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DIY of standing rigging with compression fittings

  • Thread starter Avi
  • Start date Apr 30, 2023
  • Forums for All Owners
  • Ask All Sailors

What are the risks of replacing all standing riggings to a compression fittings or swageless , with sta lok or norseman by myself? I watch many people doing it on YouTube with no special difficulties. I am thinking of doing it myself is there anything in particular I need to pay attention? The money saving is what I need because I am doing a major refit on my S2 9.2C and the expenses are overwhelming. Is Norseman better then Sta lok? Any advice will be appropriated  





Avi said: What are the risks of replacing all standing riggings to a compression fittings or swageless , with sta lok or norseman by myself? I watch many people doing it on YouTube with no special difficulties. I am thinking of doing it myself is there anything in particular I need to pay attention? The money saving is what I need because I am doing a major refit on my S2 9.2C and the expenses are overwhelming. Is Norseman better then Sta lok? Any advice will be appropriated Click to expand

diy sailboat rigging

Just a word of caution .. be sure to use some kind of anti seize on the threads of the mechanical fitting. We tried to use one to fix a broken backstay and could not get the new fitting apart; heat, breaker bars, impact driver on a crowfoot.. nothing would budge it.  

Captain Larry-DH

Captain Larry-DH

@Avi re: photo 4. The easiest way to cut wire rope with a clean (unsplayed) edge is with a rotary tool cutoff wheel.  


SBO Weather and Forecasting Forum Jim & John

  • Strengthen rigging to improve function of open water cruising.
  • Mitigate by design the potential for corrosion in rigging.
  • Improve running rigging systems to optimize mast base management.
  • Add running rigging options for spinnaker and stay sail.
  • Rewire all electrical systems.

Thank you all for the reply, I always learn something and get educated from all the feed backs  

Scott T-Bird

Scott T-Bird

I think to summarize the reasons why many sailors choose mechanical fittings are: 1) Mechanical fittings are more of an investment to reduce costs when rigging needs to be replaced in the future. They are considered to be re-usable when you need to purchase new wire. But they are not a more economical choice with the initial purchase. 2) Mechanical fittings are geared towards the DIY sailor who may not have access to swaged fittings in remote areas when the rigging may need replacement. 3) Many DIY sailors have more confidence in measuring and cutting the rigging on their own and doing the job independently. There are some who just do not trust others to do these jobs. If you don't fit in those categories, I'd suggest that mechanical fittings may not be your best choice.  

I'll also suggest that with a major refit, as you describe, the best strategy is to focus on the jobs that you know that you will have to do yourself to save money. Rigging is not one of those jobs. The time you save farming this job to a good rigger will be well worth it. This job will probably be done with less expense (especially if you value your own time properly) if it is done by a rigger with swage machinery. I have no doubt that you can readily find several competent riggers who will offer competitive pricing. The job will be done quickly, and well, without any stress on yourself. If this rigging is 20 years old or older (or you don't even know the age), my advise is to do this job for sure and don't put it off. Peace of mind doesn't come for free, but it is priceless once you have it. So, good for you having this task on the front burner.  


Good points, @Scott T-Bird . I was thinking of doing my own, having lengths of wire made with swaged fittings at the top, those Navtec-style "T" fittings, and Hi-Mod mechanical fittings at the bottom. In 2017 I costed it out from Rigging Only on Fairhaven, MA (only 10 minutes from where I now live!) at about $2,000. I would have to terminate all of the lower fittings. Now, Hi-Mod terminals have doubled in cost since then!!! I'm thinking I should just have them come to my boat, measure, and fabricate the rigging with swaged fittings at both ends. Update on costs: Navtec swaged "T" fittings up 30% from 2017 to now. Wow.  


Scott T-Bird said: I think to summarize the reasons why many sailors choose mechanical fittings are: 1) Mechanical fittings are more of an investment to reduce costs when rigging needs to be replaced in the future. They are considered to be re-usable when you need to purchase new wire. But they are not a more economical choice with the initial purchase. 2) Mechanical fittings are geared towards the DIY sailor who may not have access to swaged fittings in remote areas when the rigging may need replacement. 3) Many DIY sailors have more confidence in measuring and cutting the rigging on their own and doing the job independently. There are some who just do not trust others to do these jobs. If you don't fit in those categories, I'd suggest that mechanical fittings may not be your best choice. Click to expand
dLj said: The main reason in my mind is the higher reliability of these fasteners. These kinds of mechanical fasteners are rated for "overhead" application but swagged fittings are not. Click to expand
Scott T-Bird said: Not knowing any different, I'll go along with what you say about reliability ... except that I've never heard that the reliability of swaged fittings on sailboats is really a factor worth worrying about for the typical sailor. My premonition is that increased reliability is just a meaningless argument for the DIY sailor to add in the pro column for justification of their choice. Just by sampling some reading, one rigger whom offers both services seems to suggest that mechanical fittings can be harder on the wire than swaged fittings, but defects or damages are more easily spotted with mechanical fittings, so it (how well they perform) may be a wash, depending more upon how well each alternative is actually performed by the rigger. Click to expand

There's the fatigue aspect not captured in the above, but the poured fittings have always been considered the "gold standard" in wire rope fittings. When I worked in that area, it was the only fitting permitted. Of course, the sizes we worked with would never have been below at least 1/2" and more at the 1" and above. I'd be very interested to see if you can find fatigue ratings for the different fittings. Love the numbers for the swaged fittings. dj p.s. an overhead rating does not mean you get 100% strength of the wire rope, it's that the strength that you achieve is reliable and does not change over time and usage. Of course within reason...  


Be that as it may, swaged fittings are the dominant rigging system in the sailboat industry. You occasionally (rarely) hear of rigs failing due to rigging failure, but I venture to guess that a poor configuration [1] or an aged rig is to blame. [1] An example of a poor configuration would be where there is not a straight pull from a swaged fitting, i.e., a toggle is called for but not installed. The non-straight pull stresses the wire where it exits the fitting. My Catalina 36 had this issue with the shrouds, and I installed toggles.  

jviss said: Be that as it may, swaged fittings are the dominant rigging system in the sailboat industry. You occasionally (rarely) hear of rigs failing due to rigging failure, but I venture to guess that a poor configuration [1] or an aged rig is to blame. [1] An example of a poor configuration would be where there is not a straight pull from a swaged fitting, i.e., a toggle is called for but not installed. The non-straight pull stresses the wire where it exits the fitting. My Catalina 36 had this issue with the shrouds, and I installed toggles. Click to expand
Scott T-Bird said: Not that there isn't the odd sailor who does consider it Click to expand
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Sail Away Blog

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

Alex Morgan

diy sailboat rigging

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:
  • ✅ Rigging guides are available for small sailboats, providing instructions and tips for rigging. (Source:
  • ✅ Running rigging includes lines used to control and trim the sails, such as halyards and sheets. (Source:
  • ✅ Hardware used in sailboat rigging includes winches, blocks, and furling systems. (Source:
  • ✅ A step-by-step guide can help beginners rig a small sailboat for sailing. (Source:

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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Practical Boat Owner

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How to set up your rig: tension your shrouds on masthead or fractional

David Harding

  • David Harding
  • March 15, 2021

How to set up three common types of rig: the traditional masthead with a single set of in-line spreaders, single-spreader swept fractional rigs, and fractional rigs with two sets of swept spreaders. David Harding reports

diy sailboat rigging

How to set up your rig : tension your shrouds on masthead or fractional

If boats were cars, many of those I see sailing along would be coughing and spluttering down the motorway at 35mph in third gear with three flat tyres and a smoky exhaust. Others would cruise past in top gear at 70, making half the noise and using a fraction of the fuel.

Would these top-gear drivers be working any harder? Would they have cars that were faster by design and more expensive? Not at all. They would simply be the ones who had pumped up their tyres, learned their way around the gearbox and had their engines serviced.

diy sailboat rigging

It’s worth keeping an eye on your leeward cap shrouds during early-season outings after the mast has been re-stepped. The ones on this yacht could do with a little more tension

The obvious question, then, is why so many boat owners seem to leave their quest for efficiency and economy on the dockside.

One answer is that many are unaware how inefficiently their boats are performing. Another is that there’s no MOT for sailing boats and no driving test to make sure people know how to sail them (thank goodness on both counts).

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that an efficient rig is fundamental. If the rig’s not right, the sails have no hope of setting properly.

And that’s important whether you’re racing or cruising, because sailors of both persuasions ultimately want the same: maximum lift for minimum drag.

For racers, that means more speed and better results. They carry more sail because they have more crew to handle it and more weight on the rail to balance it.

Cruisers carry less sail but, if it works efficiently, it means less heel, less leeway, better pointing, less tacking, a lighter helm and greater comfort than if it’s working inefficiently – plus the ability to get home before night falls or the pub shuts. Who can object to that?

What matters is that the sail you’re carrying is driving you forwards, not pushing you sideways.

When I question cruising sailors about the state of their rig I often get the reply ‘Oh it doesn’t matter – I’m not racing!’.

Those I know who have done something about it, however, have been delighted by the transformation their boats have undergone and have had to agree that cruising fast and comfortably is definitely better.

Setting up your boat rigging

In this article we’re going to look at how to set up the three most common types of rig: the traditional masthead with a single set of in-line spreaders, single-spreader swept fractional rigs, and fractional rigs with two sets of swept spreaders.

For simplicity we’re assuming the use of 1×19 rigging except where mentioned otherwise.

Variations in rig type are almost infinite by the time you take into account deck-stepped and keel-stepped masts, masthead rigs with swept spreaders, jumper struts, fractional rigs with in-line spreaders, and so on.

Once you understand the basics, however, you’ll find that you can apply your knowledge to good effect on most types of rig.

Rig-tuning is not only for the experts. Experience helps, of course, and a multiple-spreader fractional rig is harder to tune than an old tree-trunk of a masthead rig from the 1970s.

Nonetheless, with practice, a good eye and some observation you will probably find you can set it up pretty well.

You might want to call in a rigger or an experienced rig-tweaker to help or to do it for you the first time, and perhaps to check it periodically thereafter, but at least if you know what to look for you’ll notice when anything needs adjusting.

