How to Use a Sailboat's Outhaul

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The Outhaul Attaches to the Sail’s Clew

The outhaul on a sailboat is one of the controls, part of the boat’s running rigging. The outhaul is a line that connects to the clew of the mainsail (the ring in the lower aft corner) and pulls the sail back toward the end of the boom. On most boats, this line or wire cable passes around a block (pulley) down into the boom, as shown in this photo.

Below shows how the other end of the outhaul is pulled to tighten the tension in the sail’s foot and explains how to use the outhaul to your advantage in different sailing conditions.

Adjust the Outhaul for Sailing Conditions

Shown here is the outhaul line exiting the boom (on the left), wrapped around a winch, and tied off on the cleat on the right. (The end of the boom is out of the picture to the left.) A winch is needed on moderate to large sailboats to exert enough tension on the foot of a large mainsail. The tighter the outhaul is pulled, the flatter the bottom of the sail becomes. The looser the outhaul, the fuller the sail.

How to Adjust the Outhaul

The principle for adjusting the outhaul is similar to that of using a boom vang in light and moderate wind.

  • In light wind, the outhaul should be fairly loose, allowing the mainsail to be fuller. Wrinkles may form along the foot of the sail.
  • In moderate wind, the outhaul should be moderately tight, flattening the sail and giving better shape for sailing upwind or on a reach.
  • In a stronger wind, when you might need to depower the main to prevent excessive heeling, the outhaul should be very tight. A flatter sail produces less heeling force.
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how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

The $tingy Sailor

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

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

Flatten Your Mainsail Foot With an Outhaul

You’re familiar with basic mainsail running rigging, right? The halyard hoists it up the mast and the main sheet adjusts the angle of the sail to the hull. Both lines are important but they don’t adjust the aerodynamic shape of the mainsail, which can make a big difference if you want to get the best performance out of your mainsail.

There are three potential control lines for your mainsail to adjust its shape. Each line controls the tension on one of the three sides of the mainsail. To control luff tension, you need a Cunningham or boom downhaul like I describe in Control Mainsail Draft with a Boom Downhaul . To control leech tension, you need a boom vang like I describe in Control Your Mainsail Shape Better With a Boom Vang . In this post, I describe a trimmable outhaul to control the foot tension.

Most first generation C-22s and similar sailboats came from the factory with a simple loop of line between the mainsail clew and an eye strap at the end of the boom similar to the picture below. It holds the sail in place but that’s about all. You can’t easily trim it while sailing. If it’s loose enough to make connecting the clew easy, then it isn’t tight enough for moderate to heavy winds. If you take the time to cinch it up tight, you’ll have to untie it to take the sail off if you trailer sail. By then, the knot could be hard to loosen.

BEFORE - Easy or tight, but not both

The solution is to replace that crude loop of line with a trimmable outhaul that con sists of:

  • (2) Harken 085 double blocks or equivalent, one with a becket
  • Fixed eye snap shackle or halyard shackle
  • (2) Harken 072 3/16″ shackles or equivalent
  • Ronstan small V-Cleat Fairlead or equivalent
  • 5′ x 1/4″ New England Ropes Sta Set or equivalent

The pictures in this post show a five part (five line segments) outhaul only because those were the blocks that I had on hand when I rigged the outhaul. You could use fewer parts. I recommend at least two. The line is white with blue flecks in keeping with the color scheme that I describe in Choose Your Running Rigging Colors Logically . Notice in the picture below that I spliced an eye in the end of the line where it attaches to the becket. You could also use a bowline knot there but I prefer the neatness of spliced eyes, particularly here at the end of the boom where four lines are attached (main sheet not shown).

AFTER - Easy to attach and trimmable

Size does matter

The challenge in this setup is to get the overall length of the outhaul as short as possible. On a C-22, there’s only about 10″ from the mainsail clew to the eye strap at the end of the boom. If the combination of blocks and other hardware is too long when you tighten the outhaul, the blocks will meet in the middle before putting enough tension on the foot of the mainsail. To solve the challenge, use the shortest shackles you can find. You might also need to shorten the becket on the one double block. Another option is to attach the working end of the line around one of the sheaves of the block itself, but that will result in less mechanical advantage.

