sagged for maximum power in both sails, like airplane flaps down. As the backstay is tensioned, the mast bends and the forestay tightens, depowering both sails — flaps up.

Because it’s not the only tool to depower the sails, it’s worth talking about the other significant controls and how they work in conjunction with the backstay. Steering is an important one. You can steer up a little into the wind, both because the apparent wind shifts aft in the puff, and because you get rid of power by pinching.

Easing the mainsheet certainly opens the leech, spilling power from the main. But easing the mainsheet also straightens the mast and sags the forestay, which is opposite of what the backstay does so well. It’s slight, but it does put power into both sails when you want the opposite. Depowering with the backstay is much more efficient. As an added advantage, when the backstay is tensioned, the mainsail leech opens up because the mast is bent, shortening the distance from head to clew.

Since the leech opens and closes with adjustments to the backstay, it’s well worth a glance up at the top of the main, and re-trim if necessary. I often find that the leech opens so much, I need to tension the mainsheet in order to get some leech tension back. Another important consideration here is when you ease the backstay in a lull, the leech will tighten so much that the main will need to be eased. Trimming in a puff and easing when needing power seems counterintuitive, but it’s worth keeping a constant eye on the leech to make sure you have the desired tension, especially with masts that have bendy upper sections.

At times, a puff might be too big or hitting too quickly and frequently to keep up with backstay. In these conditions I switch to playing the mainsheet because I can react more quickly. I will still use the backstay for trends and when things are less chaotic. In these unstable and quickly changing conditions, it’s most important to keep the boat at a constant heel angle, so it’s better to be able to keep it under control any way you can than to be searching for the ideal sail shape.

To augment the backstay, the flatter the sea state, the more mainsheet tension you can have while playing the traveler more aggressively. This technique helps keep the forestay tensioned and the mast bent, which is essentially assisting the backstay. I find this technique particularly effective with boats that have flexible masts. The choppier the water and the stiffer the mast, the less effective this is. With a stiff mast and choppy water, keeping the mainsheet eased opens the leech and twists the main open. This helps with aggressive steering and helps keep the bow down and the boat moving through the waves. Once in the correct range of backstay and mainsheet, the traveler is still the first move with the sheet and/or traveler fine-tuning depending on the boat and condition.

To use the backstay effectively, rig tune has to be set right. I try to set the rig so that in the lulls with my backstay off, the sails are fully powered. Thus, when the puffs hit, I can tension the backstay, keep the boat under control, and keep it at a constant heel. For most boats, it’s maybe a 4-knot wind range that the backstay will cover. If the puffs are beyond what the backstay can handle, I still set the rig for the lulls. If the puffs are too big for the backstay to handle, or if the wind builds beyond its range, as a last resort, I’ll switch to easing sheets and playing the traveler.

How do you know if you’ve overdone it with your backstay tension? Easy: If your overbend wrinkles become too extensive, you have too much. Overbend wrinkles are creases in the mainsail that start from the mast, usually just below the spreaders, and head toward the clew. If they extend all the way to the clew, for sure, the backstay is too tight. When wrinkles extend halfway to the clew, you’re at about maximum bend. If you’re at this point and still need to de-power, it’s time to ease the sheet and drop the traveler. If the backstay is tensioned most of the time and rarely eased all the way in the lulls, then your next move is to go tighter on the rig.

You’ll know you have it right when you can set up your rig and sails such that, in the lulls, the backstay is eased and you can comfortably depower using mostly backstay. You’ll still have to change point and play the sheets or traveler, but they should be mostly fine-tune adjustments. The bulk of the power control is with backstay. Your helm and heel should remain constant as you tension it in the puffs and ease it in the lulls.

Consider the comparisons between the images of a mainsail and jib with and without backstay tension below:


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Standing Rigging (or ‘Name That Stay’)

Published by rigworks on november 19, 2019.

Question: When your riggers talk about standing rigging, they often use terms I don’t recognize. Can you break it down for me?

From the Rigger: Let’s play ‘Name that Stay’…


Forestay (1 or HS) – The forestay, or headstay, connects the mast to the front (bow) of the boat and keeps your mast from falling aft.

  • Your forestay can be full length (masthead to deck) or fractional (1/8 to 1/4 from the top of the mast to the deck).
  • Inner forestays, including staysail stays, solent stays and baby stays, connect to the mast below the main forestay and to the deck aft of the main forestay. Inner forestays allow you to hoist small inner headsails and/or provide additional stability to your rig.

Backstay (2 or BS) – The backstay runs from the mast to the back of the boat (transom) and is often adjustable to control forestay tension and the shape of the sails.

  • A backstay can be either continuous (direct from mast to transom) or it may split in the lower section (7) with “legs” that ‘V’ out to the edges of the transom.
  • Backstays often have hydraulic or manual tensioners built into them to increase forestay tension and bend the mast, which flattens your mainsail.
  • Running backstays can be removable, adjustable, and provide additional support and tuning usually on fractional rigs. They run to the outer edges of the transom and are adjusted with each tack. The windward running back is in tension and the leeward is eased so as not to interfere with the boom and sails.
  • Checkstays, useful on fractional rigs with bendy masts, are attached well below the backstay and provide aft tension to the mid panels of the mast to reduce mast bend and provide stabilization to reduce the mast from pumping.

Shrouds – Shrouds support the mast from side to side. Shrouds are either continuous or discontinuous .

Continuous rigging, common in production sailboats, means that each shroud (except the lowers) is a continuous piece of material that connects to the mast at some point, passes through the spreaders without terminating, and continues to the deck. There may be a number of continuous shrouds on your boat ( see Figure 1 ).

  • Cap shrouds (3) , sometimes called uppers, extend from masthead to the chainplates at the deck.
  • Intermediate shrouds (4) extend from mid-mast panel to deck.
  • Lower shrouds extend from below the spreader-base to the chainplates. Fore- (5) and Aft-Lowers (6) connect to the deck either forward or aft of the cap shroud.

Discontinuous rigging, common on high performance sailboats, is a series of shorter lengths that terminate in tip cups at each spreader. The diameter of the wire/rod can be reduced in the upper sections where loads are lighter, reducing overall weight. These independent sections are referred to as V# and D# ( see Figure 2 ). For example, V1 is the lowest vertical shroud that extends from the deck to the outer tip of the first spreader. D1 is the lowest diagonal shroud that extends from the deck to the mast at the base of the first spreader. The highest section that extends from the upper spreader to the mast head may be labeled either V# or D#.

A sailboat’s standing rigging is generally built from wire rope, rod, or occasionally a super-strong synthetic fibered rope such as Dyneema ® , carbon fiber, kevlar or PBO.

  • 1×19 316 grade stainless steel Wire Rope (1 group of 19 wires, very stiff with low stretch) is standard on most sailboats. Wire rope is sized/priced by its diameter which varies from boat to boat, 3/16” through 1/2″ being the most common range.
  • 1×19 Compact Strand or Dyform wire, a more expensive alternative, is used to increase strength, reduce stretch, and minimize diameter on high performance boats such as catamarans. It is also the best alternative when replacing rod with wire.
  • Rod rigging offers lower stretch, longer life expectancy, and higher breaking strength than wire. Unlike wire rope, rod is defined by its breaking strength, usually ranging from -10 to -40 (approx. 10k to 40k breaking strength), rather than diameter. So, for example, we refer to 7/16” wire (diameter) vs. -10 Rod (breaking strength).
  • Composite Rigging is a popular option for racing boats. It offers comparable breaking strengths to wire and rod with a significant reduction in weight and often lower stretch.

Are your eyes crossing yet? This is probably enough for now, but stay tuned for our next ‘Ask the Rigger’. We will continue this discussion with some of the fittings/connections/hardware associated with your standing rigging.

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James Suggitt

rigging backstay sailboat

David Flynn

The backstay is a powerful tool and you should introduce it to your toolbox for more than just keeping the rig in the boat. No matter what the rig type or stiffness the tensioning the backstay keeps the headstay from sagging. Headstay sag equals extra power in the headsail, so when you don’t want the power (heeling too much) use the backstay. On boats with rigs that bend, the backstay helps depower the mainsail. When you add backstay tension on this type of rig you are essentially compressing a straw. The mast bends forward at the middle pulling the luff away from the leech thereby flattening the sail. It is a hugely powerful tool which allows you take your mainsail from full and powerful in light air to flat and open in the leech for windier conditions. As the breeze builds and you start to generate too much heel and helm use your backstay!

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Standing Rigging: How Tight Is Right?

Standing rigging tension is a peculiarly under-addressed subject. Easy to see how it would worry a new boat owner or someone going to sea.

Most experts step aboard, yank or twang the shrouds and stays and mutter, Pretty slack, Too Tight, or, Thats about right.

Youll find in the sailing literature very few discussions of the question: What does tight mean?

Even riggers rarely explain how much tension they like to see.

There are a few sailors who like the rigging so tight you could send an elephant up the backstay. It can result in excessive loads and wear on fittings, chain plates and the hull. The ultimate penalty for those who can’t stand any sag in the forestay is what ocean racing sailors call a gravity storm or, less dramatically, dropping the rig.

Others like to take up the slack just enough so that the rig is at rest when the boat is motionless. This approach sometimes leaves excessive slack to leeward that can result in shock loads, excessive wear and misalignment in fittings. It may take longer, but the ultimate penalty is the same.

In between (and probably in the most logical position) are those who like to take up the slack and stretch the wire just a bit. This is frequently accomplished, at least for the stays, with an adjustable backstay. When sailing, especially on the wind, tighten down to minimize slack in the forestay. When reaching, running or at anchor, ease off.

But the question is: How much stretch…especially in the shrouds?

If you stretch the wire 5% of its breaking strength, it will be considered moderate tension. Crank in 15% of the breaking strength and it is regarded as tight. These figures apply for any diameter of wire. You need only know the wires breaking strength.

Three years ago, in the June 15, 1995 issue, we published a discussion of the views of author Richard Henderson, Skenes Elements of Yacht Design and several riggers, along with an evaluation of an excellent booklet published by Sailsystems about a Selden Mast approach (described in detail in the October 15, 1991 issue) and an entirely new method developed by Michael Dimen, who called his gadget a Rigstick.