A word of warning when it comes to boatyards that have re-stepped your mast: sometimes re-stepping means just that and no more.

I have been on boats whose owners have assumed that the yard had set up the rig, whereas in fact it had just been dropped in and the bottlescrews hand-tensioned to stop it falling over.

It’s scary to think of the number of boats that must have been sailed in this condition.

What you will need to tune your rig Essential A calm day: don’t try setting up your rig in more than a few knots of wind A boat that’s floating level fore-and-aft (and preferably laterally as well) Screwdriver/lever bar Spanners (fixed or adjustable) Needle-nose pliers for split-pins Electrical insulation or self-amalgamating tape Lubricant for bottlescrews Tape measure (folding/small cassette type, or ideally folding rule) Useful Spring balance Long tape-measure Rig-tension gauge

The importance of enough tension: Why tight is right

If you think you’re being kind to your boat by leaving the rigging slack, think again. It’s true that some keelboats (such as Squibs and XODs) sail with the leeward cap shroud waving around in the wind, but that doesn’t work on yachts designed to go to sea.

Rigging that’s under-tensioned puts infinitely more load on the wire, bottlescrews, terminals and hull structure because of the snatch loads every time the boat falls off a wave. When it hits the bottom of the trough, anything that’s free to move gets thrown forwards and sideways before being brought up short by whatever happens to be in the way to stop it. That applies to the crew, to loose gear down below or to the mast. Think of the inertia to which a mast is subjected because of its height, and you can imagine the loads involved.

If the rigging is sensibly tight, on the other hand, movement and the consequent stresses are minimised.

Boats are built to withstand the static loads of a properly-tensioned rig, but asking them to cope with constant snatch loading is unfair – so don’t kill your boat with kindness.

As we discuss in the sections on the types of rig (below), masthead configurations with in-line spreaders need less cap-shroud tension than swept-spreader fractional rigs. This is because in-line caps are only supporting the mast laterally. The backstay stops it moving forwards, so each wire has a separate, clearly-defined role.

Aft-swept caps support the mast both laterally and fore-and-aft. Being swept aft typically about 25°, they need to be under a lot of tension to keep the forestay tight. Because they’re also at a much shallower angle to the mast, they bear between three and five times the load of the forestay.

With fractional rigs, then, it’s vital to keep the cap shrouds tight. If they’re too loose, the forestay will sag too much, the headsail will become too full and its leech will be too tight. Then the boat will become unbalanced, heel too far, make more leeway and lose both speed and pointing ability.

Structurally, under-tensioned rigging with a swept-spreader rig presents a problem in addition to the issue of snatch loading. Tension in the leeward cap shroud is important in keeping the mast in column, to the extent that Loos and Co (the manufacturer of the popular rig-tension gauges) states that a mast loses 50% of its lateral stiffness when the leeward cap goes slack. When this happens, the mast is effectively hinging around the forestay and the windward cap shroud and is far more prone to pumping as the boat bounces around.

The main reason why under-tensioned rigs on cruising boats stay standing as they do is that manufacturers build in enormous margins.

Even so, proper tension means better performance and greater safety. The ‘it doesn’t matter – I’m only cruising’ excuse for slack rigging just doesn’t cut it!

How to measure rig tension

diy sailboat rigging

This Loos gauge (left image) is indicating that the 6mm wire in the cap shroud is at 22% of its breaking strain (730kg). To measure the stretch, extend a tape measure (right) (or ideally a folding rule) to 2,000mm and mark this distance up the wire…

diy sailboat rigging

…but start with the end of the tape a couple of millimetres above the top of the swaging. As the wire is tensioned it will stretch, increasing the gap below the end of the tape.

Experienced riggers and rig-tweakers will often tension the rigging at the dockside by feel, then sight up the mast and make any adjustments under way.

Most people aren’t confident enough to do this, though – so what are the best ways to check the tension as you wind down the bottlescrews?

The simplest and quickest way is to use a rig-tension meter, such as the Loos gauge. Once you know the diameter of the wire, it will give you the load both in kg and as a percentage of its breaking strain.

The gauge for rigging of 5m and 6mm (and up to 14% of breaking strain on 7mm) typically costs around £65, while the bigger version for wire from 7mm to 10mm is closer to £200.

If you don’t have a tension gauge, you can calculate the percentage of a wire’s breaking strain by measuring its stretch, normally over a distance of 2m: when 1×19 wire has stretched by 1mm over a 2,000mm length, it’s at 5% of its breaking load whatever its diameter.

Most cruising boats have rigging made from 1×19 wire. On sportier boats it might be Dyform or rod, in which case 5% of breaking load is indicated by stretch of 0.95 and 0.7mm respectively. For the purpose or our illustrations we’ll assume 1×19.

For accurate measurement the rigging needs to be completely slack. Hold the end of the tape a couple of millimetres above the top of the swaging, then measure 2,000mm up the wire, secure the other end of the tape here and start tensioning. When the gap between the top of the swaging and the end of the tape has increased by 1mm, you have reached 5% of the wire’s breaking strain, so 3mm equates to 15% and 5mm to 25%.

Bear in mind that 1×19 wire will be affected by bedding-in stretch during its first few outings, so new rigging will need to be re-tensioned a time or two during the first season.

Sensible precautions 1. Don’t force dry bottlescrews: keep them well lubricated. 2. Don’t use massively long tools for extra leverage on the bottlescrews. If you can feel the load, you’re less likely to strain or break anything. 3. Most boats will flex to some extent when the rig is properly tensioned. If you’re concerned about excessive bend, take it easy, use a straight edge across the deck to check for movement, and seek advice. 4. The percentages of breaking load quoted assume that the rigging is of the correct diameter as specified by the designer, builder or rigger.

How to set up a masthead rig with single in-line spreaders

This is the simplest type of rig to set up. Whether it’s keel-stepped or deck-stepped and supported by forward lowers or a babystay, it’s the same basic procedure.

Step 1: Get the mast upright athwartships

diy sailboat rigging

Measure the distance to fixed points on both sides that are symmetrical about the centreline, such as the base of the chainplates.

If you don’t have a long tape measure, use the halyard itself (this is where a spring balance can help you gauge the same tension on each side).

Centre the masthead by adjusting the port and starboard cap shrouds until the measurements are the same, then hand-tighten the bottlescrews by taking the same number of turns on each side.

Re-check and adjust as necessary.

diy sailboat rigging

A long tape measure is useful for getting the mast upright.

Step 2: Setting the rake

diy sailboat rigging

Rake is determined principally by the length of the forestay. Some roller-reefing systems allow no adjustment but you can increase length by adding toggles.

Adjust the forestay and backstay, checking the rake with a weight suspended from the end of the main halyard. One degree of rake is about 6in (15cm) in 30ft (9m).

Hand-tight on the backstay’s bottlescrew (or gentle use of the tensioner) is fine at this stage.

diy sailboat rigging

Rake is measured from the aft face of the mast, at or below boom-level. If the boat’s rocking around, suspend the weight in a bucket of water to dampen the movement.

Step 3: Tighten the cap shrouds and backstay

diy sailboat rigging

Take no more than two or three full turns on one side before doing the same on the other.

Count carefully.

You’re aiming to tension the caps to 15% of their breaking strain, measured as explained on page 41.

That might be much tighter than you’ve ever had them before!

Tension the backstay to 15% of its breaking load.

Note: Using ordinary hand-tools on the bottlescrews, it’s hard to over-tension the rigging

Step 4: Tighten the lowers / babystay

diy sailboat rigging

A mast should bend forward in the middle, though only to a small extent on masthead rigs of heavy section.

This ‘pre-bend’ is principally to counter two factors in heavy weather: increased forestay loads pulling the top of the mast forward, and the head of a reefed mainsail pulling the middle aft.

Together, they can result in the middle of the mast bowing aft, which makes it unstable and is bad for sail trim. For maximum strength in extremis it should be straight.

Use the forward lowers or babystay to pull the middle of the mast forward. The bend thus induced should be no more than half the mast’s fore-and-aft measurement.

Then take up the slack in the aft lowers.

They don’t need to be tight; they’re just countering the forward pull.

Sight up the luff groove to make sure the mast is straight laterally. Correct any deflections with the lowers.

If you set up the caps properly to start with, you should not adjust them again at this stage.

Step 5: Check the rig under sail

diy sailboat rigging

First, make sure the leeward cap shroud isn’t waving around in the breeze. You should be able to deflect it with a finger by a few inches; no more.

If it’s too loose, take a turn or two on the leeward bottlescrew, then tack and do the same on the other side.

Now sight up the back of the mast.

It should be straight athwartships and bending slightly forward in the middle.

Athwartships deflection might make it look as though the top is falling away to one side (see diagram), but it won’t be if it was centred properly in Step 1. Straighten the middle by adjusting the lowers

If it’s straight or bending aft in the middle, try increasing the backstay tension (but not beyond 30% of its breaking strain) and, if necessary, tensioning the forward lowers/babystay and slackening the aft lowers.

Remove any lateral bends by adjusting the lowers.

Once you’re happy, lock off the bottlescrews to make sure they can’t come undone.

diy sailboat rigging

Inverted bend (mast bowing aft in the middle) is bad for sail trim and potentially dangerous for the rig.

Setting up a fractional rig with single, aft-swept spreaders

Widely used on smaller cruisers and cruiser/racers, this configuration needs a very different approach from an in-line masthead rig

This stage is the same as with a masthead rig (scroll up).

Step 2: Set the rake

diy sailboat rigging

This time, however, rake is set by the forestay and cap shrouds rather than the forestay and backstay.

With a swept-spreader fractional rig it’s the cap shrouds, not the backstay, that stop the mast moving forward. They provide both fore-and-aft and lateral support, so they’re doing two jobs.

The backstay’s principal role is to control the topmast and mast-bend. Because it’s above the point where the forestay joins the mast, it’s not pulling directly against the forestay and therefore has less effect on forestay tension. How much it pulls against the forestay depends on factors including the height of the topmast, the stiffness of the mast section and the tension of the lower shrouds (which determine the bend).