To make the outhaul as easy to attach as possible, add a snap shackle to the working end of the outhaul for hooking to the mainsail clew. Install the fairlead cleat on the same side of the boom as where the line exits the outhaul blocks (port side in the picture below). The fairlead keeps the line captured at the boom if it gets out of hand. A foot of slack on the end makes the setup easy to trim while under sail and to loosen when removing the sail to head home.

The two lines that you see hanging down from the aft end of the boom in the pictures above are the working ends of the topping lift and jiffy reefing lines that I’ve installed on Summer Dance . They’re held out of the way in the pictures for simplicity. I describe them in Let Your Boom Off Its Leash with a Topping Lift  and Single Line Jiffy Reefing Made Easy , respectively. To see how all four systems (including the main sheet) fit on the boom, see the pictures below.

Boom end with all rigging shown

Keep It Simple, Skipper (KISS)

If the outhaul shown above seems too complicated or expensive for you, a simpler version is even easier to set up.

For a three part (three line segments) outhaul, you’ll need:

  • Harken 083 single block with a becket or equivalent
  • 4′ x 1/4″ New England Ropes Sta Set or equivalent.

Install the block on the boom eye strap, the fairlead cleat on the side of the boom, and reave the line as shown in the picture below.

Simpler 2:1 outhaul is also shorter

In this system, the line runs through the clew grommet itself. The line isn’t as easy to trim as with multiple blocks, but it’s still easy enough.

For the complete collection of rigging projects like this one, purchase my ebook Do-It-Yourself Small Sailboat Rigging .

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

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13 thoughts on “ flatten your mainsail foot with an outhaul ”.

Have been reading your posts with great interest since purchasing a ’74 in February. Planning to do the topping lift and outhaul as soon as I repair the forestay reinforcement. I’m curious about your costs. For this project, the cost of the 085 and 086 blocks alone is in the $90+ range from the two suppliers I checked. Can you recommend a less-expensive source for hardware? Thanks, Dave

Yep, they’re pricey little buggers! The main reason that I used that size of blocks was because I got the pair of them on eBay for around $25, so it was a no-brainer. If that had not been the case, I would have used something like the Harken micro blocks 227 and 228 at around half the cost. Those are also the size that Catalina Direct uses in their kit. Another benefit would be that their combined length is even a little shorter, which might make the difference with a long-footed mainsail.

When I need to buy parts at retail instead of eBay, I like They don’t offer free shipping but their prices are among the lowest for most things and they have a great selection, which means I can usually get several things on the same order to spread the cost out and still be less than most other retailers.

Good luck with your improvement projects. Hope to see you here some more! $tingy

Thanks, $tingy. I figured you had to have done something like that. Just started the topping lift project today: bought a piece of 7/64″ Amsteel and put an Brummel eye in one end and another Brummel eye with a thimble in the other. Will have to wait till the next time I drop the mast to install it. I think the necessary hardware is already on the boom. Was thinking about attaching it to the main halyard for a quick check of the concept, either with or without the mainsail. I know the lead won’t be quite the same as attaching it alongside the backstay on the masthead truck, but it should be close.

Glad to hear you’re going for it! I think you’ll like how handy it is to just reach up and hoist the boom up whenever you need to.

Must be kinda tricky splicing line that small. I’ve only done as small as 1/4″ so far and that was tough enough. Did you make a core to core splice?

Had to look up core-to-core splice, but no, that’s not the technique I used. The Amsteel line is single-layer, not cored. I used these instructions ( and ) modified to account for the fact that the smaller line is 8-strand, not 12. {I can’t find any sites that call the 7/64th rope as 8-strand, but that’s what I have. It wasn’t hard to work with at all.

Interesting splice and it looks faster to make. I might try that on the lazy jacks I’m making. They don’t need the full strength of a conventional eye splice and I don’t want to have to make 8 of them!

The most no-nonsense, comprehensive forum I have found for our boats. Thanks. 1987 Cat. 22 SK #14218

Thanks for your comment, John. We could all gain from less nonsense and more common sense.

Hey $tingy!

My name is Nic Reid. I’m over in Bend, OR. I just bought a Tanzer 22, and I’m SOOOOOOOO excited to get going with some projects. I stumbled across your blog last night when I was looking for info on how to do projects on the cheap, and I can’t believe how awesome it is! You’ve done a stellar job, my friend. I’m working through the Mast Step post at present.