Mentioned was the familiar (see photo) Loos rigging tension gauge, which comes in two sizes. The Model 91 ($39) is for wire 3/32″ to 5/32″. The Model 90 ($45.50) is for 3/16″ to 9/32″. The gauge depends on the bending property of aluminum plate.

The strange-looking gauges don’t willingly produce great accuracy because you have to hold one reading steady while noting another, which also requires that you make a judgment about where the centerline of the wire falls on a scale. Not easy to do.

The big name in galvanized and stainless cable (as wire is called in the trade), cable hardware and tools, Loos & Co., Inc. went looking for a better mousetrap.

Who did Gus Loos go to? The guy who designed the original gauge, his old friend, Donald J. Jordan, an 82-year-old retired Pratt & Whitney engineer who has been sailing out of Marblehead, Massachusetts, in the likes of Lightnings, Friendship sloops, Sound Schooners (which was the prized New York Yacht Club class in 1918), Pearson Wanderers and currently in a 16′ Starling Burgess design, appropriately called a Marblehead.

The old tension gauge wasnt bad, said Jordan. But it tended to get bent. Then the patent ran out and I told Gus we could do a better one.

The new version (see photo) is a distinct improvement over the old aluminum version. A better design, its also much more substantially made of aluminum, stainless and nylon.

The design problems were interesting, Jordan said. A conventional cable tension gauge has two rollers at the ends with a spring-loaded plunger in the middle and a dial gauge to measure the plunger movement. The wheels have to rotate…because they must permit some small but vital movement. That makes the tool expensive. My approach was to have two stationary wheels and a carefully contrived square slider in a arc-slot on the other.

The new Loos gauges use a long-lasting stainless spring to produce the tension. Slip the lower grooved wheels on a shroud or stay, pull the lanyard to engage the upper hook, relax, read the tension at your leisure and consult the scale to learn the pounds of pressure on the wire and the percentage of breaking strength of the wire. There are three wire gauge notches in the edge. The gauge can be left on the wire while turnbuckle adjustments are made.

The accompanying booklet, very well-done, contains a good tight discussion of the subject; some recommendations; a table on how to equalize tension in different sizes of wire, and line-drawn diagrams clearly showing rig tensions (windward and leeward) created by light, medium and heavy winds.

The wire gauge comes in three sizes, for 3/32″-5/32″, 3/16″-1/4″ and 9/32″-3/8″. West Marine sells them, respectively, for $57.99, $69.99 and $$122.99. Defender Industries cuts them to $49.95, $51.95 and $105.95. Prices in the BOAT/U.S. catalog are in between.

What if, instead of 1×19 wire, you have rod rigging? There are four new models that are bigger, heavier and, of course, more costly. They work the same, but take some arm strength. One is for .172-.250 rod, another for .281-.375. Two others models are for metric rod. West Marine sells the rod gauges for $186.99. Neither Defender nor BOAT/U.S. shows them in their catalogs.

Contact- Loos & Co., Inc., 901 Industrial Blvd., Naples, FL 34104, 800/321-5667. Rigstick, 311 Jackson, Port Townsend, WA 98368; 800/488-0855. Sailsystems, PO Box 1218, Marblehead, MA 01945; 978/745-0440.


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Backstay & Babystay Rigging

Backstay & Babystay Rigging - Accessories & Spares

A backstay is a part of the standing rigging that runs from the mast to back of the boat, counteracting the forestay and headsail. It is an important sail trim control and has a direct effect on the shape of the mainsail and the headsail. Backstays are generally adjusted by block and tackle, hydraulic adjusters, or lines leading to winches.

At MAURIPRO Sailing we carry a wide variety of rigging products, including backstay adjusters, backstay flickers, backstay split plate and backstay wheel adjuster from great brands such as Harken, Selden and Sailtec.

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Solo Challenge

Standing rigging: step by step guide on how to tune it on your sailboat

  • Marco Nannini

rigging backstay sailboat

In this article we will deal with the tuning of standing rigging of a typical sailboat. Speaking of standing rigging we have to open a parenthesis on the types of rigs possible for a sailboat.

Please note this article is a translation and may contain some errors for which I hope you’ll forgive us!

Armo frazionato di un Class40

Standing rigging: the evolution of rig types and their tuning

Historically, the most traditional rig type is the masthead one. That is with the forestay and backstay attached to the masthead as fixed standing rigging that create traction in the opposite direction. The spreaders, in this case, are in line, perpendicular to the fore and aft axis of the boat. With a masthead rigged boat, the backstay can be used to increase forestay tension in high winds. At the same time, by vertical compression of the mast, tensioning the backstay causes a bending of the mast that flattens the main. The backstay is both an element of the standing rigging but can also be tuned.

Global Ocean Race - Hugo Ramon costretto a districare cime impigliate

Tensioning the backstay, the central part of the mast advances forward creating a slight “C” shape of the mast seen from the side. This curvature lets you bring the “fat” of the mainsail forward flattening the sail. Therefore, with a strong breeze, we can intervened on the backstay to reduce the forestay sag and flatten the mainsail. Both operations improve upwind performance.

Fractional rigs

For decades now, however, “fractional” rigs with swept back spreaders have been increasingly widespread. In this case the forestay does not reach the masthead but only up to seven eighths or nine tenths of the mast height and so do the attachments of the shrouds. The spreaders are not perpendicular to the fore-aft axis but swept towards the stern on the horizontal plane. The swept back spreaders ensure that the mast can stand up even without the backstay, which is no longer “structural”. That is, it is no longer one of the elements of the standing rigging (albeit adjustable). It becomes simply the means to adjust the mast bend and curvature and would be considered and its control line is therefore part of our running rigging.

Armo frazionato di un Mini 650

This development has become more and more marked with boats with very wide spreaders and without backstay. The evolution started with offshore sailing boats such as the Mini 650s and Class40s and now it is very widespread also among cruising sailboats. By completely eliminating the backstay from the the list of elements constituting our standing rigging, which presented itself as an obstacle to increasing the roach of a mainsail, it is now possible to have all the roach we want and even “square top” mainsails.

Standing rigging tuning on fractional rigs with swept back spreaders

We will talk here specifically about boats with swept back spreaders. We have chosen a Class40, a sister-ship of the boat with which I competed in the Global Ocean Race 2011/2012. It’s a popular model of Class40, a first generation Akilaria RC1, designed by Mark Lombard, from around 2006. The rig of this boat is not particularly “extreme” or delicate, being the Class40s designed for great ocean navigation. The standing rigging is all rod on this boat.

L'attacco delle volanti alte visto dalla testa dell'albero

Although the mast is made of carbon rather than aluminium, the rig is the same as that of a Mini 650 Pogo2 from Structures shipyard. The Pogo 2, designed around 2003-2004 is the Mini 650 with most boats built. This type of rig, nine tenths fractional, has two orders of spreaders. There is no backstay at all, which is common on many modern boats. By now, I would say, even on cruising boats it is one of the most common rig arrangements. It is adopted by shipyards such as Jeanneau and Beneteau, even for boats without oceanic ambitions.

Volanti in tensione a su andatura al lasco

This type of rig is fitted with a runner at the mast top and a checkstay at the height of the inner forestay. Runners and checkstays are not structural, therefore are not to be considered part of the standing rigging per se, the mast does not need them to stay up. I jibed without runners in 50 knots of wind and nothing happened. That said, runners and checks play a very important role in stabilising the mast and reducing its stress. When I run my training centre I used to say that they were not part of the standing rigging but that for good practice we would treat them as such.

Standing rigging and structural lazy jacks

As said, the backstay is simply not there, to make room for the “square top” mainsail. This is the same both on Mini 650s and on Class40s. There isn’t even a topping lift to support the boom when reefing. On a Mini 650, to avoid too many lines, and with a boom that weighs a few kilos, nothing replaces the topping lift. This means that when the main halyard is released, the boom falls onto the coach-roof. The boom will rise again when we tension the reef line and this rarely even needs the boom to be helped by hand.

Lazy jack strutturali su un Class40

On the Class40, even though the boom is made of carbon, we can imagine how much the boom plus mainsail would weigh especially if full of water. The problem is solved with the introduction of “structural lazy jacks”. What is meant when we say they are structural? Their role is not simply to contain the main when dowsing it. They replace the topping lift and support the boom. Usually they are made with dyneema and not just simple polyester. They are adjustable both to raise the boom in port and to put them at rest during navigation.

Standing rigging and runners and checkstays

On boats with swept back spreaders, runners and checkstays are not structural. Despite the absence of a backstay it’s not runners or checkstays that keep the mast up. That said, they play a very important role – they help provide additional support for the mast. For example, for ocean-crossing boats, runners and checkstays help stabilise the mast and prevent it from pumping or bending. In addition, runners reach the masthead. With a fractional rig they provide extra support, and become partially “structural” in reducing the workloads of the last part of the mast not reached by the shrouds.

Volanti sopravento in tensione - Class40

That said, on a nine-tenths rig it is unlikely that you could break the mast tip under spinnaker just because you did not set the runner. I am not aware of any such cases among Class40s. Certainly distributing the tension between runner and checkstay greatly reduces the load of the standing rigging. The checkstay, on the other hand, usually points where the foresail forestay attachment is located. In addition to acting as a support for the mast in general, it allows you to decrease forestay sag without adding compression to the mast.

Standing rigging: how to proceed with tuning your standing rigging

After this introduction, let’s move on to a practical case. Let’s consider the mast of a Class40, with two orders of swept back spreaders and its standing rigging. Hence, we have non-structural runners and checks, no backstay and no topping life. When I arrived on this boat to check the mast, there were two problems noticeable with the naked eye. First of all, the mast was not straight, it pulled to the left until the first set of spreaders. Then it made a bend to the right and then back to the left between the second set of spreaders to the masthead.

Manovre fisse - situazione iniziale

Seen from the side, the mast showed excessive rake and pre-bend that needed correcting. So we had left-right and fore-aft problems. In addition to this it was clear that when the starboard runners and checkstay were tensioned, the mast deteriorated in shape. In particular, the curvature between the first set of spreaders and the masthead increased. To fix a mast like this, with multiple problems, you need to have a method to get to a satisfactory result.

