Know Your Sailboat Rigging

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Rigging remains one of the first thing boat-owners to-be have to decide on before the big purchase, right after they balance out their budget with the boat type and size. There are six commonly used types of rigging, classified in accordance to the sail plan they cast on the boat. The four most popular are sloop, cutter, ketch, and schooner.

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The sloop is the most common rig designation today, due to the introduction of winches and lightweight sails into sailing. It is quite simple, consisting of the mainsail and the jib, and the mast pushed closer to the bow of the yacht. They are the safest and easiest to handle, and popular on small and medium-sized yachts. Larger yachts can also be sloops, with larger foretriangles. There are two types of sloops, regarding where the forestay is attached to the mast. If it is attached to the masthead, it is a masthead sloop. If it is attached a bit lower down the mast, then it is fractionally rigged. Fractionally rigged sloops present higher accessibility and control of the main sail. The first is it is sometimes called the Marconi rig because the tall mast resembled Guglielmo Marconi’s wireless antennas.

The cutter is oft confused with the sloop, also having one mast. The difference lies in the mast being positioned closer to the center of the boat than the bow, a larger foretriangle, and several headsails and a bowsprit being incorporated. The position of the headsails is variable, and depends largely on boat design. The cutter was always a popular boat with coast guards and border patrols because the sail plan does not require large crews, merely two men to operate it. For this reason, today, even motorized vessels used by these officials are referred to as ‘cutters’.

The final popular rigging plan, the ketch, is not as easily confused as the sloop and cutter, mainly because it has two masts. The forward mainmast is larger than the mizzen mast behind it. The mainmast is positioned alike to the sloop mast, but the mizzen is set a bit aft, enabling creative sail plan solutions and a safe zone on the boat in heavy winds. The ketch is a common configuration in Northern Europe due to the balance provided by the secondary mast. The mainsail could be eliminated in bad weather, and the boat sailed merely on the mizzen and the jib, further securing the vessel’s balance. The name comes from the word “catch”, since fishing boats were the original ketch boats.

There are few things as beautiful out at sea as a schooner at full sail. Schooners are sailboats which may have two or more masts, where the tallest mast is positioned on the aft-side, and is often taller than the other masts. In order to keep the rigging manageable by a minimal crew, the mainmast and the foremast are usually of similar size. The schooner is generally a difficult boat to sail, but the bounteous sail plan provides security and as sturdy grip in open seas. The design is a popular choice for ships in popular culture.

Once you have tried sailing with different rigging plans, and you have decided on the one you want on your boat, it is time to start building your idea and reading up on sail making and maintenance.

 

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