I noted that you said there is a downloadable checklist with mast step coaching and a boom crutch document as well. Call me thick, but I’m not finding those. Any help would be appreciated.

I’m excited to follow your posts. Are you still actively sailing in N. Idaho?

Congratulations on your new-to-you Tanzer! You’re in for lots of fun.

There’s a trailer sailor launch checklist and a dimensioned drawing of a mast crutch on the password protected Downloads page. The password for the page is in the confirmation email that you should have received when you subscribed. If it’s not in your Inbox, look for it in your Spam or Junk folder. If you can’t find it anywhere, use my Contact page to send me an email and I’ll send you the password.

I sail weekly on awesome Lake Pend Oreille in north Idaho. I’ve been coming here for years and still haven’t explored it all. Bend is pretty cool place too!

So, testing my understanding of pulleys used in combo like your initial project above… if I modified your second 2:1 example using a single block at the sail and a single block at the boom end, it eould just give a bit more leverage on the outhaul line, but less than the double block arrangement, right? Is it possible to pull the foot too taunt and harm the sail?

Thanks for sharing all your projects…great inspiration to make some modifications and maybe even get my V21 to sail ‘better’.

Two single blocks wouldn’t give you any more mechanical advantage, it would still be a 3-part tackle. But it would reduce friction considerably. You could try it that way and see if you like it and if it’s not strong enough, replace one of the blocks with a double block to increase the ratio.

It would take a LOT of leverage to damage the foot your mainsail with an outhaul, especially if you have rope in the foot. The only time that you would want it as tight as possible is in the highest wind conditions, which most skippers don’t want to brave anyway.

Thanks Stingy. I implemented option 2 due to space constraints on my gulf coast 18. My only change was to use a horn cleat. Love the system!

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Outhaul Systems

The outhaul controls and shapes the mainsail. Ease the outhaul to increase draft and power up the sail. Tighten the outhaul to flatten the sail and reduce drag and heel in heavy air.

Typical boat length: Small Boat: 22' - 28' (6.7 - 8.5 m) Midrange: 29' - 34' (8.8 - 10.4 m) Big Boat: 35' - 42' (10.7 - 12.8 m)

2:1 Internal

Suitable for dinghies or small keelboats. A flexible cable shackles to the sail and enters the boom through a wire block. Placing a block aft of the cleat allows the crew to pull from a variety of positions.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

4:1 External Cascade

A simple external outhaul system. A cascade of two 2:1 tackles produces a 4:1 advantage.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

5:1 Internal

This 5:1 internal outhaul is popular on small offshore boats.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

6:1 Internal

A 6:1 internal outhaul system is popular on small-to medium-sized offshore boats using a traveler car to carry the clew of the mainsail.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

2:1 Furling Main

Mainsails that furl into the mast are loose-footed and usually have a ball bearing outhaul car that rides the length of the boom. The outhaul starts at the car, leads through the clew block on the sail, back to the sheave on the car, and into the boom where it leads to a winch.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

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Laser 6-1 Outhaul System

How to Build a Laser XD 6-1 Outhaul System

November 11, 2022 3 min read

How to Build a Laser 6-1 Outhaul System 

The Laser 6-1 Outhaul System is now the standard that comes with all new boats. If you are finding your outhaul is very difficult to adjust it may be time to upgrade your system.

In this article, we walk you through what you'll need and how to make a Laser 6-1 Outhaul System step by step.

Items You Will Need

You can also buy the full  Laser Outhaul Kit on our website. 

Some ropes will need to be cut to your correct length once the system is made. This system is tied together with knots however, we would always recommend when working with Dyneema lines to splice them as this is stronger than knots.

  • x4 Harken 2698  
  • x1 Laser Clew Hook
  • 2m of 3mm Rig 12 Dyneema  
  • 3m of 3mm Kingfisher Evo Race Rope  
  • 6m (or 7m for 4.7 Rigs) of 4mm Kingfisher Evo Race Rope (Secondary Control Line 

The first part of the Outhaul System is going to be the clew block and hook. There are lots of different ways that people rig this. We will do it per the instructions you receive with a new boat. Take one of the 18mm blocks, the clew hook and one length of the 3mm race rope. 