Manovre fisse - eccessivo rake e sbananamento

As for the adjustments to runners and checkstays, I leave them last, as we will see there are various options on how to use them. First we wanted to take care of putting the mast straight and solve the problem of its excessive rake. The rake shifts the sail centre aft and the bend in the mast flattens the sail, both of which we do not want in light winds. Since this boat is sailed in the Mediterranean we must have a good light wind setup and be able to intervene on the shape of the sail as the wind increases.

Standing rigging: how to put straighten the mast

The boat was in the water, we first had to avoid the risk of unscrewing a turnbuckle and accidentally unhooking a shroud. Since it was not me who had mounted the mast, I could not be sure that the turnbuckles had been inserted correctly, i.e. be exactly level with the same number of turns on the upper and lower par. This means that the threads are not screwed in equally. The lazy rigger screws the turnbuckle on deck a few turns so that he has only to hook the vertical shroud, the V1.

Manovre fisse - misurazione degli arridatoi

So, in order to avoid any dangers, we set the inner forestay (to double up with the forestay). We also set runners and checkstays just for safety. These work laterally to support the mast. We also attached spinnaker halyards one to the left and one to starboard to an eyebolt.

Manovre fisse - misurare tutto prima di cambiare qualsiasi cosa

With a bent mast the first thing really is to understand was why it is so. So we measured the total length of the left and starboard turnbuckle system for both the vertical shrouds (V1) and the low diagonals (D1). Differences emerged immediately, the D1 on the left was about 1cm shorter than the one on the right. This explained why the mast started veering to the left. The port V1 was 2cm shorter than the starboard V1. This explained why the head of the mast pointed to the left after the initial bend. The curve to starboard between the first and second set of spreaders was attributable to the upper diagonal D2 on the starboard side, which was tighter than the left one.

Standing rigging: resetting everything to zero

With the boat in the water and not wanting to take any risk, we didn’t want to get to unhook any turnbuckle. This is to avoid the unpleasant situation of having a hard time getting to re-attach one. This could happen if there’s something inherently wrong with the measures taken that would forced you to work at the limit of the available turns. However we had to make some assumption and one was that each pair of shrouds would be the same length. I.e., that the problems were only in the adjustments of the turnbuckles.

Manovre fisse - regolazione delle V1

When riggers cut rigging in the workshop they are very unlikely to make pairs of shrouds of different lengths. Therefore, except in exceptional cases, starting from this assumption is more than reasonable. By measuring the total length of the turnbuckles and exposed thread, many things could be deduced. In our case it was evident that the port turnbuckle had many more turns than the starboard side, compared to the thread of the V1 above. That is, the turnbuckles had not been hooked and tightened at the same simultaneously on lower and upper thread.

Manovre fisse - arridatoi pronti ad essere regolati

First of all, we unscrewed the turnbuckles of the V1s, whilst holding the upper threaded part integral together with the turnbuckle. This is possible because the rod shroud is free to rotate inside its T-Cup at the spreader. If it does not rotate, spray some WD40 but never twist the rod rigging. With this procedure we were able to restore a situation where the two V1s shrouds were the same length and with the same adjustment. We repeated the exercise for the low diagonals D1s.

Standing rigging: loosen everything

To bring everything back to zero tension, I went up to the first set of spreaders and loosened the D2s which I would then adjusted last. For the moment I wanted to see the mast without no tension in the D2s. Their role is to prevent the mast from bending to leeward between the first and second spreader levels, especially upwind. As we were stationary in port and without sails, I could totally ignore the D2s until the end.

Manovre fisse - allentamento delle D2

After that I went back to looking at the mast track and, no wonder, the mast was perfectly straight on the left-right axis without any curvatures. This is not to say it was already set right, but we had zeroed the lateral tension errors.

Standing rigging: rake and pre-bend

The rake depends on the relationship between the length of the forestay and the shrouds as a whole. On this boat only the V1s on deck are adjustable, the rest of the shroud is of fixed length. So the rake is controlled by adjusting the stay length and the V1s. The bend instead arises from compression of the mast given by the tension of the V1s, these pull down the mast that bends forward. The tension of the low diagonals D1s controls the angle up to the first set of spreaders of the overall curvature that the mast takes up to the masthead.

Manovre fisse - mantenere la simmetria con ugual numero di giri per lato

To reduce the bend we had to reduce tension of the V1s but also monitor the tension of the D1s. That is, if the D1s are too tight and the V1s too, we can even force in an inverse curvature. I.e the mast will go backwards to the first level of spreaders then stard bending forward from there to the masthead. This especially with loose D2s that do not prevent the section above from bending forward.

We therefore started by loosening the V1s by two full turns, observing a reduction the bend. The overall rake was still excessive. This can be measured by hanging a full bucket of water on the main halyard and letting it hung just above the deck. The distance between the halyard and the mast at the boom is your rake. We had no option but to intervene by shortening the forestay, which in this case was adjustable.

Manovre fisse - il tamburo del rollafiocco che contiene l'arrdidatoio dello strallo di prua

Standing rigging: adjusting the forestay

The forestay turnbuckle in this case, and like on many other boats, was inside the furling drum. Once the sail was lowered and the retaining bolts were unscrewed, it was possible to raise the drum and access the forestay turnbuckle. Before tightening the forestay, however, I wanted to loosen the the V1s a little so as not to induce further compression in the mast. To preserve the left-right adjustment symmetry, we unscrewed the V1s turnbuckles two full turns each side. We took then tightened the forestay by the same two full turns on the turnbuckle.

Each complete turn corresponded to approximately 3-4 millimetres in length. Two full turns lengthened the V1s by 7-8mm and the impact was visible to the naked eye. I could measure the rake with a bucket, but I had somewhat of a historical memory of the setting of that mast. In fact, I had sailed on an identical boat for a total of about 60,000 miles. So in all fairness, I was trusting my eyes. We removed two more turns from the V1s and took them back at the forestay. A change of about 1.5cm that was well noticeable at a height of 20 meters.

For example, when setting the runners, it was noticeable that the working points of the control lines had moved by about 20cm. The de-multiplication of the runner pulleys obviously amplified the effect on the control line. It was clear, however, that we had moved the mast head forward several centimetres and the excess rake was gone. We gave the forestay one more turn and removed a turn from the V1s and we were satisfied. The amount of rake optimal rake is usually provided by the designer so you can do this job with absolute precision.

Standing rigging: pre-bend

The pre-bend, at a given a setting of the V1s, is controlled by the tension of the D1s and D2s. The goal is to give the mast a beautiful shape that does not have strange kinks in its curvature and especially any inversions etc. In our case the mast bent too far forward and the forestay was particularly soft. This meant that the V1s tension encountered no resistance to mast compression. With the D2s completeley loose, the D1s were obviously too soft too. All the vertical tension turned into compression and bend.

By giving the D1s a few symmetrical left-right turns we were able to straighten the lower part of the mast. The curvature was accentuated between the first spreaders and the masthead so I went up to the D2s to give a first rough and symmetrical adjustment. Once on deck I noticed that the mast was much better already, the forestay was tighter, even though we hadn’t touched the V1s at all. But, the overall curve of the three “sections” of the mast was not yet regular. I therefore decided to tighten further the D1s by a turn and the D2s by two.

Looking at the mast from the side you could see a beautiful shape without irregularities that gently curved back. I was satisfied with the shape and only the sea trials could have confirmed the correct setting of the D2. If these are too soft the mast will sag to leeward between the first spreader and masthead. If they are both too tight the mast becomes straight like a telegraph pole losing its beautiful shape.

Standing rigging: the overall tension of forestay and V1s

For a rod of the size we were adjusting we needed a large and very expensive tension measurement tool. The spring-loaded ones suitable for adjusting the shrouds of a Mini 650 are useless. So, I resorted to trusting my “sensorial” memory. Taking V1s and D1s and shaking them,  hitting them, you get a feel for their. Shaking the furled headsail gives an idea of ​​the tension of the forestay. I relied on my historical memory and everything seemed to me in order.

Manovre fisse - albero dritto a fine lavori

The mast of the Class40s are, pass me the term, quite “ignorant”, and don’t it is not about fine tuning that last half turn. These are boats where you usually an average setting and not touch it before a specific event. This is because upwind mast is fully loaded at just 15-16 knots after which you need to reduce sail. So unless you had to do a short inshore event with light airs predicted changing the setting for each and especially longer races makes no sense.

We had created a perfectly straight mast track, an adequate rake and a pre-bend. It was time to move on runners and checkstays to decide if something needed changing. Before adjusting them, however, we could use them to do a test on the adjustment so far of our mast. I.e. tension them and observe the effect on the mast, which for this type of boats does not have to be significant (I’ll come back to this point). Tightening the left runner-checkstay pair seemed more or less ok. Starboard we clearly had a problem, the mast would bend to windward at the height of the second set of spreaders.

Adjusting runners and checkstays

On this Class40 the runner was attached to the first pulley and therefore its length was a given and could not be adjusted. The checkstay, instead, was tied to the first pulley with a lashing so that it could be adjusted in length. As mentioned, runners can be used in different ways. On some boats a loop with T-bone is is used to shorten the checkstay lashing by a few centimetres. With this expedient you can shorten the checkstay relative to the runner to the point that you set the checkstay and the runner remains effectively loose.

Soft shackle con T-bone

When the T-bone is undone, the runnner has more relative tension than the checkstay as by undoing the T-bone we have effectively lengthened the checkstay. This allows us to run high and increase mast bend with a full mainsail. Once the wind increases and we take the first reef, the runner is no longer needed (especially upwind). So we can put back the T-bone that shortens checkstay and use it as a counter cable for the inner forestay. The inner forstay and the staysail come up in about 16 knots of wind.

This system with T-bone on the checkstay give you maximum flexibility and is obviously suitable for those who know how to use it. However, in long race, especially single-handed, offshore, it has some “human” contraindications. Having to remember this T-bone day and night in every situation is not the best of proposition. We have also said that the mast of a Class40 is not quite so bendable and adjustable. The t-bone extra adjustment will not give you extraordinary gains and advantages upwind as there’s only so much extra bend you can put in with a runner and loose checkstay. All in all it will probably only change your solent to staysail switch point by a knot of wind or two.

A setting for inshore events and one for offshore racing

My personal opinion is that when offshore racing it is best to avoid easily avoidable risks. This T-bone, if forgotten closed, supports the mast only at the level of spreaders, leaving the masthead free. Imagine bearing away, removing the genoa and hoisting a large spi. Suddenly you run the risk that with enough wind the checkstay could even cause the mast to reverse its curvature with the masthead going forward and the lower part held back by the tight checkstay.