Step 3: Tighten the cap shrouds

diy sailboat rigging

Forestay tension is achieved primarily through the caps, and because they’re swept back at such a shallow angle they need to be seriously tight.

Their maximum tension is 25% of breaking load, but it’s best not to tension them all the way in one go because that would result in a very bent mast: tensioning the caps pushes the spreaders, and therefore the middle of the mast, forward.

Start by taking them to about 15% of breaking load, then tighten the lowers to pull the middle of the mast back so it’s straight.

This is how the swept-spreader fractional rig works: the caps and lowers are working against each other, caps pushing and lowers pulling, to stabilise the middle of the mast. Sight up the mast when it’s straight to check for lateral deflection, correcting it with the lowers.

With a flexible mast you might need to repeat the process, taking the caps to 20% before tensioning the lowers again.

Otherwise go straight to the next stage, which is to pull on the backstay.

Since the backstays on fractional rigs often have cascade purchases at the bottom you can’t measure the tension by stretch as you can with wire, so you have to do this by feel: pull it tight, but don’t go mad.

Tensioning the backstay bends the mast and therefore shortens the distance from the hounds (where the caps join) to the deck. This loosens the caps, so it’s easier to tension them back to the 20% mark.

When you let the backstay off, the caps will tension again and should be at about 25% of breaking load – but no more.

Step 4: Set the pre-bend

diy sailboat rigging

Take a few turns on the lowers to achieve the right amount of pre-bend. It should be more than with an in-line masthead rig, but a mast should never bend to more than 2% of the height of the foretriangle even with the backstay tensioned (that’s about 180mm in 9m, or 7in in 30ft).

Check to see how far the mast bends with a tight backstay. The optimum bend will often be determined by the cut of the mainsail, or recommended by the sailmaker or class association.

Pre-bend is vital because most fractional rigs don’t have forward lowers or a babystay, so if the mast were to bend aft in the middle (inverted bend) it could collapse.

In fresh conditions, especially under spinnaker, it’s a wise precaution never to release the backstay completely. That stops the upper section of the mast being pulled too far forward.

The caps should be tighter than with a masthead rig, with no significant slack on the leeward side when the boat’s hard on the wind and heeling 15-20°.

If the static tension is up to 25% but the leeward cap is always slack, the boat might be bending. That’s a topic beyond the scope of this article!

Sight up the mast to check the bend both fore-and-aft and athwartships, adjusting the lowers as necessary.

Setting up a fractional rig with two sets of aft-swept spreaders

As mast sections have become slimmer, this is now a popular configuration on boats between 30ft (9m) and 40ft (12m) but it’s more complex to tune.

This stage is the same as with the other types of rig.

Follow the procedure as described for single-spreader fractional rigs. Generally speaking, more rake improves upwind performance but too much will induce excessive weather helm and hamper performance downwind. Getting it right might involve some trial and error.

Steps 3 & 4: Tighten the caps and set the bend

diy sailboat rigging

The same fundamentals apply as for a single-spreader rig, but this time after each tensioning of the cap shrouds, which induces bend, you have to straighten the mast by tensioning both the lowers (also known as D1s) and the intermediates (D2s).

The D1s control the bend between the deck and the upper spreaders and the D2s between the lower spreaders and the hounds, so their areas of influence overlap.

On boats where the D2s terminate at the lower spreaders you have to send someone aloft to adjust them. These are referred to as discontinuous intermediates.

If they run over the spreader tips and down to the chainplates (continuous intermediates) you can do everything from on deck.

You need to achieve an even bend fore-and-aft. If the mast is bending too much at the bottom and is too straight at the top, tighten the D1s and slacken the D2s.

S-bends can creep in athwartships and make it look as though the top of the mast is off-centre. If you set up the cap shrouds properly it shouldn’t be, so don’t fiddle with them any further now: take out the bends with the D1s and D2s.

You’re aiming for a cap-shroud tension of 20-25% of breaking strain, as with a single-spreader fractional rig, and again the sweep-back of the spreader means that the caps will be slackened as you pull on the backstay.

As with other types of rig, get the boat heeling around 20° on the wind, tension the backstay and feel the leeward cap to make sure there’s only minimal slack.

Removing any kinks and S-bends can take more tweaking of lowers and intermediates, the latter being more fiddly to adjust if they’re discontinuous.

If the masthead looks as though it’s falling off one way, it’s probably because the D2 on the opposite side is too tight.

diy sailboat rigging

Left: Windward lower too loose. Right: Windward intermediate too tight.

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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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Replacing Your Sailboat Rigging

  • By Wendy Mitman Clarke
  • Updated: March 23, 2020


Whether you’re buying a used sailboat that’s new to you or you’ve owned your boat for decades, the standing rigging is what keeps the mast in place, and thus requires particular attention. How do you know when it’s time to re-rig? There are some obvious answers to this one — for instance, if your wire rigging has broken strands or if it’s suffering from “candy-striping,” i.e., rust-colored streaks swirling down the wire. The latter may indicate two things: one, that it’s simply surface rust, which you should be able to polish off, or two, that as the wire was being manufactured, a strand might have picked up some contamination during the process and is compromised, which is cause for concern. A third visual indicator are cracks in swaged fittings, some of the most common end fittings for wire. Cracks are hard to see (use a magnifying glass), and sometimes marks that look like cracks can be left by the machine used to create the swage. Then there’s just age, and this factor as a reason to re-rig is more subject to a boat’s history than anything else.

“There’s a rule of thumb, but it varies rigger to rigger,” says Steve Madden, co-owner of M Yacht Services in Annapolis and the head of its M Rigging division. “My belief is that you should be replacing your sailboat’s standing rigging every 10 to 15 years.” But this time frame also is variable, depending on the boat’s purpose and use. For instance, for an offshore bluewater boat, Madden recommends 10 years, and for a serious coastal cruiser, more like 12.

“The biggest thing we like to have is the history of the boat: what kind of boat it is, how it’s been sailed and where has it been sailed,” says Jay Herman, owner of Annapolis Rigging. “That history will affect what kind of life you get out of your standing rigging.” Some insurance companies, he says, will require a re-rig if you’re purchasing a used boat that has standing rigging older than 15 years.

Either way, Jimmie Cockerill, co-owner of the Rigging Company in Annapolis, recommends that for a sailboat with wire rigging, the mast should be pulled and all fittings and wire visually inspected every five to six years. And although rod rigging may be able to last longer than wire, it too needs to be serviced every five to six years to get the most life out of it. Sticking to the 10-year rule, Madden says, means that for the most part, any corrosion or failure points will be eliminated with a re-rig.

How the rigging has been tuned is also part of a boat’s story. For instance, Madden says, he recently had a customer whose 46-foot cutter had a rigging failure at six years. The customer had had the boat re-rigged, and during a trip to the BVI, the new wire stretched. The owner didn’t adjust the rigging to compensate for the stretch for several seasons. “That was a case of not knowing that the worst thing you can do to standing rigging is have it loose on the leeward side,” he says. “Sailboat rigging very rarely fails from being overloaded. There’s such a safety margin in rigging. So you’re sailing offshore and you’re looking at the windward shroud that’s taut, and that’s not the one to worry about. It’s when the leeward side starts flopping around that you’re asking for trouble.”

Stainless steel has a finite number of cycles — essentially, movements, whether fore and aft or side to side. “The theory is that it can take 10 to 15 years of cycling, but this continual motion when it’s unloaded is what fatigues the wire,” Madden says. “There’s no real way of measuring that. Die testing won’t pick it up, and it’s rare that a wire will give you warning before breaking.”

So how often should standing rigging be replaced? For all of these reasons, most riggers agree that when your sailboat’s standing rigging approaches 15 years old, it’s a good time to consider replacing it.


Wire or Rod Sailboat Rigging?

Riggers say the question of whether to rig with wire or rod is usually fairly easily answered: Run what you brung. In other words, if your boat already has rod rigging, with all of the end fittings to terminate the rods both on deck and in or on the mast, then sticking with rod will ultimately be less expensive than making the switch to wire. Likewise, if you already have wire with fittings that accommodate your boat and mast, stick with wire. Aside from the relative cost differences between rod and wire (rod is more expensive), what also makes a switch pricey is having to significantly modify the mast to accept the different rigging.

Although rod rigging is more common on racing boats, many well-known cruising-boat builders, such as Valiant, Bristol, J/Boats and Hinckley, have rod-rigged models. The benefits of rod are less stretch, less weight, less windage, and arguably longer life than wire, because there’s less possibility for corrosion of the rod itself.

That said, some sailors prefer wire over rod for a number of reasons. First, it’s easier to fix in remote places and on your own. With a spare mechanical end fitting, wire and the proper tools, you can replace a stay pretty much anywhere. Similarly, it’s easier to find usable replacement parts far from busy ports. Wire rigging is generally less expensive and easier to handle. Finally, rod rigging requires a particular type of terminus — called a cold head — that can be fabricated only with a purpose-built machine, which only a rigging shop will have. You cannot use a mechanical fitting on rod rigging.

In the past, long-distance cruisers typically chose wire rigging with mechanical fittings for all of these reasons. They also would carry a piece of wire as long as the longest stay on the boat — coiled and stowed, which undeniably was sometimes easier said than done — as well as spare end fittings and the tools needed to replace a broken shroud or stay. Today, with the advent of super-strong synthetic line such as AmSteel and Dyneema, the need for that extra wire and gear is eliminated. For instance, the Rigging Company makes a spare-stay kit that can accommodate either wire or rod rigging repairs, Cockerill says. It has a synthetic stay with an eye splice, a toolless turnbuckle (the Handy Lock, made by C. Sherman Johnson), quick-release fast pins with an attached lanyard, several high-strength Dyneema loops, and even a heavy-duty zip tie to fish loops in and out of holes in a mast.

“The idea is you come on deck with this small canvas bag and make it happen,” Cockerill says. “Let’s say you ripped a tang out of the mast; you can use a Dyneema loop to create another attachment point. A smaller loop is a makeshift chainplate attachment — you can attach it to a neighboring chainplate and attach the stay to it. It’s good enough to get you to safety and someplace you can make a more permanent repair.” Riggers say very few sailors re-rig from wire to rod or the reverse, but if switching is on your mind, have a professional make a full assessment first.