Tie a stopper knot in one end of the line and thread it through the centre of the block and up through the top of the block. Now grab your clew hook and thread the line through and back down into the top of the block. Lastly back through the middle of the block and tie another figure of 8.

Laser 6-1 Outhaul System - Clew Block

Primary Dyneema

Take your length of 3mm Dyneema and tie a bowline around the eye on the boom end. 

Now thread your line through the clew block from step one and the Dyneema back through the boom eye. The rope will then run along the boom towards the front of the boat.

Laser 6-1 Outhaul System Boom End

Control line

Take your 4mm Race rope and an 18mm block. Thread the 4mm line about 3 inches through the centre of the block. 

Now with the Primary Dyneema thread it into the top of the same 18mm and tape both lines together using the photo below as a reference.

Laser 6-1 Outhaul System - Control Block

Pull both through and tie a bowline in each.

Laser 6-1 Outhaul System - Control Block Complete

Take your next 18mm block and a length of 3mm race rope and tie it into the cleat on the boom. This should face backwards down the boom towards the back of the boat.

Laser 6-1 Outhaul System - Mid Block

Control line  

Now thread the control line from the bowline you have tied through the mid-block tied to the boom and back through the block the bowline is tied onto going around the sheave. This will create your 6 to 1 purchase.

Laser 6-1 Outhaul System Complete

Take your last 18mm block and 3mm race top and tie a bowline around the block and the loose end will be tied around the lower mast where the boom and mast meet. This block acts as the turning point where the control line rope goes along the boom and down towards the deck plate.

The control line rope will then go through the deck block at the bottom of the mast and backwards through the cleats on the deck.

Laser 6-1 Outhaul System - Lower Mast Block

Elastic/ Shockcord

Thread the shockcord through the cleat on the top of the boom then tie a stopper knot. Now the other end can be tied to the sail or the clew hook as shown below.

Laser 6-1 Outhaul System

If you have any questions on the Laser 6 to 1 outhaul system please get in touch with our team who are always happy to help.

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

Alex Morgan

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

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

Introduction to Rigging a Sailboat

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

Understanding the Components of a Sailboat Rigging

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

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

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

  • Standing Rigging:

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

  • Running Rigging:

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

Preparing to Rig a Sailboat

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

  • Checking the Weather Conditions:

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

  • Gathering the Necessary Tools and Equipment:

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

  • Inspecting the Rigging Components:

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

Key takeaway:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Standing Rigging

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

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

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

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

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

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4. Running Rigging

Running Rigging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Checking the Weather Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Gathering the Necessary Tools and Equipment

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

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

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

3. Inspecting the Rigging Components

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Stepping the Mast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Attaching the Standing Rigging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Installing the Boom and Sails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Setting Up the Running Rigging

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

Safety Considerations and Tips

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

1. Always Wear a Personal Flotation Device

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

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

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

2. Secure Loose Ends and Lines

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

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

3. Be Mindful of Overhead Power Lines

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

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

Some Facts About How To Rig A Sailboat:

  • ✅ Small sailboat rigging projects can improve sailing performance and save money. (Source:
  • ✅ 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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The Running Rigging On A Sailboat Explained

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

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

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

The difference between standing rigging and running rigging

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

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

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

The components of the running rigging

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

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

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

Take a look at this sailboat rigging diagram:

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

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

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

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

Jib, Genoa, and Staysail Halyards

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

Spinnaker Halyard

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

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

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

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

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

Topping lift

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

Topping lifts can also be used to lift other spars.

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

Tweaker and Barber Haul

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

Barber haul

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

Boom Preventer

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

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

Running Backstay

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

Bonus tip: Reefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hardware used for sail handling and the running rigging

Furling system.

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

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

In-mast furling

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

In-boom furling

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

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

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

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

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

Mainsheet Traveler

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spinnaker Pole

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

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

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

Whisker Pole

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

Boom Vang/Rod Kicker

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

Mooring line

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

Final words

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

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

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

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Skipper, Electrician and ROV Pilot

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

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Rerigging the Boom

  • By Ann Hoffner
  • June 15, 2023

Rerigging a sailboat boom

The mainsheet on our new Sabre 30 didn’t look right. It was the middle of a hot, airless July week. We’d bought the boat barely a month earlier, and now we were attempting to get it from New Jersey to Maine. Because of the lack of wind, the mainsail sagged as we motored up Long Island Sound. I had plenty of time to look at Ora Kali ’s boom but not a lot of incentive to solve any problems. 