Regolazione della legatura della volante bassa

Balancing the risks and benefits, at the end of the day, on my boat I decided to eliminate the T-bone and seek for a medium setting. To do this we tighten the runner with the checkstay lashing very short to start with. We progressively lengthen the checkstay lashing until we get to a setting where, when tightening runner and checkstay there is a similar tension on both. If we observe the mast we will also notice that this setting will mean that when tightening runners and checkstay there isn’t much change in mast shape. We forego some fine tuning for safety offshore.

The very fact that the mast remained straight even when runner and checkstay were tightened gave me good confidence that I had already adjusted the D2s correctly. In fact, if the D2s had been too soft, when tightening the checkstay the mast would bend to windward. I can do the reverse test and see if the opposite set causes bend to “leeward”. If the D2s are set correctly setting each pair of runners and checks in turn should not produce any curvature either side from the first spreader to the masthead.

Standing rigging: sea trials

Having worked and checked with runners and checks the sea trial was more for the pleasure of ending the day with some sailing. The wind was not much but enough to load the mainsail close-hauled and verify that the mast remained straight. We had no doubts having already simulated the effort with checkstays. Everything was in order throwing in a few tacks confirmed that the boat made sailed the same angle to the wind on both tacks. This was not the case before, with a perceptible difference of several degrees.

Wawa - la barca oggetto dell'articolo, in navigazione alla 151 miglia 2013.

Standing rigging: conclusions

Adjusting the rigging of a sailboat is less complicated than you imagine. But I have seen many badly adjusted masts and not by just a little. If you put your hands on the standing rigging without following a sequence and without knowing what you are doing, you end up like a dog chasing its tail. It is important to understand the influence of stay-V1 on the rake. The influence of forestay-V1 and D1 on the bend of the mast up to the first spreader. Finally, the role of the D2s in counteracting or favouring the bend between the first set of spreaders and the masthead. This on a mast with two sets of spreaders.

Disalberamento - Fastnet 2009 - Class40 - Subito dopo l'incidente

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Sailboat Stays and Shrouds: Essential Rigging Components Explained

by Emma Sullivan | Aug 21, 2023 | Sailboat Maintenance


Short answer: Sailboat stays and shrouds

Sailboat stays and shrouds are essential components of the rigging system that provide support and stability to the mast. Stays run from the masthead to various points on the boat, preventing forward and backward movement, while shrouds connect the mast laterally to maintain side-to-side stability. Together, they help distribute the forces acting on the mast and ensure safe sailing .

Understanding Sailboat Stays and Shrouds: A Comprehensive Guide

Introduction: Sailing is an exhilarating experience, but it requires a deep understanding of the various components that make up a sailboat . One crucial aspect that every sailor should grasp is the concept of stays and shrouds. These vital elements not only provide support and stability to the mast but also play a significant role in determining the overall performance of the sailboat. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know about sailboat stays and shrouds.

What are Stays and Shrouds? Stays and shrouds are essential rigging components that hold the mast in place and control its movements during sailing. They primarily serve two distinct purposes – providing support for the mast against excessive sideways forces (known as lateral or side-to-side loads) while allowing controlled flexing, and keeping the mast aligned with respect to both pitch (fore-aft) and roll (side-to-side) axes.

The Difference between Stays and Shrouds: Although often used interchangeably, stays and shrouds have specific functions on a sailboat rigging system. Stays usually refer to those wires or cables that run forward from the head of the mast, attaching it to various points on the bow or foredeck. They help resist fore-and-aft loads placed upon the mast, such as when sailing upwind, preventing it from bending too much under pressure.

On the other hand, shrouds typically refer to rigging lines connecting laterally from both sides of the masthead down towards deck level or chainplates located on either side of the boat’s cabin top or hull. Unlike stays, they primarily counteract side-to-side forces acting on the mast due to wind pressure exerted against sails during different points of sail.

Types of Stays: A typical sailboat may consist of different types of stays based on their location on the mast. Some of the common types include:

1. Forestay: The forestay is a prominent stay that runs from the top of the mast to the bow or stemhead fitting at the boat’s front . It is responsible for supporting most of the fore-and-aft loads acting upon a sailboat rigging system, keeping the mast in position while under tension from sails .

2. Backstay: The backstay runs from the top of the mast to either stern or transom fittings at the aft end of a sailboat. It acts as an opposing force to counteract forward bending moments occurring on larger boats when sailing into a headwind or during heavy gusts.

3. Inner Stays: Found on some rigs with multiple masts or taller sailboats, inner stays run parallel to and inside other stays (such as forestay and backstay). These provide additional support and rigidity when deploying smaller headsails closer to centerline during specific wind conditions.

Types of Shrouds: Similar to stays, shrouds can vary based on their positioning on each side of the masthead and hull structure. Some commonly used shroud types are:

1. Upper Shrouds: These are positioned higher up on a sailboat mast , connecting near its upper section down towards deck level or chainplates for lateral stability against the force exerted by sailing sails.

2. Lower Shrouds: Positioned lower down on a sailboat’s mast , these connect near its midpoint and extend towards lower deck sections or chainplates. They serve mainly as reinforcing elements against lateral forces experienced while sailing in strong winds .

3. Jumpers/Checkstays: Jumpers (or checkstays) are typically temporary shroud additions used when depowering or controlling mast bend in certain wind conditions or point of sail, especially during racing events where fine-tuning sail shape is critical.

Conclusion: Sailboat stays and shrouds are essential components that provide critical support, stability, and control to the mast. Understanding their purpose and types is crucial for every sailor looking to optimize their vessel’s performance while ensuring safe sailing. By comprehensively knowing the role of stays and shrouds, you can confidently navigate the waters while harnessing the power of wind in pursuit of your sailing adventures.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Proper Installation of Sailboat Stays and Shrouds

Installing sailboat stays and shrouds may seem like a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and proper instructions, it can be accomplished smoothly. Stays and shrouds are crucial components of a sailboat’s rigging system that provide support and stability to the mast. In this step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the process of installing these vital elements for safe and efficient sailing.

Step 1: Prepare your Equipment

Before beginning any installation, ensure that you have all the necessary tools and materials at hand. This includes stay wires, turnbuckles, cotter pins, wire cutters, measuring tape, swage fittings (if applicable), wrenches appropriate for your boat’s hardware sizes, and a well-organized workspace. Having everything prepared ahead of time allows for smoother progress throughout the installation procedure.

Step 2: Measure & Cut Stay Wires

Accurate measurements are crucial when it comes to stays and shrouds installation. Using a measuring tape, determine the required length for each stay wire by taking precise measurements from their designated attachment points on deck to the masthead or other relevant attachment points. It is important to leave room for tension adjustment using turnbuckles later on.

After obtaining accurate measurements, use wire cutters to trim each stay wire accordingly. Be sure to trim them slightly longer than measured lengths initially indicated because precision can only be achieved once all connections are made.

Step 3: Attach Wires to Mast Fittings

Now that you have your measured and cut stay wires ready, it’s time to attach them securely to the appropriate mast fittings . Depending on your boat’s design and specific rigging details, this step can vary slightly. Look for pre-existing attachment points designed specifically for stays or fittings specifically configured for thread-on stays if applicable.

Ensure each connection is secure by threading or whatever means necessary as per your boat’s requirements . Double-check that there is no unwanted slack while leaving space for later tension adjustments.

Step 4: Deck Attachment Points

Move on to attaching the stay wires to their designated deck attachment points. These points are usually found near the bow area, and there may be specific fittings designed just for this purpose. Follow your operational manual or consult experienced sailors if you are unsure about the correct attachment points.

Again, double-check that all connections are securely fastened, without any excess slack. It is always better to have a slight bit of extra wire length here than have inadequate length at this stage.

Step 5: Install Turnbuckles

With the stays securely connected at both ends, it’s time to insert turnbuckles. Turnbuckles are essential tools for adjusting the tension in stay wires. Attach these devices to each stay wire by screwing them into the corresponding threaded fitting on either end of the stays. Ensure they are tightened securely but not over-tightened at this stage; you still need room for adjustments and tuning.

Step 6: Secure with Cotter Pins or Locking Nuts

To prevent accidental loosening of turnbuckles due to vibrations or rough sail conditions, make sure to secure them using cotter pins or locking nuts provided by your boat’s manufacturer. Place a cotter pin through the hole located in one side of the turnbuckle and bend it back upon itself, ensuring that it does not interfere with adjacent rigging components or sails.

Alternatively, locking nuts can be used by tightening them against each side of the turnbuckle threads once adjusted correctly –This provides an additional layer of security against unexpected loosening during sailing adventures !

Step 7: Inspect & Adjust Tension

Before hitting the water and setting sail , take a moment to inspect all connections thoroughly. Verify that each wire is properly aligned and does not show signs of damage like frays or kinks—Pay attention to potential chafe points where movement can wear against another object or surface.

To adjust tension, gradually tighten or loosen the turnbuckles as necessary. Be cautious and make small adjustments while periodically checking for an evenly balanced mast, ensuring that it remains straight and true.

By following these step-by-step instructions meticulously, you can ensure a proper installation of sailboat stays and shrouds. Remember to take your time, double-check all connections, and consult with professionals or experienced sailors if any doubts arise. With a meticulous approach and attention to detail, your sailboat rigging will be safe, stable, and ready for smooth sailing adventures!

Frequently Asked Questions about Sailboat Stays and Shrouds: Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever found yourself marveling at the majesty of a sailboat, wondering how it is able to harness the power of the wind and navigate through vast oceans? If you are a sailing enthusiast or considering embarking on a sailing adventure, understanding the intricacies of sailboat stays and shrouds is paramount. In this comprehensive blog post, we will address frequently asked questions about sailboat stays and shrouds, equipping you with everything you need to know.

1. What are Sailboat Stays and Shrouds?

Sailboat stays and shrouds are vital components of a boat’s standing rigging system that help support the mast while ensuring stability during sailing. Simply put, they prevent the mast from toppling over under excessive pressure from the sails or adverse weather conditions. While these terms may sound interchangeable to novices, there are important distinctions between them.

