Sailboat Rigging – It’s in the Details

If you have helped assemble a dinghy in your club parking lot, hauled in the sheets on a cruiser, or ground the pedestal on a big race boat, you’ve participated in making changes to a boat’s rigging. Even to seasoned veteran sailors, the intricacies of rigging can be mysterious. Terms like swage, nicropress, and splice all begin to be used. In truth, a good rigger is worth his weight in gold. Being able to identify issues before they fail and keeping a fleet on a regular maintenance schedule so things don’t fail is paramount to safe sailing. Rigging failure usually equals a really bad day.

Rigging on a sailboat can take many forms. The two broad categories are “standing” and “running.” Standing rigging includes everything that is fixed and you only adjust occasionally. This can take the form of the mast, wires or rods holding the masts, and the devices that attach those wires to the boat and the mast. I also typically include things like lifelines, bimini bracings, and other fixed items around the boat. Running rigging includes everything that helps control the boat and is movable. So the sheets, blocks, and other control lines.

If you get into rigging in any depth (and if you own a boat for any length of time, you will), you will begin to understand more about types and construction of the wires that make up your shrouds and your stays. You will probably learn about things like mast rake, how to use a Loos gauge, fractional v/s masthead rigs, and how the complex system of stays can affect the bend in different parts of your mast. You will get to make decisions on replacement halyards and sheets and the size and material they are made out of.

When you get a new (to you) boat, if the owner didn’t show you or if this boat type is new to you, there is a good chance that there will be some time spent standing around with your friends and some beverages guessing what goes where. After rigging a few boats, you might even get that invite from a friend! If you are part of a one-design fleet, there will be plenty of help. If you are a one-off in your marina, chances are the manufacturer or your local marine service center can help you.

We will continue to cover topics on rigging here on the Desert Wind Sailboats Blog, and if you ever have any questions, please give us a call. We love to talk to people about their boats!

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