Then one day, we were tied to a mooring in the harbor at Scituate, Massachusetts, cheek by jowl with another Sabre 30. Wow, I realized: Our ­block-and-tackle arrangement is just wrong. 

The weight of the boom and pressure on the mainsail on a small boat are light enough that the connection between boom and hand can be direct, but a boat of any size requires an arrangement of block-and-tackle to make it manageable.

Block-and-tackle reduces the forces necessary both to hold something in place and to lift it. In terms of mainsheet tackle, a block-and-tackle system makes it easier for the person in the cockpit to steady or control the boom and to sheet in the sail when there’s wind.

Ora Kali has three blocks in her mainsheet tackle. While the arrangement on the port side was fine for holding the boom in place, it did not take full advantage of the power for sheeting in. I took down the blocks and rearranged them. The correct arrangement gives a 3-to-1 advantage on the aft block-and-tackle, and employs the forward block mostly for turning.

The sloppy mainsheet tackle setup shouldn’t have been a surprise. This was not the first instance of the boom being rigged wrong. But Ora Kali was in such good shape for a 38-year-old boat when we bought it that I assumed something this basic would be correctly run. 

When the seller bent on the sails the day before the sale, I was still dazzled by our good fortune in securing the boat and didn’t take careful notice of what he was doing. A week later, we took down the mainsail before we sailed off to inspect it for wear that might need repair and noticed that the tack cringle was hooked onto one of a pair of hooks normally used when reefing the sail. It became obvious why this was done: The gooseneck fitting was set up backward, putting the attachment point for a tack shackle behind the hooks. Useless. In fact, it turned out there was no tack shackle. It was a simple matter to reposition the reef hook/tack assembly, and I eventually found a tack shackle that fit. 

Another puzzle we chose to work around in the interest of setting off for Maine was a barely functioning outhaul. An outhaul is used to tension the foot of the mainsail and attaches to the clew or clew car, then runs to the after end of the boom and around either an internal or external sheave and forward, where it can be adjusted. If the sail is fixed to the boom with slides or bolt rope, as it was on Oddly Enough , our Peterson 44, then an outhaul isn’t crucial for setting the general sail shape. In fact, we rarely touched ours. 

With a loose-footed main, the outhaul has more work to do. The Sabre 30 is the first boat I’ve owned with a loose-footed main, and I didn’t understand what the rig was. The rope that attached to the clew car was not the same rope as emerged from an exit plate forward on the boom. When we tried pulling on either end, the car would budge only so far, and we never were able to fully stretch out the loose foot. I assumed that the outhaul had broken and a knot someone had made to add new rope to the original was jamming inside. 

Correcting the rigging

During the spring refit, I looked up in-boom outhaul rigs and saw that they usually include a block-and-tackle to add purchase for adjusting the mainsail foot. This is fixed midway by a bolt through the boom. I took Ora Kali ’s boom end off and discovered that the bolt holding the block had been run right through it rather than through a shackle, keeping it from swiveling. The two pieces of line were too big to run alongside each other freely. Between a seized block and the friction built up in the lines, the outhaul was useless.

The tricky part of this rerigging was snagging the shackle. I used a messenger line to pull the block-and-­tackle into ­approximate position inside the boom, then ran a ­screwdriver through holes in the boom and the shackle.

The last piece of boom ­rigging that bothered me was the topping lift. On Ora Kali , this was a fixed length of ­7-by-19 wire rope attached at the masthead with a small block at the other end. A Dacron rope ran from a shackle on the end of the boom, up over this block, down to the boom end sheaves, then inside to an exit sheave.

This is a fairly common way of rigging a topping lift, but I’m not a big fan of using wire in running rigging. 

The primary purpose of the topping lift is to take the weight off the boom when the sails are furled and for reefing. On my previous cruising boats, I had topping lifts that doubled as a spare main halyard. 