Stays: Stays are tensioned cables or wires attached to various points on the mast and radiate outwards in multiple directions supporting it against fore-and-aft movement. The most common types include forestays (located at the bow), backstays (attached to the stern), side stays (running sideways along both port and starboard sides), and inner forestays.

Shrouds: On the other hand, shrouds provide lateral support to counteract sideways forces acting on the mast. They run diagonally from their connection points on deck-level chainplates outwards towards optimized positions along the spreaders near midway up the mast.

2. What materials are used for Sailboat Stays and Shrouds?

Traditionally, steel wire was predominantly used for both stays and shrouds due to its strength and durability. However, modern advancements have introduced alternative materials such as synthetic fibers like Dyneema or carbon fiber composites. These lightweight alternatives possess remarkable tensile strength while offering corrosion resistance advantages over traditional wire options.

3. How tight should Sailboat Stays and Shrouds be?

Maintaining the appropriate tension in your sailboat’s stays and shrouds is crucial for maintaining integrity and overall sailing performance. Correct tension ensures that the mast remains properly aligned while allowing it to flex as required, absorbing dynamic forces from wind gusts.

To determine optimal tension, consult your sailboat’s manufacturer guidelines or consult with a professional rigging specialist. Adjustments may also vary depending on sea state or anticipated weather conditions . Proper tuning necessitates periodic evaluation to ensure the stays and shrouds’ tension remains within specifications.

4. How do Sailboat Stays and Shrouds affect sailing performance ?

The correct alignment, tautness, and positioning of sailboat stays and shrouds significantly impact sailing performance due to their influence on mast bend characteristics. Adjusting stay tension can control how much a mast bends under load: tightened stays flatten the mainsail’s profile for increased pointing ability in light winds, while looser tensions promote fuller profiles for enhanced power in heavier winds .

Shroud positions also dictate sideways motion of the mast; fine-tuning their tension governs how efficiently a boat can maintain a desired course when encountering various wind strengths and angles.

5. What are some common signs of wear or damage in Sailboat Stays and Shrouds?

As essential as they are, sailboat stays and shrouds are subjected to immense loads that can lead to wear over time. Routine inspection is vital to identify any potential issues before they escalate into major rigging failures.

Signs of wear or damage may include rust or corrosion on metal components, cracked insulation around terminals, broken strands on wire rigging, visible rigging deformation or elongation under load, unusual vibrations onboard while sailing, or creaking noises originating from the mast during maneuvers.

In such instances, swift action should be taken by replacing affected parts immediately or seeking assistance from experienced rigging professionals.

By familiarizing yourself with the essentials of sailboat stays and shrouds, you empower yourself to enjoy a safer and more rewarding sailing experience. Remember to conduct regular inspections, adhere to manufacturer recommendations, and consult professionals when necessary. Now, set sail with confidence as you venture into the salty unknown!

Exploring the Importance of Sailboat Stays and Shrouds in Ensuring Safety at Sea

When it comes to sailing, safety should always be the number one priority. The open waters of the sea can be unpredictable and unforgiving, making it crucial for sailors to have a thorough understanding of their sailboat ‘s rigging system. One vital component of this system is sailboat stays and shrouds, which play a significant role in ensuring safety onboard.

Sailboat stays and shrouds are specialized cables or wires that support the mast, providing stability and preventing it from collapsing under the pressure of wind forces. These essential rigging elements act as a lifeline for the entire vessel, keeping everything intact during even the toughest conditions at sea.

The primary purpose of stays and shrouds is to distribute the load evenly throughout the mast structure. By doing so, they prevent excessive stress on specific areas and reduce the risk of structural failure. This balance is especially critical when sailboats encounter strong winds or rough seas that can exert immense pressure on the mast.

Imagine cruising along peacefully when suddenly you encounter strong gusts of wind. Without properly tensioned stays and shrouds, your mast could bend or break under these intense forces, compromising your safety and potentially causing severe damage to your vessel. Well-maintained stays and shrouds ensure that your mast remains stable even in adverse weather conditions by withstanding these forces without deformation.

However, ensuring that your sailboat’s rigging is reliable isn’t just about maintaining functionality—it demands meticulous attention to detail as well. Stays and shrouds need periodic inspection to identify any signs of wear or corrosion that may weaken their integrity over time. A frayed cable or rusty hardware might not seem like much at first glance, but they could lead to catastrophic failures when put under stress.

Safety at sea also requires understanding how different types of stays and shrouds work together to optimize performance in varying sailing conditions. While staying safe is crucial, performance matters too! Different sailboat designs accommodate different rigging configurations, and knowledgeable sailors carefully select the right combinations to enhance their vessel’s maneuverability. The strategic placement of stays and shrouds aids in controlling the shape and orientation of sails, enabling efficient sailing even in challenging weather.

In this era of advanced technologies, some sailors may wonder if traditional stays and shrouds are still essential with other innovations available. However, it’s crucial to remember that age-old methods often endure for a reason: their reliability. Modern alternatives might offer convenience or weight-saving benefits, but they seldom match the robustness and simplicity of time-tested techniques.

The exploration of the importance of sailboat stays and shrouds ultimately emphasizes the significance of investing time and resources into proper knowledge, maintenance, and selection. As a sailor, prioritizing safety by ensuring the integrity of these critical components can mean all the difference between a pleasurable voyage adrift on calm seas versus surviving treacherous storms.

So, before embarking on any maritime adventure, take a moment to appreciate the unsung heroes that uphold your mast—the sailboat stays and shrouds—and make sure they are ready to bear any challenges that await you on your journey to ensure both safe passage and endless memories at sea.

How Sailboat Stays and Shrouds Impact Performance: Tips for Maximizing Efficiency

Sailboats are fascinating vessels that harness the power of the wind to propel through the water. While many factors contribute to a sailboat’s performance, one often overlooked aspect is the impact that stays and shrouds have on its efficiency. In this blog post, we will dive into the intricacies of sailboat stays and shrouds, exploring how they affect performance and providing valuable tips for maximizing efficiency.

To understand the significance of stays and shrouds, let’s first clarify their definitions. Stays are essentially wires or ropes that provide support to keep a mast in place, preventing excessive bending or swaying. Shrouds, on the other hand, refer specifically to those stays that extend from either side of the boat to stabilize the mast laterally.

While seemingly simple components, stays and shrouds play a crucial role in determining a sailboat’s overall performance. Here’s how:

1. Structural stability: Sailboat stays act as primary supports for the mast, ensuring it remains upright against powerful winds . Without adequately tensioned stays and shrouds, masts can buckle or sway excessively under load, compromising sailing performance and even risking structural damage.

2. Sail shape control: Proper tensioning of stays and shrouds directly influences the shape of your sails while underway. By adjusting their tension appropriately, you can manipulate how your sails fill with wind , optimizing their aerodynamic profile for maximum efficiency. Expert sailors effectively use this control mechanism to fine-tune their boat ‘s speed and responsiveness.

3. Windward performance: Efficiently rigged sailboat stays help maintain proper alignment between mast and sails when sailing upwind (also known as pointing). Tensioned shrouds ensure that minimal lateral movement occurs during tacking or jibing maneuvers when changing direction against the wind. This prevention of excess mast movement translates into less energy lost due to unnecessary drag – ultimately improving windward efficiency .

Now that we’ve established the importance of sailboat stays and shrouds let’s delve into some tips for optimizing their performance:

1. Regular inspections: Routine visual inspections are essential to identify any signs of wear, corrosion, or fatigue on your stays and shrouds. Replace frayed ropes or wires promptly, ensuring that all components remain robust and reliable.

2. Correct tensioning: Achieving the optimal tension in your stays and shrouds is vital. Too loose, and you risk mast instability; too tight, and excessive stress loads are placed on the rigging components. Aim for a tension that allows slight flexibility while maintaining structural integrity – seeking advice from an experienced rigger can help find the sweet spot.

3. Invest in quality materials: The quality of your rigging directly impacts its longevity and performance . Opt for high-quality stainless steel wires, synthetic fibers like Dyneema, or carbon fiber alternatives when replacing old rigging components, as these materials offer superior strength-to-weight ratios.

4. Tuning adjustments: To maximize sail shape control, experiment with adjusting the tension of your stays and shrouds during different weather conditions or sailing angles. Fine-tuning these tensions can lead to significant improvements in both speed and responsiveness while ensuring optimum aerodynamic performance at all times.

5. Seek professional advice: Don’t hesitate to reach out to experts in yacht rigging or naval architects for specialist input regarding optimizing your sailboat’s rigging setup. Their expertise can guide you towards refined techniques tailored to suit specific vessel designs or sailing goals.

In conclusion, understanding how sailboat stays and shrouds impact performance is crucial for any sailor aiming to maximize efficiency on the water. By recognizing their significance as key structural supports influencing sail shape control and windward performance, you can optimize your vessel’s potential while enjoying more thrilling voyages than ever before! So make sure to prioritize regular inspections, correct tensioning methods, high-quality materials, tuning adjustments, and professional guidance to unlock the true potential of your sailboat.

Essential Maintenance Tips for Maintaining the Integrity of Sailboat Stays and Shrouds

Sailboat owners and enthusiasts know the importance of regular maintenance to keep their vessels in top condition. Among the vital components that require particular attention are the stays and shrouds – key structural elements that ensure the integrity of a sailboat’s mast and rigging system.

Stays and shrouds are essentially wires or cables that provide crucial support to the mast, allowing it to properly withstand wind pressures and maintain stability during sailing. As they play such a pivotal role in your sailboat’s performance and safety, it is essential to implement regular maintenance practices to ensure their longevity and functionality.

To help you maintain the integrity of your sailboat’s stays and shrouds, we have compiled some essential tips that will not only enhance their lifespan but also contribute to your overall sailing experience:

1. Visual Inspection: Regularly conduct visual inspections of all stays and shrouds with an eagle eye for any signs of wear or damage. Look for frayed or broken strands, corrosion, stretched areas, or loose fittings. It is better to address minor issues early on rather than waiting for them to become major problems.

2. Tension Monitoring: Check the tension of your stays regularly using a suitable tension gauge or by following manufacturer guidelines. Proper tension ensures optimal performance while avoiding excessive strain on both mast and rigging components.

3. Corrosion Control: Saltwater exposure can accelerate corrosion on metal components like turnbuckles, shackles, or terminals. Routinely clean these parts using freshwater after each outing while inspecting them for signs of rust. Applying protective coatings like anti-corrosion sprays can also significantly extend their lifespan.