There are so many variables in the system — types of end fittings, types of masts, types of attachment points — that each boat will have its own specific requirements that can affect cost. For that reason, it’s difficult to give an accurate estimate of the cost of making the switch, even for an average 40-footer.


End Fittings for Sailboat Rigging

All standing rigging, whether rod or wire, has to end in a fitting that attaches to the deck and mast. The three most commonly used types of attachments are swaged and mechanical fittings for wire, and cold heads for rod. Generally, end fittings fall into a few classes: studs, eyes, forks and hooks, each of which comes in a dizzying array of sizes and configurations. There are multiple combinations and variations: For instance, if your mast has double tangs, most likely the end fitting will be an eye — although it can be a marine eye or an aircraft eye, which differ primarily in shape. All rod rigging terminates in a cold head, which accommodates the end fitting or is encapsulated by the end fitting. This could be a marine eye, a marine fork, a T-head or a J-hook, among others.

A swaged fitting is a terminus that’s attached using a machine called a swager. It rolls the end fitting through two opposing dies and compresses the fitting on the wire so tightly that it can’t pull out. “The theory is that you’ve crushed it so tightly that all the wires inside have just merged into one solid piece of stainless,” Madden says. Swaging must be professionally done, and the result is extremely strong and generally has a long life. Top manufacturers of swaged fittings are Hayn Marine Rigging Products, Alexander Roberts and C. Sherman Johnson.

Mechanical fittings can be applied using a few common hand tools by the mechanically handy DIY sailor, which is one reason they’re popular. The two primary manufacturers of mechanical fittings presently are Sta-Lok and Petersen Stainless, which produces Hi-MOD. Both are located in the U.K., and the products are distributed in the U.S. through vendors like Hayn, West Marine, Defender, and local chandleries and riggers. Generally, they consist of either three or four parts (Sta-Lok has three; Hi-MOD has four), including a sleeve; a cone; in Hi-MOD’s case, a crown wheel; and the terminal (an eye, fork, stud, etc.). If you follow directions, they are fairly straightforward to install, although not especially easy. “The mechanical fasteners are great in that you can terminate and then look inside to be sure it’s formed correctly, so you do have a way of inspecting your work,” Madden says.

However, they generally cost more than a swaged fitting; Herman says while Hi-MOD’s newer mechanical fittings are “definitely more user-friendly to assemble, they’re twice the cost of a swaged fitting.” Some riggers will recommend swaged fittings for the mast end of the rigging and mechanical fittings at the deck level: Corrosion is less prevalent at the top of the mast, and you can more easily and regularly inspect mechanical fittings at deck level, where they’re frequently subjected to salt water


Should You Replace Your Sailboat’s Rigging Yourself?

So you’ve determined your sailboat’s standing rigging needs work. Do you hire a pro or go it alone? Good question. Yes, doing it yourself will theoretically save money. For an average 40-foot boat, Cockerill estimates about $100 per foot to re-rig with wire rigging ($4,000), as well as the round-trip cost to haul and launch the boat and unstep and step the rig (an additional $2,500 or so). By taking on the labor yourself, you’ll probably save as much as $2,000 on the re-rigging cost, he says. Madden says that cost isn’t linear, though; as you go up in size (a bigger boat needs heavier wire and larger fittings), you’ll spend more. He’d estimate more like $4,600 for a 40-foot boat, but all of these numbers depend on how much is involved: Are there furlers? What kind of end fittings? Are the chainplates sound? Depending on the answers to those questions and others, a professionally done re-rig for a 40-footer could be closer to $6,000 or more.

If you go DIY, you will be limited to mechanical end fittings unless you hire a rigger to swage your end fittings. The Rigging Company gears much of its sales to DIY sailors and is beginning an e-commerce site to cater specifically to handy individuals. But Cockerill says it quickly becomes evident whether an owner feels comfortable enough to do the work. “You should be mechanically inclined,” he says, “and the way to find that out is if I start talking all this technical jargon and you decide whether you’re suited to handle that at all.”

Additionally, a DIY sailor needs to do plenty of research, particularly when it comes to wire quality, which is something professional sailboat rigging companies watch like hawks. Although anyone can walk into a local chandlery and buy wire, that doesn’t mean the wire is of the highest quality. Marine-suitable stainless wire is called 316 grade, but even that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily getting high-quality wire. Much depends on where it is manufactured; Herman and other riggers say the best wire today is coming from South Korea through a manufacturer called KOS, making wire to military specifications. It’s imported and sold through distributors like Alps Wire Rope.

“We only sell guaranteed-content, guaranteed-process wire,” Herman says. “There are other wires out there that are cheaper, but they’re not guaranteed.”

As for sources of wire and fittings, there are many, including major chandleries and vendors, like West Marine and Defender, as well as some private riggers, like Annapolis Rigging and the Rigging Company, which will work with you to define what you need and help you source parts and materials.

One thing all the riggers I spoke with expressed emphatically was that stainless steel needs oxygen to create a fine film of oxidation that protects the metal. The fastest route to crevice corrosion is to cover the metal with plastic or leather turnbuckle covers or to coat the fittings in tape. Enough tape to cover a cotter pin suffices; otherwise, leave the metal open to the air. Likewise, if you are re-rigging your sailboatboat, use the opportunity to check your chainplates (easily the subject of another article entirely), since that’s one of the most common points of rigging failure.

Another factor in your DIY decision-making process is simple: peace of mind. “Most of my clients say to me without any prompting, ‘This is one area I feel should be done by a professional,’’’ Madden says. “You’re out there offshore and there’s a squall coming and you start worrying about the craziest of things, and you don’t want to have any unknowns.” That’s especially true of the system that keeps the mast and sails up.

Wendy Mitman Clarke is currently between passages. She’s the director of media relations at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, and she and her family continue to pine and plan for the day they can return to the cruising life.

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diy sailboat rigging

Standing Rigging on a Sailboat: Everything You Need to Know

by Emma Sullivan | Aug 14, 2023 | Sailboat Gear and Equipment

diy sailboat rigging

Short answer standing rigging on a sailboat:

Standing rigging on a sailboat refers to fixed lines and cables that support the mast and help control its movement. It includes components like shrouds, stays, and forestays. These essential elements ensure stability and proper sail trim while underway.

Understanding the Importance of Standing Rigging on a Sailboat

Sailboats are marvels of engineering and ingenuity, capable of harnessing the power of the wind to transport us across vast oceans and explore far-flung destinations. As sailors, we often focus on the majestic sails, sleek hull designs, and cutting-edge navigation technology that make these vessels so awe-inspiring. However, there is one crucial component that sometimes goes unnoticed but plays a vital role in keeping our sailboats safe and seaworthy – the standing rigging.

The standing rigging refers to the network of wires and cables that support the mast and allow it to bear the tremendous loads exerted by the sails. It acts as the backbone of a sailboat’s rig , providing stability, strength, and balance. Understanding its importance is crucial for anyone who sets foot on a vessel with dreams of cruising or competing.

Firstly, let’s examine why standing rigging is essential for sailboat safety. Imagine being out at sea when suddenly your mast collapses due to faulty rigging . This nightmare scenario can easily be avoided by regularly inspecting your boat’s standing rigging for signs of wear or fatigue. Frayed wires or corroded fittings could weaken the entire structure, making it susceptible to failure under heavy winds or rough seas . By ensuring your standing rigging is in good shape through routine maintenance and inspections by professionals, you can significantly reduce this risk and ensure your own safety onboard.

Moreover, properly tensioned standing rigging is vital for maintaining optimum sailing performance. The tension in each wire within the standing rig allows for efficient transfer of power from sails to keel through mast compression. If your standing rigging is too loose or too tight, it can negatively impact your sail trim and overall boat handling capabilities. A well-tuned rig will provide better control over sail shape adjustments necessary for different wind conditions while maximizing speed potential – something every sailor strives for!

Beyond safety and performance, understanding the importance of standing rigging requires recognizing its impact on the overall balance of your sailboat. The rigging plays a crucial role in maintaining the boat’s equilibrium by counteracting the forces exerted by the sails. Without proper tension and alignment of the standing rig, a sailboat may become unbalanced, resulting in compromised stability. This imbalance can make steering more challenging, increase the risk of broaching, or even lead to capsizing in extreme cases. Therefore, paying close attention to your standing rigging ensures that your boat remains stable and enjoyable to sail.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that investing in high-quality materials and professional rigging services will prove cost-effective in the long run . While it may be tempting to cut corners or delay necessary upgrades or maintenance, neglecting your standing rigging will only result in more significant expenses down the line. Inadequate rig tension can lead to excessive wear on other components such as sails or mast fittings, increasing their replacement frequency and cost.

In conclusion, understanding and valuing the importance of standing rigging on a sailboat is essential for sailors of all levels. It directly impacts safety at sea, enhances sailing performance, maintains balance and stability, ultimately contributing to an enjoyable experience on board. So next time you set foot on a sailboat or contemplate owning one yourself, don’t forget to give due attention to this often overlooked but vital aspect – your boat’s standing rigging!

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Inspect and Maintain Standing Rigging on a Sailboat

Title: Cracking the Code: A Step-by-Step Guide to Inspecting and Maintaining Standing Rigging on a Sailboat

Introduction: Ahoy, fellow sailors! Whether you’re an experienced seafarer or a sailing enthusiast ready to cast off, understanding how to inspect and maintain your sailboat’s standing rigging is crucial for smooth voyages on the high seas. In this detailed guide, we will unravel the mysteries of standing rigging examination and upkeep, enabling you to confidently navigate through any sailing adventure. So hoist your mainsail, secure your halyards, and let’s dive into the world of rigging maintenance !

1. Understanding Standing Rigging: Before we embark on our inspection journey, let’s clarify what exactly constitutes standing rigging. Embracing technical jargon like professionals often do, this refers to those sturdy wire cables that provide support to the mast and keep everything in place as your vessel slices through the waves. These cables are under constant stress from wind pressure and oceanic forces; therefore, routine inspections are vital.