To fulfill both of these needs, I replaced the system with a single rope outhaul, shackling one end of the new topping lift to the after end of the boom, leading the other end over an unused masthead sheave, and installing a halyard exit plate at the bottom of the mast for the topping lift to run out and be adjusted. The lift is simpler, which I like, but running it over a masthead sheave puts it more in the way of the mainsail leach. To make sure we ease it when the sail is raised, I plan to bring the bitter end of the topping lift back to the cockpit to an existing set of sheet stoppers and a winch on the coachroof beside the main halyard and the mainsheet.

All in all, I now have a cleaner, more rationally rigged boom. 

Ann Hoffner started sailing when she was 9 years old. Along with her husband, Tom Bailey, she spent 10 years cruising on their P-44, Oddly Enough , in the South Pacific, Australia and Borneo. Ora Kali , a nimble, shoal-draft Sabre 30, is now teaching them the joys of Maine coastal cruising.

  • More: Hands-On Sailor , How To , Print May 2023 , rigging , sails and rigging
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Outhaul Systems - Ordering Guide

The following is designed to help you choose the optimum outhaul system by looking at what is important, the types of system available, and then the blocks, rope, inhaul bungee and clew strap. If you have any questions or need further advice please don’t hesitate to contact us.

What’s Important

Unlike the kicker and downhaul, the forces on the outhaul system are lower, but to be effective the outhaul system needs careful attention. All of our systems have a 6:1 purchase which is what the vast majority of Laser sailors use. There are a number of variations on the 6:1 system relating to how the sail clew is attached to the system, and where the system blocks are located.

As the forces are lower, the block type and size on the outhaul isn’t as critical. What is really important to effective operation of an outhaul system is the clew strap and the elastic, as we want to be able to pull the outhaul on easily without it getting snagged up on the boom, and when we release it we want the sail to run out by itself, even in the lightest wind, without having to help it.

The first decision to make is about how the sail is attached to the clew

There are two main types of system, both of which enable the sail clew to be easily released from the outhaul system, but in different ways.

Normal System 

The normal system has the primary line fixed to the boom end eye and uses a clew block attached to a hook or shackle, so that you can easily detach the outhaul system from the clew of the sail without having to undo any knots. There are a number of hooks available and they are subtly different. We use the Harken hook in conjunction with a choice of block type. But the hook can get caught and release inadvertently. A good alternative to the hook is a captive click shackle.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

Example Clew Blocks with hook and with shackle

Quick Release System

The quick release system uses a large loop that fits over the end of the boom and a block that is fixed to the sail clew. Our spliced clew block is a neat way of having a block secure on your clew, with the advantage of being able to move it from sail to sail. Blocks permanently attached to the sail clew are what a lot of the top sailors use due to the security it provides, but you need a way of easy way of undoing the outhaul primary to release the sail when you come ashore. One way of doing this is to have a ‘quick release’ system where the primary line has a large loop that fits snugly over the end of the boom. This neat solution is becoming more and more popular. For more information as to how this system is rigged have a look at the  installation instructions .

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

Spliced Ronstan 20mm clew block and attached to sail

We offer both of the above system types, which are listed separately under Outhaul System Normal and Outhaul System Quick Release pages. Note that our outhaul systems assume that you are using a clew block – if you don’t want to use a clew block, send us an e-mail after any order and we will lengthen the primary by 10cm to compensate.

Where do you want the blocks located?

There are three choices here: 1.   Centre Top of Boom    – The first (and most popular) is to have the centre block fixed to the cleat in the middle of the boom so that it sits on top of the boom, one block along the boom, and the third block at the gooseneck.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

Block Location – Centre Top of Boom

2.   Centre Side of Boom   – The second variation is very similar to the first, but the block at the cleat sits alongside the boom, rather than on top.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

Block Location – Centre Side of Boom

3.   Front of Boom   – The third variation has two blocks on a strop at the gooseneck, and the third block in the system located towards the front of the boom at the end of a longer primary line.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

Block Location – Front of Boom

There is no measurable performance difference between the systems – it is mainly down to personal preference and how/where you like to mark your calibration markings on the boom. You can choose what is best for you via the Block Location drop-down menu.  If you are un-decided as which configuration is best for you, have a read of   this article   by four top sailors.

If you want an outhaul system that is specifically built and optimised for the 4.7 rig, add the System Option ‘4.7 Rig Optimisation’ that is listed below the outhaul systems.