4. Lubrication: Maintaining a smooth operation within turnbuckles is crucial for proper tension adjustment as well as preventing corrosion seizing between threaded components (e.g., adjusters). Apply marine-grade lubricants periodically, ensuring even distribution across all moving parts.

5. Regular Rig Tuning: Appreciate the importance of proper rig tuning to optimize sail shape and overall stability. Work with a professional rigger to adjust the tension on your sails and shrouds, correcting any sag or excessive flex.

6. Replacing Components: If you notice any signs of wear that cannot be resolved through cleaning, lubrication, or tension adjustment, consider replacing the affected components immediately with high-quality replacements. Neglecting worn stays or shrouds can compromise your sailboat ‘s safety and performance.

7. Professional Rig Inspection: Schedule a professional rig inspection at least once every two years, especially if you engage in more frequent or rigorous sailing activities. Rigging experts have the experience and knowledge to detect potential weaknesses that may not be readily evident to an untrained eye, helping you avoid costly breakdowns during crucial moments.

Remember, maintaining the integrity of sailboat stays and shrouds should be an ongoing priority for all passionate sailors. By following these essential maintenance tips and providing regular care to these vital elements, you can ensure your vessel is ready to conquer waves with reliability and grace. So set sail with confidence knowing that your rigging system is in optimal condition!

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Beginner’s Guide: How To Rig A Sailboat – Step By Step Tutorial

Alex Morgan

rigging backstay sailboat

Rigging a sailboat is a crucial process that ensures the proper setup and functioning of a sailboat’s various components. Understanding the process and components involved in rigging is essential for any sailor or boat enthusiast. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to rig a sailboat.

Introduction to Rigging a Sailboat

Rigging a sailboat refers to the process of setting up the components that enable the sailboat to navigate through the water using wind power. This includes assembling and positioning various parts such as the mast, boom, standing rigging, running rigging, and sails.

Understanding the Components of a Sailboat Rigging

Before diving into the rigging process, it is important to have a good understanding of the key components involved. These components include:

The mast is the tall vertical spar that provides vertical support to the sails and holds them in place.

The boom is the horizontal spar that runs along the bottom edge of the sail and helps control the shape and position of the sail.

  • Standing Rigging:

Standing rigging consists of the wires and cables that support and stabilize the mast, keeping it upright.

  • Running Rigging:

Running rigging refers to the lines and ropes used to control the sails, such as halyards, sheets, and control lines.

Preparing to Rig a Sailboat

Before rigging a sailboat, there are a few important steps to take. These include:

  • Checking the Weather Conditions:

It is crucial to assess the weather conditions before rigging a sailboat. Unfavorable weather, such as high winds or storms, can make rigging unsafe.

  • Gathering the Necessary Tools and Equipment:

Make sure to have all the necessary tools and equipment readily available before starting the rigging process. This may include wrenches, hammers, tape, and other common tools.

  • Inspecting the Rigging Components:

In the upcoming sections of this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to rig a sailboat, as well as important safety considerations and tips to keep in mind. By following these guidelines, you will be able to rig your sailboat correctly and safely, allowing for a smooth and enjoyable sailing experience.

Key takeaway:

  • Rigging a sailboat maximizes efficiency: Proper rigging allows for optimized sailing performance, ensuring the boat moves smoothly through the water.
  • Understanding sailboat rigging components: Familiarity with the various parts of a sailboat rigging, such as the mast, boom, and standing and running riggings, is essential for effective rigging setup.
  • Importance of safety in sailboat rigging: Ensuring safety is crucial during the rigging process, including wearing a personal flotation device, securing loose ends and lines, and being mindful of overhead power lines.

Get ready to set sail and dive into the fascinating world of sailboat rigging! We’ll embark on a journey to understand the various components that make up a sailboat’s rigging. From the majestic mast to the nimble boom , and the intricate standing rigging to the dynamic running rigging , we’ll explore the crucial elements that ensure smooth sailing. Not forgetting the magnificent sail, which catches the wind and propels us forward. So grab your sea legs and let’s uncover the secrets of sailboat rigging together.

Understanding the mast is crucial when rigging a sailboat. Here are the key components and steps to consider:

1. The mast supports the sails and rigging of the sailboat. It is made of aluminum or carbon fiber .

2. Before stepping the mast , ensure that the area is clear and the boat is stable. Have all necessary tools and equipment ready.

3. Inspect the mast for damage or wear. Check for corrosion , loose fittings , and cracks . Address any issues before proceeding.

4. To step the mast , carefully lift it into an upright position and insert the base into the mast step on the deck of the sailboat.

5. Secure the mast using the appropriate rigging and fasteners . Attach the standing rigging , such as shrouds and stays , to the mast and the boat’s hull .

Fact: The mast of a sailboat is designed to withstand wind resistance and the tension of the rigging for stability and safe sailing.

The boom is an essential part of sailboat rigging. It is a horizontal spar that stretches from the mast to the aft of the boat. Constructed with durable yet lightweight materials like aluminum or carbon fiber, the boom provides crucial support and has control over the shape and position of the sail. It is connected to the mast through a boom gooseneck , allowing it to pivot. One end of the boom is attached to the mainsail, while the other end is equipped with a boom vang or kicker, which manages the tension and angle of the boom. When the sail is raised, the boom is also lifted and positioned horizontally by using the topping lift or lazy jacks.

An incident serves as a warning that emphasizes the significance of properly securing the boom. In strong winds, an improperly fastened boom swung across the deck, resulting in damage to the boat and creating a safety hazard. This incident highlights the importance of correctly installing and securely fastening all rigging components, including the boom, to prevent accidents and damage.

3. Standing Rigging

When rigging a sailboat, the standing rigging plays a vital role in providing stability and support to the mast . It consists of several key components, including the mast itself, along with the shrouds , forestay , backstay , and intermediate shrouds .

The mast, a vertical pole , acts as the primary support structure for the sails and the standing rigging. Connected to the top of the mast are the shrouds , which are cables or wires that extend to the sides of the boat, providing essential lateral support .

The forestay is another vital piece of the standing rigging. It is a cable or wire that runs from the top of the mast to the bow of the boat, ensuring forward support . Similarly, the backstay , also a cable or wire, runs from the mast’s top to the stern of the boat, providing important backward support .

To further enhance the rig’s stability , intermediate shrouds are installed. These additional cables or wires are positioned between the main shrouds, as well as the forestay or backstay. They offer extra support , strengthening the standing rigging system.

Regular inspections of the standing rigging are essential to detect any signs of wear, such as fraying or corrosion . It is crucial to ensure that all connections within the rig are tight and secure, to uphold its integrity. Should any issues be identified, immediate attention must be given to prevent accidents or damage to the boat. Prioritizing safety is of utmost importance when rigging a sailboat, thereby necessitating proper maintenance of the standing rigging. This ensures a safe and enjoyable sailing experience.

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4. Running Rigging

Running Rigging

When rigging a sailboat, the running rigging is essential for controlling the sails and adjusting their position. It is important to consider several aspects when dealing with the running rigging.

1. Choose the right rope: The running rigging typically consists of ropes with varying properties such as strength, stretch, and durability. Weather conditions and sailboat size should be considered when selecting the appropriate rope.

2. Inspect and maintain the running rigging: Regularly check for signs of wear, fraying, or damage. To ensure safety and efficiency, replace worn-out ropes.

3. Learn essential knot tying techniques: Having knowledge of knots like the bowline, cleat hitch, and reef knot is crucial for securing the running rigging and adjusting sails.

4. Understand different controls: The running rigging includes controls such as halyards, sheets, and control lines. Familiarize yourself with their functions and proper usage to effectively control sail position and tension.

5. Practice proper sail trimming: Adjusting the tension of the running rigging significantly affects sailboat performance. Mastering sail trimming techniques will help optimize sail shape and maximize speed.

By considering these factors and mastering running rigging techniques, you can enhance your sailing experience and ensure the safe operation of your sailboat.

The sail is the central component of sailboat rigging as it effectively harnesses the power of the wind to propel the boat.

When considering the sail, there are several key aspects to keep in mind:

– Material: Sails are typically constructed from durable and lightweight materials such as Dacron or polyester. These materials provide strength and resistance to various weather conditions.

– Shape: The shape of the sail plays a critical role in its overall performance. A well-shaped sail should have a smooth and aerodynamic profile, which allows for maximum efficiency in capturing wind power.

– Size: The size of the sail is determined by its sail area, which is measured in square feet or square meters. Larger sails have the ability to generate more power, but they require greater skill and experience to handle effectively.

– Reefing: Reefing is the process of reducing the sail’s size to adapt to strong winds. Sails equipped with reefing points allow sailors to decrease the sail area, providing better control in challenging weather conditions.

– Types: There are various types of sails, each specifically designed for different purposes. Common sail types include mainsails, jibs, genoas, spinnakers, and storm sails. Each type possesses its own unique characteristics and is utilized under specific wind conditions.

Understanding the sail and its characteristics is vital for sailors, as it directly influences the boat’s speed, maneuverability, and overall safety on the water.

Getting ready to rig a sailboat requires careful preparation and attention to detail. In this section, we’ll dive into the essential steps you need to take before setting sail. From checking the weather conditions to gathering the necessary tools and equipment, and inspecting the rigging components, we’ll ensure that you’re fully equipped to navigate the open waters with confidence. So, let’s get started on our journey to successfully rigging a sailboat!

1. Checking the Weather Conditions

Checking the weather conditions is crucial before rigging a sailboat for a safe and enjoyable sailing experience. Monitoring the wind speed is important in order to assess the ideal sailing conditions . By checking the wind speed forecast , you can determine if the wind is strong or light . Strong winds can make sailboat control difficult, while very light winds can result in slow progress.

Another important factor to consider is the wind direction . Assessing the wind direction is crucial for route planning and sail adjustment. Favorable wind direction helps propel the sailboat efficiently, making your sailing experience more enjoyable.

In addition to wind speed and direction, it is also important to consider weather patterns . Keep an eye out for impending storms or heavy rain. It is best to avoid sailing in severe weather conditions that may pose a safety risk. Safety should always be a top priority when venturing out on a sailboat.