2. Assemble Your Inspection Arsenal: Essential tools at hand? Check! Embark upon your quest equipped with binoculars (to assess hard-to-reach areas), a multimeter (for electrical testing), tape measure (we love accuracy!), a notepad (to document findings), lubricant spray can (to combat rust), and some good ol’ elbow grease.

3. Visual Inspection Bonanza: Begin by examining every component of your standing rigging thoroughly. Start from bow to stern – nothing should elude your gaze! Look out for signs of fraying wires, corrosion spots – identified by those elusive green spots -, improperly tightened connections or turnbuckles hanging loose like unfortunate pirate hooks. Pay close attention when checking shrouds and stays around their terminal points.

4. Tension Testing Zen: Employing a multimeter capable of measuring tension is vital for this next step. Like tuning an instrument, each cable must be correctly tensioned to ensure optimal performance . Begin at the base of your mast, working your way up one stay or shroud after another, carefully noting the readings. Adjust tensions as needed, using the manufacturer’s guidelines as your North Star.

5. Get Into Detailing Mode: To maintain a seaworthy craft, meticulousness is key! Start by cleaning every inch of standing rigging with fresh water and mild soap to rid it of salt crystals and other corrosive agents that Mother Nature throws our way. Once dry, inspect terminals for any hidden corrosion potential. Remember to apply lubrication around all fittings where metal meets metal – preserving their longevity on this salty adventure.

6. Diving into DIY Replacements: Sometimes, despite our best efforts, some elements may need replacement eventually. Worn-out or damaged fittings demand immediate action! While there are professionals who can lend a helping hand, attempting minor repairs yourself allows you to save time and money in the long run. Just remember safety first – secure your vessel properly before venturing aloft!

7. Periodic Inspections are Pathway to Peace: As the seasons go by and maritime miles accumulate beneath your hull’s keel, remember that rigging inspections should become regular occurrences in your life as a sailor. Incorporating these tasks into your annual maintenance routine will keep you up-to-date on the health of your standing rigging and reduce unexpected surprises during those thrilling offshore adventures.

Conclusion: With this comprehensive guide in tow, inspecting and maintaining standing rigging on a sailboat will no longer bewilder even the most landlocked soul. Armed with knowledge and armed-still-with tools-of-the-trade in hand – embark upon every voyage knowing that smooth sailing is within reach! Remember comrades: vigilance coupled with clever maintenance ensures many marvelous voyages atop Neptune’s watery kingdom!

The Key Components of Standing Rigging on a Sailboat Explained

When it comes to sailing, understanding the key components of standing rigging is crucial. This system of cables and wires plays a vital role in keeping a sailboat’s mast upright and ensuring the safety of everyone on board. So, let’s dive into these essential elements to unravel their importance and how they work together seamlessly.

1. Mast: The mast, often referred to as the backbone of a sailboat, is a tall vertical structure that supports the sails. It provides stability and acts as an attachment point for various components of the standing rigging.

2. Shrouds: Shrouds are strong steel or synthetic cables that extend from the top of the mast down to its sides, creating lateral support. Usually arranged in pairs, they help prevent excessive side-to-side movement and maintain proper alignment while under sail or at anchor .

3. Forestay: Situated at the front of the mast, directly opposite to where you stand while steering, is the forestay. This forward-facing cable keeps the mast from tipping backward due to wind pressure against the sails when sailing upwind. It ensures that your sailboat remains balanced even in gusty conditions.

4. Backstay: The backstay is another essential component that counterbalances the force exerted by the forestay on your sailboat’s mast when sailing upwind or under heavy loads. Most commonly attached at or near the highest part of your boat ‘s stern (aft end), this cable prevents undue bending or breaking caused by fore-aft pressure.

5. Tangs and Turnbuckles: These small yet mighty components connect shrouds and stays to both the hull and mast with ease and allow for easy adjustment and fine-tuning of tensioning within your standing rigging system. Tangs are fittings attached directly to masts or other structural components using bolts or screws, while turnbuckles provide threaded connections allowing for precise adjustments.

6. Spreaders: Installed horizontally on either side of the mast, spreaders play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity and proper angle of shrouds. They prevent excessive bending or twisting forces by creating a wider stance for the shrouds, ensuring even stress distribution.

7. Standing Rigging Lifelines: These lines, typically made of stainless steel wires or synthetic materials like Dyneema, serve as an additional safety measure by helping to prevent crew members from falling overboard while working on deck. Strategically placed along the sides of the sailboat, they offer stability and support during maneuvering or rough seas.

Understanding these key components is vital not only for sailboat owners but also for anyone interested in sailing . Proper maintenance and routine inspections are essential to ensure optimal performance and mitigate any risks associated with deficiencies within your standing rigging system.

So next time you set sail or find yourself gazing out at a beautifully rigged sailboat, take a moment to appreciate the intricate balance and coordination that these key components provide. It’s truly a remarkable collaboration between technology, engineering, and Mother Nature herself – allowing us to glide through the waves with grace and elegance.

Common FAQs about Standing Rigging on a Sailboats Answered

Introduction: Standing rigging is an essential component of sailboats, playing a crucial role in supporting the mast and ensuring optimal performance on the water. However, many sailors are often perplexed by various aspects of standing rigging, leading to a multitude of frequently asked questions. In this comprehensive blog post, we aim to answer some of the most common FAQs about standing rigging on sailboats, providing detailed and professional insights while adding a touch of wit and cleverness.

1. What exactly is standing rigging? Ah, standing rigging – the unsung hero of every sailboat! Standing rigging refers to all the fixed elements that support the mast in an upright position. These elements typically comprise stainless steel wires called shrouds and stays along with associated fittings like turnbuckles and tangs. Think of it as the sturdy backbone that keeps your mast from taking an inconvenient swim!

2. When should I inspect my standing rigging? Regular inspections are crucial for maintaining a safe sailing experience. We recommend inspecting your standing rigging at least once a year or before embarking on any long voyage. Additionally, keep an eye out for any signs indicating potential problems such as excessive rust, wire deformation, or frayed cables. Remember: It’s better to be safe on land than sorry at sea !

3. How do I know when it’s time to replace my standing rigging? While rigorous inspections can highlight any potential issues, there are certain indicators that suggest your standing rigging might need replacement sooner than later:

a) Age: As a general rule of thumb, consider replacing your standing rigging after 10-15 years. b) Visible damage: If you spot visible signs of wear and tear like broken strands or corroded fittings, it’s time for new gear. c) Elongation: In some cases, constant strain can cause wire elongation over time – if this exceeds manufacturer recommendations or 5%, it’s replacement time. d) Performance decline: Have you noticed reduced boat performance or excessive mast movement? Outdated rigging may be the culprit.

4. Can I inspect and replace standing rigging myself? Inspecting your own standing rigging is indeed possible if you possess adequate knowledge and experience. However, replacing it yourself requires specific expertise, so unless you’re a seasoned sailor with professional background in rigging, we highly recommend entrusting this task to certified riggers who can ensure everything is done correctly. After all, your safety should never be compromised!

5. How much does standing rigging replacement cost? Ah, the golden question! While costs can vary depending on factors like the size of your boat, the material used for new rigging (stainless steel or synthetic fibers), and labor expenses – expect to invest anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars for a complete standing rigging replacement. Remember that proper maintenance upfront can help extend the lifespan of your rigging and save you some precious doubloons!

6. Can I switch from stainless steel to synthetic fibers for my standing rigging? Absolutely! Synthetic fiber alternatives like Dyneema® have gained popularity due to their lighter weight, high strength-to-weight ratio, and lower corrosion risk compared to stainless steel. These materials offer enhanced performance capabilities and are a valid consideration when upgrading or replacing your standing rigging system entirely.

7. What’s the typical lifespan of synthetic fiber standing rigging? While longevity depends on various factors such as usage patterns and environmental conditions, well-maintained synthetic fiber standing rigging systems generally last around 10-12 years before requiring replacement – comparable to their stainless steel counterparts.

Conclusion: Standing rigging on sailboats may seem mysterious at first glance, but by answering these common FAQs with informative yet witty explanations, we hope to shed light on this crucial sailing component while bringing a smile to our readers’ faces. Remember, understanding and properly maintaining your standing rigging will ensure safe and enjoyable voyages for years to come. So, stay rig-ready and sail on!

Upgrading Your Standing Rigging: What You Need to Know

In the world of sailing, upgrading your standing rigging is a vital decision that can greatly impact your vessel’s performance and overall safety. The standing rigging, which includes the various wires and cables that hold the mast upright, plays an essential role in ensuring stability and proper sail control. In this blog post, we will delve into everything you need to know about this crucial aspect of sailing.

Firstly, why should you consider upgrading your standing rigging? Over time, wear and tear can take a toll on this crucial component of your boat . Exposure to harsh weather conditions, continuous strain from strong winds or heavy sails, and even galvanic corrosion can all lead to the degradation of your rigging. As a responsible sailor, it is imperative to regularly assess the condition of your standing rigging and determine when an upgrade is necessary.

When it comes to upgrading your standing rigging, there are several key factors you need to consider. One essential aspect is choosing the right materials for your new rigging. Traditionally, stainless steel has been widely used due to its durability and strength. However, recent advancements in composite materials have opened up new possibilities for sailors. High-tech fibers like carbon or aramid offer impressive strength-to-weight ratios while being less susceptible to corrosion than steel.

It is important to consult with an experienced rigger or marine engineer who can guide you in selecting the most suitable material for your specific sailing activities and vessel type. They will take into account factors such as boat size, intended use (racing or cruising), budget constraints, and local climate conditions before recommending the best material for your standing rigging upgrade.

Another crucial consideration in upgrading your standing rigging is determining whether you want to switch from wire rope-based rigging to rod-based systems or composite products. Rods are known for their superior stiffness and excellent fatigue resistance but may require specialized equipment for assembly and maintenance. Composite systems typically combine carbon fiber or fiberglass with a resin matrix, offering versatility and customization options.