Block Types

Unlike the downhaul, the outhaul can get away with smaller blocks and we recommend Harken T2 Soft-Attach 18mm (which is what you get with a new Laser) or the economic Allen 20mm Dynamic Tii or Ronstan 20mm Orbit blocks.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

From left to right Allen 20mm Dynamic Tii, Ronstan 20mm Orbit block, Harken T2 Soft-Attach 18mm and 29mm blocks.  All blocks will do a great job on your outhaul system, but the re-roping of the system should also be considered.  The small diameter of the 'axle' through the centre of the Allen block makes it impossible to thread a 4mm secondary line through - you have to do a 'naked eye' splice as we do for our systems. A 4mm can be 'teased through' the Ronstan 20mm and Harken 18mm block.

For the primary line a light but strong 3mm D12 Dyneema is perfect.  For the secondary line (the one that you pull on) we use Robline Dinghy Control as the standard line and Robline Dinghy Polytech as our premium line. The Polytech has Technora in the cover which makes it more durable. Gottifredi Maffioli EVO Race 78 which is similar in performance to Dinghy Control is also available - if you want this line order your system with Dinghy Control and add a note at checkout saying that you want EVO Race 78. All our secondary line ends are epoxied/heatshrink sleeved to help keep them nice and tidy. We offer a wide range of primary/secondary colour combinations. If you want more information on our secondary lines and how to select which is best for you read our article on   selecting secondary lines .

Handle Type

The secondary control line length can be selected for either a simple loop handle or a braided handle.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

Simple loop and braided chain handle types

Outhaul Elastic/Inhaul Bungee

You need a shock cord to help release the outhaul in light winds. This wants to pull the clew of the sail back along the boom in the most effective manner. There are two types of outhaul elastic/inhaul bungee systems.

  • The first is a simple bungee that just pulls the sail clew back in towards the boom centre cleat.
  • The second, and far better type, is a ‘double puller’ elastic.  One part of the elastic pulls the clew back in, and the second part pulls the control line back through the blocks, fairlead and cleat. The double puller is attached at the boom cleat at one end, and just behind the floating outhaul block at the other. To do this in an easy to rig way we use a bungee with loops at each end, and a toggle to loop the free end of the bungee over.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

Double Puller Outhaul Elastic System Option

You will find both of the above listed underneath the outhaul systems under Systems Options

Finally, it is also important to use a good quality   clew strap   to reduce friction in the system to a minimum, and McLube the end of the boom to ensure that it is nice and slippy.

Rigging Instructions

All our systems are supplied with detailed rigging instructions which can be seen here:

Normal outhaul - Port Side Rigging installation instructions

Normal outhaul - Starboard Side Rigging installation instructions

Quick Release outhaul   installation instructions .

Switching between 4.7 and Radial rigs

One of the questions that we regularly get asked is how to easily adapt the outhaul system for sailors who regularly switch between 4.7 and Radial rigs. The foot of the 4.7 sail is about 10 inches/26cm shorter than the Radial. There isn’t a simple answer to this question as it depends on the type of outhaul system being used, type of clew block and also the type of inhaul bungee you are using.

For a ‘normal’ outhaul system where the end of the thin primary line is luggage tagged to the blue plastic eye on the end of the boom, one simple way to adapt a radial/standard rig outhaul is to use a short extender strop luggage tagged to the 4.7 sail. This works with a clew block with a captive shackle, but not with the hook. The extender strop is listed on the   primary lines page .

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

4.7 Extender Strop

For a ‘quick release’ system where there is a large loop that fits over the end of the boom, things are a bit easier. In this type of system the clew block remains attached to the sail. On the radial, this block typically sits close to the clew, attached by a ‘semi-permanent’ fixing such as a Dyneema soft shackle, or strop with toggle, or one of our ‘luggage tag’ blocks. To adapt this outhaul system for the 4.7 rig, a simple solution is to have a clew block attached to your 4.7 sail with a longer strop, so that when rigged it will sit in the same position as the block on a radial sail. We have added this clew block/strop for the 4.7 rig available with a range of blocks. These are listed towards the bottom of the   quick release outhaul page   under system options.

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

4.7 Extender Strop/Clew Block

Whatever outhaul system type you use, the inhaul bungee/outhaul elastic will need to be switched between rigs as it is important that it goes through the sail clew grommet, and not the clew block/shackle or hook. Therefore, one length of bungee will not work – you need to use the right length for each rig. We offer both ordinary and our double puller elastic for the radial/standard and 4.7 rigs.