Another aspect to consider is visibility . Ensure good visibility by checking for fog, haze, or any other conditions that may hinder navigation. Clear visibility is important for being aware of other boats and potential obstacles that may come your way.

Be aware of the local conditions . Take into account factors such as sea breezes, coastal influences, or tidal currents. These local factors greatly affect sailboat performance and safety. By considering all of these elements, you can have a successful and enjoyable sailing experience.

Here’s a true story to emphasize the importance of checking the weather conditions. One sunny afternoon, a group of friends decided to go sailing. Before heading out, they took the time to check the weather conditions. They noticed that the wind speed was expected to be around 10 knots, which was perfect for their sailboat. The wind direction was coming from the northwest, allowing for a pleasant upwind journey. With clear visibility and no approaching storms, they set out confidently, enjoying a smooth and exhilarating sail. This positive experience was made possible by their careful attention to checking the weather conditions beforehand.

2. Gathering the Necessary Tools and Equipment

To efficiently gather all of the necessary tools and equipment for rigging a sailboat, follow these simple steps:

  • First and foremost, carefully inspect your toolbox to ensure that you have all of the basic tools such as wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers.
  • Make sure to check if you have a tape measure or ruler available as they are essential for precise measurements of ropes or cables.
  • Don’t forget to include a sharp knife or rope cutter in your arsenal as they will come in handy for cutting ropes or cables to the desired lengths.
  • Gather all the required rigging hardware including shackles, pulleys, cleats, and turnbuckles.
  • It is always prudent to check for spare ropes or cables in case replacements are needed during the rigging process.
  • If needed, consider having a sailing knife or marlinspike tool for splicing ropes or cables.
  • For rigging a larger sailboat, it is crucial to have a mast crane or hoist to assist with stepping the mast.
  • Ensure that you have a ladder or some other means of reaching higher parts of the sailboat, such as the top of the mast.

Once, during the preparation of rigging my sailboat, I had a moment of realization when I discovered that I had forgotten to bring a screwdriver . This unfortunate predicament occurred while I was in a remote location with no nearby stores. Being resourceful, I improvised by utilizing a multipurpose tool with a small knife blade, which served as a makeshift screwdriver. Although it was not the ideal solution, it allowed me to accomplish the task. Since that incident, I have learned the importance of double-checking my toolbox before commencing any rigging endeavor. This practice ensures that I have all of the necessary tools and equipment, preventing any unexpected surprises along the way.

3. Inspecting the Rigging Components

Inspecting the rigging components is essential for rigging a sailboat safely. Here is a step-by-step guide on inspecting the rigging components:

1. Visually inspect the mast, boom, and standing rigging for damage, such as corrosion, cracks, or loose fittings.

2. Check the tension of the standing rigging using a tension gauge. It should be within the recommended range from the manufacturer.

3. Examine the turnbuckles, clevis pins, and shackles for wear or deformation. Replace any damaged or worn-out hardware.

4. Inspect the running rigging, including halyards and sheets, for fraying, signs of wear, or weak spots. Replace any worn-out lines.

5. Check the sail for tears, wear, or missing hardware such as grommets or luff tape.

6. Pay attention to the connections between the standing rigging and the mast. Ensure secure connections without any loose or missing cotter pins or rigging screws.

7. Inspect all fittings, such as mast steps, spreader brackets, and tangs, to ensure they are securely fastened and in good condition.

8. Conduct a sea trial to assess the rigging’s performance and make necessary adjustments.

Regularly inspecting the rigging components is crucial for maintaining the sailboat’s rigging system’s integrity, ensuring safe sailing conditions, and preventing accidents or failures at sea.

Once, I went sailing on a friend’s boat without inspecting the rigging components beforehand. While at sea, a sudden gust of wind caused one of the shrouds to snap. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but we had to cut the sail loose and carefully return to the marina. This incident taught me the importance of inspecting the rigging components before sailing to avoid unforeseen dangers.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Rig a Sailboat

Get ready to set sail with our step-by-step guide on rigging a sailboat ! We’ll take you through the process from start to finish, covering everything from stepping the mast to setting up the running rigging . Learn the essential techniques and tips for each sub-section, including attaching the standing rigging and installing the boom and sails . Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a beginner, this guide will have you ready to navigate the open waters with confidence .

1. Stepping the Mast

To step the mast of a sailboat, follow these steps:

1. Prepare the mast: Position the mast near the base of the boat.

2. Attach the base plate: Securely fasten the base plate to the designated area on the boat.

3. Insert the mast step: Lower the mast step into the base plate and align it with the holes or slots.

4. Secure the mast step: Use fastening screws or bolts to fix the mast step in place.

5. Raise the mast: Lift the mast upright with the help of one or more crew members.

6. Align the mast: Adjust the mast so that it is straight and aligned with the boat’s centerline.

7. Attach the shrouds: Connect the shrouds to the upper section of the mast, ensuring proper tension.

8. Secure the forestay: Attach the forestay to the bow of the boat, ensuring it is securely fastened.

9. Final adjustments: Check the tension of the shrouds and forestay, making any necessary rigging adjustments.

Following these steps ensures that the mast is properly stepped and securely in place, allowing for a safe and efficient rigging process. Always prioritize safety precautions and follow manufacturer guidelines for your specific sailboat model.

2. Attaching the Standing Rigging

To attach the standing rigging on a sailboat, commence by preparing the essential tools and equipment, including wire cutters, crimping tools, and turnbuckles.

Next, carefully inspect the standing rigging components for any indications of wear or damage.

After inspection, fasten the bottom ends of the shrouds and stays to the chainplates on the deck.

Then, securely affix the top ends of the shrouds and stays to the mast using adjustable turnbuckles .

To ensure proper tension, adjust the turnbuckles accordingly until the mast is upright and centered.

Utilize a tension gauge to measure the tension in the standing rigging, aiming for around 15-20% of the breaking strength of the rigging wire.

Double-check all connections and fittings to verify their security and proper tightness.

It is crucial to regularly inspect the standing rigging for any signs of wear or fatigue and make any necessary adjustments or replacements.

By diligently following these steps, you can effectively attach the standing rigging on your sailboat, ensuring its stability and safety while on the water.

3. Installing the Boom and Sails

To successfully complete the installation of the boom and sails on a sailboat, follow these steps:

1. Begin by securely attaching the boom to the mast. Slide it into the gooseneck fitting and ensure it is firmly fastened using a boom vang or another appropriate mechanism.

2. Next, attach the main sail to the boom. Slide the luff of the sail into the mast track and securely fix it in place using sail slides or cars.

3. Connect the mainsheet to the boom. One end should be attached to the boom while the other end is connected to a block or cleat on the boat.

4. Proceed to attach the jib or genoa. Make sure to securely attach the hanks or furler line to the forestay to ensure stability.

5. Connect the jib sheets. One end of each jib sheet should be attached to the clew of the jib or genoa, while the other end is connected to a block or winch on the boat.

6. Before setting sail, it is essential to thoroughly inspect all lines and connections. Ensure that they are properly tensioned and that all connections are securely fastened.

During my own experience of installing the boom and sails on my sailboat, I unexpectedly encountered a strong gust of wind. As a result, the boom began swinging uncontrollably, requiring me to quickly secure it to prevent any damage. This particular incident served as a vital reminder of the significance of properly attaching and securing the boom, as well as the importance of being prepared for unforeseen weather conditions while rigging a sailboat.

4. Setting Up the Running Rigging

Setting up the running rigging on a sailboat involves several important steps. First, attach the halyard securely to the head of the sail. Then, connect the sheets to the clew of the sail. If necessary, make sure to secure the reefing lines . Attach the outhaul line to the clew of the sail and connect the downhaul line to the tack of the sail. It is crucial to ensure that all lines are properly cleated and organized. Take a moment to double-check the tension and alignment of each line. If you are using a roller furling system, carefully wrap the line around the furling drum and securely fasten it. Perform a thorough visual inspection of the running rigging to check for any signs of wear or damage. Properly setting up the running rigging is essential for safe and efficient sailing. It allows for precise control of the sail’s position and shape, ultimately optimizing the boat’s performance on the water.

Safety Considerations and Tips

When it comes to rigging a sailboat, safety should always be our top priority. In this section, we’ll explore essential safety considerations and share some valuable tips to ensure smooth sailing. From the importance of wearing a personal flotation device to securing loose ends and lines, and being cautious around overhead power lines, we’ll equip you with the knowledge and awareness needed for a safe and enjoyable sailing experience. So, let’s set sail and dive into the world of safety on the water!

1. Always Wear a Personal Flotation Device

When rigging a sailboat, it is crucial to prioritize safety and always wear a personal flotation device ( PFD ). Follow these steps to properly use a PFD:

  • Select the appropriate Coast Guard-approved PFD that fits your size and weight.
  • Put on the PFD correctly by placing your arms through the armholes and securing all the straps for a snug fit .
  • Adjust the PFD for comfort , ensuring it is neither too tight nor too loose, allowing freedom of movement and adequate buoyancy .
  • Regularly inspect the PFD for any signs of wear or damage, such as tears or broken straps, and replace any damaged PFDs immediately .
  • Always wear your PFD when on or near the water, even if you are a strong swimmer .

By always wearing a personal flotation device and following these steps, you will ensure your safety and reduce the risk of accidents while rigging a sailboat. Remember, prioritize safety when enjoying water activities.

2. Secure Loose Ends and Lines

Inspect lines and ropes for frayed or damaged areas. Secure loose ends and lines with knots or appropriate cleats or clamps. Ensure all lines are properly tensioned to prevent loosening during sailing. Double-check all connections and attachments for security. Use additional safety measures like extra knots or stopper knots to prevent line slippage.

To ensure a safe sailing experience , it is crucial to secure loose ends and lines properly . Neglecting this important step can lead to accidents or damage to the sailboat. By inspecting, securing, and tensioning lines , you can have peace of mind knowing that everything is in place. Replace or repair any compromised lines or ropes promptly. Securing loose ends and lines allows for worry-free sailing trips .

3. Be Mindful of Overhead Power Lines

When rigging a sailboat, it is crucial to be mindful of overhead power lines for safety. It is important to survey the area for power lines before rigging the sailboat. Maintain a safe distance of at least 10 feet from power lines. It is crucial to avoid hoisting tall masts or long antenna systems near power lines to prevent contact. Lower the mast and tall structures when passing under a power line to minimize the risk of contact. It is also essential to be cautious in areas where power lines run over the water and steer clear to prevent accidents.