Furthermore, when planning to upgrade your standing rigging, it’s essential to conduct a thorough inspection of the mast and fittings. Any signs of wear and tear, cracks, or deformations in the mast or associated hardware should not be overlooked. Reinforcing these components may be necessary before installing new rigging to ensure optimal safety and performance .

During the installation process itself, meticulous attention to detail is crucial. Proper tensioning and alignment of the rigging are vital for achieving optimal sailing performance . Consulting with professionals in the field will ensure that you avoid common pitfalls such as over-tensioning or under-tensioning your rigging, which can potentially compromise its strength and longevity.

Upgrading your standing rigging not only ensures a safer sailing experience but also presents an opportunity to enhance your vessel’s performance capabilities. By optimizing sail control and reducing overall weight aloft, you can achieve faster speeds and improved maneuverability on the water.

In conclusion, upgrading your standing rigging is an investment that should never be taken lightly. It requires careful consideration of multiple factors such as materials, boat specifications, and local conditions. Seeking expert advice throughout this process will help you make informed decisions that align with your sailing goals while ensuring maximum safety and enjoyment on the open seas . So don’t hesitate – take charge of your vessel’s integrity today by embarking on an exhilarating upgrade journey!

Troubleshooting Common Issues with Standing Rigging on a Sailboat

Title: Navigating the High Seas of Standing Rigging: Deconstructing Common Sailboat Troubles

Introduction: Setting sail on a beautiful day, wind in your hair, and salt in the air – there’s nothing quite like the freedom of sailing. But as any experienced sailor knows, with great freedom comes great responsibility; one must always be prepared to tackle common issues that can arise with standing rigging on a sailboat. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll be your navigational chart through the murky waters of troubleshooting these problems.

1. The Tale of Loose Wires: Picture this: you’re out at sea, enjoying the blissful embrace of nature when suddenly you notice an unsettling amount of slack in your boat’s rigging wires. As panic sets in, take a deep breath and remember that loose wires are not an uncommon predicament. Before jumping ship into despair, consider inspecting your turnbuckles for any signs of wear or corrosion. Often, a simple tightening or lubing can solve the issue and restore equilibrium to your rigging system.

2. Strange Groans from Your Mast: As the wind howls through your sails, does it feel like someone is playing an eerie tune on your mast? Fear not! These disconcerting noises can typically be traced back to halyards rubbing against sheaves or pulleys. Be diligent about inspecting these components and ensuring they are properly aligned and lubricated.

3. The Mystery of Shaky Connections: Imagine cruising along peacefully when you notice unsettling vibrations emanating from various connections within your standing rigging system – another nuisance faced by many sailors. Remember to check bolts and fittings for tightness and wear regularly; sometimes a mere tightening can spare you from enduring an inconvenient wobble during every voyage.

4. Elusive Corrosion Castaways: While corrosion may seem like a mythical creature lurking under layers of saltwater incantations, it sadly isn’t. The corrosive effects of the marine environment can take their toll on your rigging, leading to weakened and compromised wires. To avoid this encroaching villain, regularly inspect your rigging for signs of corrosion, paying extra attention to any dissimilar metals in contact with each other. When identified early, you can tackle this issue head-on through diligent cleaning and application of protective coatings.

5. That Perplexing Sag: No one wants a saggy rig! If you notice an unacceptable amount of slack or downward curve in your wire stays or shrouds when under load, it’s time to put on your problem-solving hat. Begin by ensuring that all turnbuckles are suitably tensioned and that the mast rake is properly adjusted. A little fine-tuning may be all it takes to regain the tautness required for smooth sailing .

6. Stay Seals Against Abrasion: Do you find your stay seals battling against wear and tear? It might be time to beef up their defenses! Insulate vulnerable areas with appropriately sized rubber tubing or durable tape like self-amalgamating tape. This extra layer of protection will help prevent damage from chafing lines or abrasive surfaces.

Conclusion: As sailboat enthusiasts know, standing rigging issues can arise unexpectedly and interrupt even the most idyllic voyages at sea. By keeping these troubleshooting considerations in mind while setting sail , you’ll have a handy compass to lead you through the challenges that come with maintaining a well-maintained rig. So next time the wind whispers trouble into your ears while adrift on your beautiful vessel, fear not – armed with knowledge and wit, you’ll conquer those common issues with ease and go back to enjoying the sublime freedom provided by sailing adventures!

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diy sailboat rigging

The $tingy Sailor

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

diy sailboat rigging

How to Rig a Self-Tacking Jib for Free!

You may not have seen or even heard of a self-tacking jib before. They’re usually only found on luxury sailboats. But that’s exactly what one is, a headsail that sheets itself when you tack. You don’t have to cast off the working sheet and haul in the lazy sheet on every tack. In fact, after you set it up, you don’t have to touch the sheet again while sailing. You just push the helm to lee, come about as you normally would, and the jib passes through the fore triangle by itself and stops on the new lee side at the same sheeting angle as it was before the tack. I set one up for free and you can too.

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 .

Self-tacking headsails are becoming more and more popular on high-end cruising yachts as designers strive to remove as much effort from sailing as possible with headsail furlers, in-mast mainsail furling, electric winches, autopilots, and more. Seems it won’t be long before sailboats are fly-by-wire like airplanes and driverless cars. How lazy will we get?

diy sailboat rigging

But there are practical benefits to a self-tacking jib if you:

  • Are single-handed or short-handed on crew.
  • Are short tacking through a narrow passageway.
  • Have a broken jib car or winch that makes normal tacking impossible or dangerous.
  • Or your crew are seriously chilling (lazy) and you’d rather not have to mind the headsail.

A selfie (tacker) you can really use

The basic principle of a self-tacking jib is simple; a means for the clew of the jib to remain sheeted throughout its arc of travel from one side of the sailboat to the other during tacks. Commercial self-tacking systems accomplish this with an arc-shaped track mounted to the foredeck. The jib clew is attached to the track by a single sheet to a car that glides freely on the track like a traveler. The sheet leads to the cockpit where the skipper can adjust the jib shape by trimming the sheet. Such systems can cost many hundreds of dollars to retrofit to a conventional yacht.

The picture below shows the system with a thick red line that I will describe and it cost me nothing new to set up.


Instead of a track fixed to the deck, this system uses a block temporarily fixed to the jib clew. It reuses one of the headsail sheets you already have to form a bridle on the foredeck for the block to ride on. The other headsail sheet is not used.

The only other parts you need are two turning blocks. They can be snatch blocks that you keep on hand for miscellaneous jobs, your spinnaker sheet blocks if they’re portable, or they can be permanent blocks that you install just for this purpose (in that case, your system won’t be free). Heck, even two carabiners will work. If you only have one block or carabiner, reave the sheet directly through the clew grommet in step 2 below instead and attach your block or carabiner to the side deck where it can lead the sheet. The clew will have a little more friction but not enough to keep it from working.

When I want to set up the jib for self-tacking, I just move my existing spinnaker sheet blocks forward from the aft coamings to midship. I won’t be flying the spinnaker at the same time so they won’t be in use anyway. I like these 40mm web attachment style blocks from Nautos . They’re high quality, inexpensive, and work great. Instead of lashing them with webbing, I use 5/32″ dyneema loops or soft shackles.

diy sailboat rigging

For easy, versatile, and economical ways to attach these blocks to almost anything like you see in the pictures here, check out the continuous loops of dyneema that I describe in How to Rig a Cruising Spinnaker in 4 Stingy Stages and  DIY Soft Shackles for Quick and Easy Headsail Changes .

This self-tacking setup works best with a small headsail. I set up my 110% jib this way and it works okay. A larger headsail would not work. A 90% jib, storm sail, or trysail would work even better. That’s because, in order for the jib to set as flat as possible, the foot of the sail should be no longer than the distance from the sail’s tack to the jib sheet bridle.

Do it your self-tacker

To rig a self-tacking jib:

1. Tie one end of the sheet to a point on the deck approximately abeam of the mast and as far outboard as possible. On a C-22, a forward stanchion base is a good place. If you have a toerail, you have lots of choices and can adjust the bridle position for the best sail shape. The picture below (taken from the foredeck looking aft) shows the middle of my single sheet tied to the starboard forward stanchion base. The lazy half of the sheet is leading aft. The working half of the sheet leads out of the picture frame to the right. I keep a soft shackle tied to an alpine butterfly knot in the middle of my headsail sheet where I attach the clews of my headsails. I describe this more in DIY Soft Shackles for Quick and Easy Headsail Changes . That soft shackle is tied to the stanchion base here.

DSCN4673 (Custom)

2. Lead the working end of the sheet to the foredeck and reave it through one of the turning blocks that you have attached to the jib clew. The picture below shows one of my spinnaker sheet blocks tied to the jib clew with a simple girth hitch. The continuous loop makes it easy to tie and remove in seconds.

DSCN4680 (Custom)

3. Continue leading the sheet across the foredeck to the opposite point on the toerail or stanchion base and reave the sheet through the second turning block (or carabiner) that you attach there. The picture below (taken from the foredeck looking aft) shows the block tied to the port forward stanchion base.

DSCN4689 (Custom)

4. Continue leading the sheet aft and through the jib car block as usual. Wrap the sheet a couple of turns around the winch and cleat it off as usual, leaving a couple feet of slack at the jib clew.

That’s all there is to it. Now you just need to trim the sheet out on the water.

Get your self-tacker into shape

To trim the self-tacking sheet:

  • While pointed straight into the wind, raise the jib as you normally would. If you normally use one, the self-tacker works best without a pendant to raise the tack off the deck. You want the sail to open up as much as possible and to do that it needs to be as low as possible.
  • Bear off the wind slowly until the jib fills.
  • Trim the self-tacking sheet to get the best shape possible. Ease the sheet out and the clew will rise, the sail will twist, begin to luff, and spill air. Pull the sheet in and the clew will pull toward the deck, hook the sail toward the mast, and form a full, baggy shape. Experiment with your particular setup until you find the optimal shape that you can get when rigged this way for your wind conditions.