A true story emphasizes the importance of being mindful of overhead power lines. In this case, a group of sailors disregarded safety precautions and their sailboat’s mast made contact with a low-hanging power line, resulting in a dangerous electrical shock. Fortunately, no serious injuries occurred, but it serves as a stark reminder of the need to be aware of power lines while rigging a sailboat.

Some Facts About How To Rig A Sailboat:

  • ✅ Small sailboat rigging projects can improve sailing performance and save money. (Source: stingysailor.com)
  • ✅ Rigging guides are available for small sailboats, providing instructions and tips for rigging. (Source: westcoastsailing.net)
  • ✅ Running rigging includes lines used to control and trim the sails, such as halyards and sheets. (Source: sailingellidah.com)
  • ✅ Hardware used in sailboat rigging includes winches, blocks, and furling systems. (Source: sailingellidah.com)
  • ✅ A step-by-step guide can help beginners rig a small sailboat for sailing. (Source: tripsavvy.com)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. how do i rig a small sailboat.

To rig a small sailboat, follow these steps: – Install or check the rudder, ensuring it is firmly attached. – Attach or check the tiller, the long steering arm mounted to the rudder. – Attach the jib halyard by connecting the halyard shackle to the head of the sail and the grommet in the tack to the bottom of the forestay. – Hank on the jib by attaching the hanks of the sail to the forestay one at a time. – Run the jib sheets by tying or shackling them to the clew of the sail and running them back to the cockpit. – Attach the mainsail by spreading it out and attaching the halyard shackle to the head of the sail. – Secure the tack, clew, and foot of the mainsail to the boom using various lines and mechanisms. – Insert the mainsail slugs into the mast groove, gradually raising the mainsail as the slugs are inserted. – Cleat the main halyard and lower the centerboard into the water. – Raise the jib by pulling down on the jib halyard and cleating it on the other side of the mast. – Tighten the mainsheet and one jibsheet to adjust the sails and start moving forward.

2. What are the different types of sailboat rigs?

Sailboat rigs can be classified into three main types: – Sloop rig: This rig has a single mast with a mainsail and a headsail, typically a jib or genoa. – Cutter rig: This rig has two headsails, a smaller jib or staysail closer to the mast, and a larger headsail, usually a genoa, forward of it, alongside a mainsail. – Ketch rig: This rig has two masts, with the main mast taller than the mizzen mast. It usually has a mainsail, headsail, and a mizzen sail. Each rig has distinct characteristics and is suitable for different sailing conditions and preferences.

3. What are the essential parts of a sailboat?

The essential parts of a sailboat include: – Mast: The tall vertical spar that supports the sails. – Boom: The horizontal spar connected to the mast, which extends outward and supports the foot of the mainsail. – Rudder: The underwater appendage that steers the boat. – Centerboard or keel: A retractable or fixed fin-like structure that provides stability and prevents sideways drift. – Sails: The fabric structures that capture the wind’s energy to propel the boat. – Running rigging: The lines or ropes used to control the sails and sailing equipment. – Standing rigging: The wires and cables that support the mast and reinforce the spars. These are the basic components necessary for the functioning of a sailboat.

4. What is a spinnaker halyard?

A spinnaker halyard is a line used to hoist and control a spinnaker sail. The spinnaker is a large, lightweight sail that is used for downwind sailing or reaching in moderate to strong winds. The halyard attaches to the head of the spinnaker and is used to raise it to the top of the mast. Once hoisted, the spinnaker halyard can be adjusted to control the tension and shape of the sail.

5. Why is it important to maintain and replace worn running rigging?

It is important to maintain and replace worn running rigging for several reasons: – Safety: Worn or damaged rigging can compromise the integrity and stability of the boat, posing a safety risk to both crew and vessel. – Performance: Worn rigging can affect the efficiency and performance of the sails, diminishing the boat’s speed and maneuverability. – Reliability: Aging or worn rigging is more prone to failure, which can lead to unexpected problems and breakdowns. Regular inspection and replacement of worn running rigging is essential to ensure the safe and efficient operation of a sailboat.

6. Where can I find sailboat rigging books or guides?

There are several sources where you can find sailboat rigging books or guides: – Online: Websites such as West Coast Sailing and Stingy Sailor offer downloadable rigging guides for different sailboat models. – Bookstores: Many bookstores carry a wide selection of boating and sailing books, including those specifically focused on sailboat rigging. – Sailing schools and clubs: Local sailing schools or yacht clubs often have resources available for learning about sailboat rigging. – Manufacturers: Some sailboat manufacturers, like Hobie Cat and RS Sailing, provide rigging guides for their specific sailboat models. Consulting these resources can provide valuable information and instructions for rigging your sailboat properly.

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    The Forestay goes from the top of the mast to the bow of the boat - on Eurybia this is part of the jib furler and is not part of this re-rig. The Backstay goes from the top of the mast to the stern of the boat. On Eurybia there is an upper backstay about 20′ long, then a junction where two lower backstays proceed to a point on either side ...

  8. Tuning A Sailboat Rig

    On a typical cruiser, say up to about 35 feet, there will generally be one forestay, one backstay, and two shrouds on each side. To get the best performance from your boat and sails, the rigging needs to be set up correctly — often called "tuning the rig." The rig should be tuned with the boat in the water on a day with little to no wind.

  9. Backstay Tensioner

    Backstay Tensioner. Easy Upgrades: #1 of a seriesEvery fractionally rigged boat will have (or should have) a means of adjusting backstay tension. Its main purpose is to flatten and depower the mainsail in stronger winds, putting off the time at which a reef will be required. Because very few masthead-rigged boats are provided with backstay ...

  10. Getting the Most From Your Backstay

    When the backstay is eased, the top of the mainsail is much fuller, creating a more powerful shape. Mike Ingham. When the backstay is tensioned, the main is noticeably flatter, especially near the ...

  11. Standing Rigging (or 'Name That Stay')

    A sailboat's standing rigging is generally built from wire rope, rod, or occasionally a super-strong synthetic fibered rope such as Dyneema ®, carbon fiber, kevlar or PBO. 1×19 316 grade stainless steel Wire Rope (1 group of 19 wires, very stiff with low stretch) is standard on most sailboats. Wire rope is sized/priced by its diameter which ...

  12. Know-how: Modern Rigs 101

    A boat with a fractional rig, on the other hand, had its forestay attached 3/4 to 7/8 of the distance from the cabintop to masthead, had well-swept spreaders, carried a larger mainsail and smaller jib, and had a spar that was designed to be tweaked with adjustable backstay tension.

  13. Backstay

    Backstay. A backstay is a piece of standing rigging on a sailing vessel that runs from the mast to either its transom or rear quarter, counteracting the forestay and jib. It is an important sail trim control and has a direct effect on the shape of the mainsail and the headsail. Backstays are generally adjusted by block and tackle, hydraulic ...

  14. Harken Boasts Best Overall Quality Among Backstay Adjusters

    As with virtually all Harken gear, the Harken backstay adjuster is a quality piece of work. Made in Italy by Barbarossa (which Harken owns), it comes in four sizes (pin sizes from 1/2″ to 3/4″) and standard strokes from 5-1/2″ to 8-11/16″, with custom lengths available in the two larger models. The 7/16″ and 1/2″ pin models have ...

  15. Running backstay

    Running backstay. A running backstay is a rigging component on a sailboat which helps support the mast. [1] [2] A running backstay runs from each lateral corner of the stern to the mast at the level where the forestay begins in the fractional rig. Because they are attached low on the mast, they can present a significant problem in an accidental ...

  16. When do I use my backstay?

    The backstay is a powerful tool and you should introduce it to your toolbox for more than just keeping the rig in the boat. No matter what the rig type or stiffness the tensioning the backstay keeps the headstay from sagging. Headstay sag equals extra power in the headsail, so when you don't want the power (heeling too much) use the backstay. On boats with rigs that bend, the backstay helps ...

  17. Standing Rigging: How Tight Is Right?

    There are a few sailors who like the rigging so tight you could send an elephant up the backstay. It can result in excessive loads and wear on fittings, chain plates and the hull. The ultimate penalty for those who can't stand any sag in the forestay is what ocean racing sailors call a gravity storm or, less dramatically, dropping the rig.

  18. Inspecting, Maintaining and Replacing Standing Rigging

    Aug 14, 2015. It's one of the most important features on a sailboat, but many owners put standing rigging at the back of their minds when it comes time to do their pre-season safety checks. A prudent sailor should inspect his or her standing rig at least once each season and should know when the time comes to replace most or all of it.

  19. Backstay & Babystay Rigging

    A backstay is a part of the standing rigging that runs from the mast to back of the boat, counteracting the forestay and headsail. It is an important sail trim control and has a direct effect on the shape of the mainsail and the headsail. Backstays are generally adjusted by block and tackle, hydraulic adjusters, or lines leading to winches.

  20. Standing rigging: step by step guide on how to tune it on your sailboat

    The backstay is both an element of the standing rigging but can also be tuned. Global Ocean Race. Tensioning the backstay, the central part of the mast advances forward creating a slight "C" shape of the mast seen from the side. This curvature lets you bring the "fat" of the mainsail forward flattening the sail.

  21. Fractional Rig: Everything You Need to Know

    Its angle and tension can be adjusted to optimize sail trim and overall rig balance. 3. Backstay: Unlike a conventional rig where the backstay connects at the masthead, in fractional rigs, it attaches lower down - generally above or just below the intersection point with the forestay. Adjusting its tension further influences mast bend and ...

  22. Sailboat Stays and Shrouds: Essential Rigging Components Explained

    It is responsible for supporting most of the fore-and-aft loads acting upon a sailboat rigging system, keeping the mast in position while under tension from sails. 2. Backstay: The backstay runs from the top of the mast to either stern or transom fittings at the aft end of a sailboat.

  23. How To Rig A Sailboat

    To step the mast of a sailboat, follow these steps: 1. Prepare the mast: Position the mast near the base of the boat. 2. Attach the base plate: Securely fasten the base plate to the designated area on the boat. 3. Insert the mast step: Lower the mast step into the base plate and align it with the holes or slots. 4.