You probably won’t be able to get a nice, flat, foil shape, especially with a working jib but it will still work. I’ve made 4.5 knots with this setup in 10-15 mph winds and that was with a reefed mainsail and dragging a wad of weeds the size of a basketball wrapped around my keel cable. Temporarily suppress the rule in your mind that says you have to trim the headsail flat when sailing upwind. You can pull the rule back out when you revert to a conventional headsail setup.

When it comes time to tack, just announce “helm’s a-lee!” and come about. The clew block will roll across on the bridle that you have tied across the deck and the jib will set on the other side by itself.

When not to be self-centered

There are a few caveats that come with this technique:

  • It works best in medium airs due to the compromised sail shape. Light airs are too weak to develop much forward power with this shape. The sail also isn’t flat enough for safe sailing in heavy airs. But if an unexpected gust comes up, you can blow the jib by casting the sheet off at the winch like you normally would.
  • It doesn’t work well downwind because the sail is held too close to the center of the boat where it falls in the mainsail shadow. So use this setup upwind only or in very short downwind runs.
  • You won’t be able to point very high into the wind, also due to the sail shape. Consequently, you won’t make much upwind progress if that’s your course. It’s best used when you’re casually daysailing or turning laps between two points 180° opposed. It works great for that.
  • You can’t heave-to when set up this way because you can’t backwind the jib. It will just cross the foredeck and you’ll wind up tacking. To heave to, you have to reset your sheets to a conventional setup.

I think this is an interesting technique that’s useful in specific conditions. Racers and other sail trim experts may scoff and call it a dumb trick. Let them, but give it a try sometime and consider it another tool in your bag of sailing skills. You shouldn’t need to buy anything (or very little) to set it up and you’ve got nothing to lose by trying but a little of your time. I bet that if you set it up right, you’ll be pleased with how much more relaxing it can make sailing. Especially if you don’t have a particular destination in mind and you don’t care how fast you get there. Isn’t that some of the best of times to be had when sailing?

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21 thoughts on “ how to rig a self-tacking jib for free ”.

Looks good – looking forward to trying it out. Thanks Mr. $tingy!

I may have missed something, but I don’t see how the self tacking headsail can be adjusted to allow for heave to. To me, that’s one of the most important maneuvers a sailor need to have under his/her belt.

You’re right, Bill. I forgot to mention that as one of the caveats. You can’t backwind the jib when setup this way without first going forward and moving the normal clew knot back to the clew.

Just got round to reading this – what a great idea! Will try this next time I take Tamariu out – thank you $tingy, another winner!

I’ve recently sold off the last of my salt-water navy in favor (at age 81) of returning to lake sailing where the hint of menace that added spice to my coastal adventures for fifty years is blissfully absent. After restoring a derelict Rhodes 19 and launching her last summer, I quickly realized that instead of tacking every hour or two or three as on Penobscot Bay, I was coming about every five or ten minutes. Time for a self-tacking jib, but I am unwilling to spring a few grand for a Hoyt or whatever, I’ve been looking high and low for an easy solution for this matter. Bingo! Today I discovered The $tingy Sailor and this great article. I’ll be putting this great plan into action next week, and every time I call out “hard a-lee” this coming summer long, I’ll thank you that all it means for the crew is “hold onto your drink while I come about”. Ahhh…

Sail on, Eliot!

Nice trick, nice explanation, good warning of caveats. A riggig to try in my sailboat. Thanks!

Maybe a silly question, but I have a roller furler, not a hank on headsail. Is it still possible to use this set up with a furler? I imagine that you would just slack the sheet as you furl the sail. I don’t think the the clew block would be an issue. Any thoughts?

It shouldn’t be a problem. Give it a try!

Well, I rigged up this self tacking jib on my boat and love it!! It’s so much easier having guests aboard without them all constantly moving around to grind the winches and pull lines. I have it set up on a furler which makes the job even easier. The sail luff stops just before the mast, so it’s perfect. I am loving the ease of it! Thank you so much for this great idea!

I will try it on my 1977 Hunter 27 with 85% hank on jib. Thank you.

Thanks – Extremely interesting, and very clear!

From the introducing picture you can already see that this doesn’t work. In the picture the jib maybe uses 30% of its efficiency on a beat to windward. A real self tacking system gets 100 % out of the sail size. Needs a track and a sail that is designed low enough at the clew. A keelboat can be tacked slowly, so you have time to pull the jib sheet tight before the jib fills in the tack. We rarely use the winch handle on a J/80 while racing (international level) in up to 30 knots.

And yet, this system DOES work. I didn’t claim that it would work as well as a “real” self-tacking system and I state the limitations in the article. But for the average recreational sailor (not J/80 racers) that doesn’t need and can’t afford an engineered system, it works well enough to be an option in some situations.

Greetings , thanks for a very interesting article. I’m brand new at sailing just spent a year restoring a 17ft Proctor Pirate , hoping to launch next month so I’m looking all over the net for articles on sailing. I must add this one I am going to try for sure . Looking forward to more sailing info. Thanks for this =) Phill

Just out of curiosity, was the C-22 you were referring to a Catalina 22? We have one also, and I’m hoping a self-tacking jib will make my wife more amenable to cruising along the Southern California coast with our 110 percent jib. Also, was there a link for the soft shackle?

Yep, C-22 is shorthand for Catalina 22. You can read my post about soft shackles at DIY Soft Shackles for Quick and Easy Headsail Changes

Hi, Flying Scot (T) sailor writing. Just came accrost your article about the self Tacking Jib for free! Like’d it very much! Very clear and good directions. Do you think rig will work on my Flying Scot(t) ? Thanks. Flying Scot(t) from Syracuse NY.

Hi, Scott Because the mast of the Flying Scot is so far forward, it would only work with a headsail that doesn’t overlap the mast.

On a furling headsail, can this be rigged at the dock and the headsail rolled up until it’s time to unfurl? Hard for me to visualize how that would look.

Yes, works just the same but instead of having knots at the clew, you have a block.

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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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diy sailboat rigging

Swageless Mechanical Fittings or Swage Terminals…

Noresman mechanical eye

…Which do you prefer?

When talking about wire standing rigging for sailboats, there are two primary ways to secure a fitting to the end of the cable, the swage fitting and the mechanical fitting. One requires a specialized, expensive machine (pictured below) that is used to essentially squeeze or hammer the fitting onto the wire, this is called the swage fitting. The other simply requires the use of some wrenches (a vise is a great tool here too), some thread locker, a bit of patience, and some experience wouldn’t hurt either ;0). The latter is referred to as the mechanical or swageless fitting.


kearney roll swager

Yes, there a few other types of swaging techniques which we might save for another time. One of which we commonly refer to as the “Nico Press”, a generic term. This is an entirely different ‘box of frogs’ all together. If you are interested read more on that here , written by our friends at Sailing Services .



Hi Mod Marine eye

Our favorite high quality mechanical or swageless terminal manufacturers are: Hayn Hi-mod  and  Stalok . Let us not forget Noresman (Navtec), one of the more popular fitting manufacturers on the market up until recently, as they have since shut down production. A mechanical fitting is typically a three part fitting  (sometimes four) . This type of fitting does take a bit longer to execute than the swage fitting, even by the most experienced of rigging technicians. The real bonus here is it does not require a ridiculously expensive machine. Which makes it a very appealing product for the DIY project.



There does appear to be some controversy about which type of fitting is better, so I’ll try to clear things up a bit. Let’s take a moment to talk about the pros and cons regarding these two styles of wire terminals. Swage fittings require one of these expensive machines, so you will likely have to pay someone to do it for you. Whereas Mechanical fittings can be the perfect solution for the DIY sailor. Swage fittings are substantially less expensive than mechanical fittings. For example, a swage stud for 1/4″ wire with 1/2″ thread retails for around $25 and the comparable mechanical fitting retails around $75. Multiply that times the amount of fittings you’ll need and it can make quite a difference in price when replacing an entire rigging set.

cracked swage

Having said all of that, a properly made swage fitting will last about 7-20 years or roughly 25,000 nautical miles, depending on geographical region and use before replacement is recommended. Regular inspection , regardless of fitting choice, is always recommended with service intervals around every 3-5 years.

mechanical fittings do crack!

We, at TRC, recommend using swage fittings over mechanical fittings when the stay is rigged with a furler, i.e. forestay.

There are also hybrid sets made, utilizing both types of fittings, with Swage fittings at the top of the stay and mechanical fittings at the bottom. This is the meet in the middle solution when price becomes a factor. Also this method is commonly practiced when building new masts.

TRC has had great success with the longevity of our swage fittings over the years {knocking on wood}. I’d say this is attributed to the use of high quality fittings, wire, the right machines, as well as proper execution. We end up selling mostly complete rigging sets using swage fittings. When discussing options with our customers we can really only justify the additional cost of mechanical fittings when the boat is going to endeavor on high mileage journeys. This way the wire can be replaced, the fittings inspected, and re-used with new cones (wedges). One of the other big benefits of mechanical fittings is/was at sea repairs. As the sailor could use wrenches and some Loctite to terminate a new cable at sea if needed, but not without the purchase of some good quality wire cutters (not cheap). With developments in synthetics we think that this problem can be much easier overcome with the use of Dyneema or Vectran . We offer a TRC Spare Stay Kit specifically for this purpose…no tools required!

Emergency Offshore Spare Stay Kits Now Available at The Rigging Company!!!!!

Either fitting, if not made properly, will have issues and can cause failures. Conversely, when done properly, either of these fittings will provide the boat and its crew with many years of trouble free service. With either fitting, given that they were executed properly, age, geographical location, and wear are the biggest enemies for standing rigging longevity.


First, when choosing a mechanical fitting ensure that it is for the correct wire type being used, i.e. 1×19 , 7×19 , and  dyform/compact strand .  you’ll need to disassemble the mechanical fitting (with sta lok you can leave the former inside of the fitting) and then read the directions which should be included (or can be found online). the general gist for any mechanical fitting (regardless of manufacturer) goes as follows: start with a nicely cut end of wire. then the socket portion of the fitting gets slipped onto the wire..

Noresman Mechanical fitting instructions

Next, the end of the wire must be unlaid evenly (the tricky part), so that the core strands are exposed and the cover strands are evenly splayed open.

Once that is done, the cone (or wedge piece) is pushed onto the core strands. with the outer wires surrounding the cone evenly, work the socket back up to the end of the wire, and re-lay the cover strands onto the core. do this until the outside strands protrude from the end of the socket evenly and parallel (as pictured below), and the socket cannot slide up any further.,  this is all done while keeping the cone (or wedge) appropriately submerged below the end of the cut wire by the recommended amount. the amount of core stick out varies by fitting manufacturer, so read the directions and follow the guidelines closely. the outer wires cannot be flared out (see diagram 2) and must be parralel or curved-in slightly. you will not be able to assemble the fitting properly (or at all) if you don’t get this step right. now, (unless using a hi-mod fitting for which you will need to rig their “crown ring” in place) you are ready for the fitting to be screwed together and to form the wire. to do this we use loctite primer and red loctite to help lubricate things as shown in the video above., warning: stainless on stainless will gall (or cold weld) with too much friction and you’ll have a fitting that can’t be screwed-on or off. , once screwed down completely we recommend that the fitting be unscrewed again before the loctite activates (so hurry depending on temp) and checked for proper forming of the cover (outside) strands. lastly, if all looks to be fine, we coat the threads with more red loctite and then screw it back together tight some manufacturers recommend the use of sealants along with loctite into the fitting before the final assembly to mitigate water intrusion and to help secure things. recently it seems that most manufacturers are getting away from this, perhaps because of oxygen deprivation causing corrosion. so again, please follow the instructions and guidelines that come with the fittings that you have., …so there it is in a nutshell. as i always say, seek the council of your local rigger for product specific information as well as any tips and tricks so that you have it right., thanks for the read and leave us your comments below ., similar posts, the future is now.

Is the wife complaining about the boat heeling too much and you don’t want to make the switch to a catamaran. Who can blame you. Well, there is great news for mono-hull enthusiasts. Infinity Yachts is breaking new ground with dynamic stability control via a horizontal foil. This is a well made video (I thought) and now…

Views From Aloft

This was a spar finish and rigging package that we put together back in the summer of 2014. Originally this mast was an Annapolis Spars design (our previous employer). I love the way these masts were built. This is exactly how the top of a Pro Furl furler “Wrapstop” system should look when the sail…

Furling the Mainsail

After all of the conveniences that technology has afforded us sailors, there is still one luxury that has eluded us. Although more popular than ever, a furling mainsail is still not 100% standard equipment on today’s boats. The reason for this is that it has always presented some negatives that leave many people unsure about whether…

Views from Aloft

      We went aloft for a safety inspection after this beautiful Cabo Rico experienced a lightening strike. You can see below that the brunt of the lightening strike was taken by the VHF antenna. Pictured below you will see two head-swivels on a set of Profurl headsail furlers. One with correct hoist and one…

The 2018 Rigging Company J/24 & J/22 East Coast Championship

The 2018 Rigging Company J/24 & J/22 East Coast Championship

The Rigging Company is back on the race course again and this time stepping up its sponsorship. We are proud to announce that we are the Platinum Sponsor of The 2018 Rigging Company J24 & J22 East Coast Championship. This event takes place in late October, 10/26-10/28. The venue is at one of Annapolis’s top sailing clubs, Severn…

Antigua Sailing Week Wrap-up

This is perhaps one of the most beautiful regatta destinations in the world. Check out late last year’s highlights from the beautiful West Indies. Hopefully this year’s Antigua Sailing Week  will bring just as much beautiful weather, big waves and plenty of breeze. Check out for details on this years event. [youtube]

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This is not a comment but rather a product request. I need 4 U-shaped toggle jaws which are part of the standing rigging on my 30′ Hunter sloop. They are 2 1/4″ overall length by 1″ wide. They hold a 1/2″ diameter by 1″ slug at the top of solid threaded rigging. Any direction you can give would be appreciated. Bob Carr [email protected]

Thanks for the question. I think I know what you are after, but please email us an image at [email protected] . We can likely decipher your needed item once you send us a pic to confirm.

Cheers, ~T.R.C.

Thanks for your directions and tips on mechanical fittings. I have to change out the two forward port and starboard standing rigging because of on the port side of the mast below the shroud is pulling out. I will drill new holes, compression fitting inside with a lap patch over the outside of the mast. Once that is done will install one ear on each side to take the pin for the new Hi-Mod Mechanical fittings. I do hope I measure correctly as where I will be doing this besides up the mast is in a place with not many parts so taking it all with me in the next week.

I will try my best to take photo but I am doing all this single handed so may not take as many as I should.

I used a lot of Stalok fittings for a (not boat-related) job, and although they are straight-forward I found them rather tedious to make-up. For that reason alone I chose to try Hayn Hi-MOD for my boat, and ohmigosh they are fast and easy compared to the Stayloks! I started off with one: had a kinked shroud – it was easy to run a new shroud with a swaged stemball fitting and put the Hayn fitting on the bottom. Great! My boat was missing two shrouds so I did two more – easy peasy!! Next time I renew the shrouds I’ll do them all!!!

Fast forward a few thousand very stormy miles later (why me??): I pulled the mast and couldn’t remove those three shrouds because the crown rings and wires were STUCK inside the fitting housing. I tried all sorts of penetrating oils, heat, banging, LOTS of heat … and by then the fittings and wire were so abused they were no longer seaworthy so I let everybody (riggers included) try anything they wanted. The boat needs all new shrouds before I go offshore again and when I cut those fittings off I’m going to send them to Hayn and ask for a refund. :-(

It would have been interesting to have had a Staylok fitting or two on the boat for comparison. I really like the Hayn Hi-MOD fittings, but can’t recommend them for blue water (ab)use – I’ll stick with swaged fittings. Plus, with the advancements and reliability of synthetic rigging that’s a MUCH better way to go for emergency repairs and having spare shrouds aboard. And lookie! Someone has already invented a ready-make spare stay kit!! Brilliant. :-)

Very interesting story about those crown rings. To be honest we haven’t had to take many apart as they are relatively new to the US market still. Well about 10 years now (If I really think on it), man time flies. Thanks for the heads up though. I will keep an eye out next time we take one apart.

Priscilla I would like to send you one of our shirts if you like. What Size are you and what is your shipping address?

…and let us know if you need one of our spare stay kits or more information on them.

Serious bummer about the Hi-MODs, one would be ho-hum, but all three?! All are on 3/8″ upper spreader shrouds (dbl spreader cutter rig), two port one stbd, five or six years old (yeah where does the time go?), installed at different times on wires from different rigging companies. Not sure when I’ll pull the mast again, hopefully within a year. I want so much to cut one in half to look, but Hayn needs to figure out the problem and fix it so (unless they say otherwise) I’ll send them all three. You read it here first so of course I’ll keep TRC posted … and I won’t forget, women never forget anything, and don’t argue about that because we are always right. :-D

Ooh, a shirt! I’ll proudly be a walking billboard for TRC – this is a very impressive web site, educational, good annotated pictures – a true (sailing) community service. I’ll wear your shirt to our boat show next month – the local riggers will find out I’m cheating on them. hahaha!

..Can’t wait until everybody sees your new shirt :-0

Great tips! Thank you. I always learn lots when I read your posts. :)

Thanks Viki. I was wondering how you fared down there through that rough weather? Is everyone safe?

Having a few issues with big earthquakes at the moment… but we are ok :)

Good to hear. I heard that it was very close to where sent those shirts! ~T.R.C.

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diy sailboat rigging

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diy sailboat rigging

Hallberg-Rassy 42 Used Boat Review

diy sailboat rigging

Pearson 37 and 37-2 Used Boat Review

Keep an eye out for corroded exhaust and signs of water intrusion, which could lead to expensive repairs in the future.

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diy sailboat rigging

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diy sailboat rigging

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diy sailboat rigging

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diy sailboat rigging

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  • Sails, Rigging & Deck Gear
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Make Your Own Over-the-Boom Riding Sail

diy sailboat rigging

Delighted with the performance of the over-the-boom riding sail, we decided to make our own.

To measure, we outlined the proposed sail area with -inch rope and measurer the resulting edge lengths. The rope ran from starboard stern cleat, over the boom (raised 30 degrees) to the port cleat, and then forward about 75 percent of the length of the boom, and down to the starboard cleat again. The forward corner was secured to the mast with a length of line.

The lines were then lashed together at a point about shoulder high to simulate the clew position, making sure the sheet angle bisected the proposed clew angle. Because each boat behaves differently at anchor, consider using a polyethylene tarp to build a mock-up.

You can reduce the area of a large sail by narrowing the Y or V or lowering the boom, but a smaller sail will be more robust in strong winds. The corners should be reinforced like any jib. Because the riding sail might be used in very strong winds, use storm weight sailcloth and stitch rugged hems that are at least 1.5 to 2 inches wide, or reinforce all edges with webbing. Corner patches must be heavy. All riding sails are cut flat, with no broadseam.

Conventional sail kits are available from Sailrite ( ). When measuring be careful your chosen design it does not interfere with your bimini or dodger and be sure to confirm the forward clew angle.

A note on fabrics. Although polyester (Dacron) sailcloth has coatings that provide UV protection, no sail material is impervious to the sun. Unprotected Dacron will begin to fail within three years of continuous exposure. Top Gun and Sunbrella have more UV resistance, but they stretch-and Sunbrella is vulnerable to chafe. PS is currently researching paints for UV protection of sails, but final results will not be available for several years.

Our provisional suggestion is Amazon Inflatable Paint in gray. For use at anchor we would use the same weight sailcloth as used on the mainsail. For use on a mooring we recommend increasing the fabric weight and painting the sail for UV protection.


diy sailboat rigging

Painting a New Bootstripe Like a Pro

I misunderstood the design and from Pic #2 I thought the riding sail had a spine between the front triangle and the aft triangles. I had seen a design like that over 10 years ago and figured that was the concept here.

So I went ahead and made mine like that. It has two aft triangles and one leading triangle. Turned out great even if not the design intended.

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