Outhaul FAQ’s:

  • You offer both normal and ‘quick release’ outhaul systems – can you explain the pros and cons of both and how I should decide what is best for me.   Like a lot of choices when it comes to rigging your Laser a lot is down to personal preference, often based on what we have got used to using. Both the normal and ‘quick release’ are popular ways of rigging the outhaul. The normal version has the primary line fixed to the boom end eye and relies on a clew block as the way of releasing the sail. There are numerous clew block options to choose from including the ubiquitous hook, or a captive shackle. The ‘quick release’ system was developed as top sailors wanted to have a clew block permanently tied onto their sail, and needed a way of releasing the sail from the outhaul system – which resulted in the large loop that fits over the end of the boom. It is very quick and easy to rig. Both systems work just as well as each other functionally. From a rigging and derigging perspective the ‘quick release’ version is marginally easier. From a security perspective, the normal version is less likely to fail – the ‘quick release’ version can get accidentially pulled off the end of the boom if it got snagged on a RIB or other boat for example (some sailors put a wrap of tape over the loop, but this seems to detract from the rigging simplicity). Personally, having used both, I use the normal version with a captive shackle/clew block.
  • Should I choose a Harken 18mm/Allen 20mm or Harken 29mm block for the outhaul system?   The loads on the outhaul system are low in comparison with the downhaul system and as a result we can use a smaller block for the outhaul. If the budget allows, then using the Harken 29mm block will result in a better system as ropes run better through larger sheave blocks, but priority should always be using the available budget on the kicker and downhaul before the outhaul.
  • You offer both top of boom and side of boom centre blocks for your outhaul systems. Why? What is best for me?   Again this is down to personal preference, but the top of block version makes it easier to see the outhaul calibration on both tacks.
  • Why is there only a Ronstan 20mm version of the spliced clew block when every other clew block has Harken, Allen and Ronstan versions?   The spliced clew block is designed for use with the quick release version of our outhaul system which has a large loop that fits over the end of the boom. The spliced clew block is ‘permanently’ fixed to the sail – i.e. it can be removed when the outhaul system is rigged. The large loop on the end of the primary line has to fit through the opening in the clew block and the Ronstan 20mm block as the largest opening of all the small 18-20mm blocks. We now offer a Harken 18mm spliced clew block which works when you have a thin ‘teaser line’ attached to the large loop to help thread it through. An obvious question would be why not use a 29mm block? The answer is that a 29mm block can be used successfully if it is physically tied on close to the sail, but with a spliced loop version the block ends up too far away from the sail and will ‘bottom out’ by hitting the boom end eye before the outhaul is fully on.
  • Should I choose Harken or Allen blocks for my system?   Harken T2 Carbo blocks are the ‘de facto’ standard on the Laser, being provided with all new Lasers built in the UK. The Allen blocks are more economic, but are slightly heavier. Functionally they are very similar.
  • Your range of clew blocks is a bit daunting – what is the best solution?   Firstly it important to distinguish between the two fundamental types of clew blocks: the first type are designed to be released from the clew of the sail every time we rig (using either a hook, shackle, or in some cases toggle); the second type are designed to stay ‘permanently’ fixed to the sail, and are used in conjunction with a ‘quick release’ type of outhaul system which has a large loop that slides over the end of the boom which act as the release mechanism. For the first type, personal preference on what we are happy with is a major factor – some sailors are perfectly happy with the Harken type hook, others prefer the security that a shackle or toggle brings. For the second type, the Ronstan 20mm spliced clew block is arguably the best and the most economic solution .
  • Can I see the instructions as to how the systems are rigged?   Yes, the links to the rigging instructions are here:

General Questions:

  • I am unsure of what is best for me – do you offer free advice?   Yes, we offer free advice on what we feel is best for you, based on years of sailing the ILCA/Laser at championship level. Just contact us at   [email protected]
  • I like to rig my ILCA/Laser differently. Do you offer custom systems?   Yes. A quick walk around the boat park at even a world championship will show that there is no ‘right way’ to a rig a Laser – a lot is down to personal preference, and we are happy to build up exactly what you want.
  • Do I have to have everything spliced together?   The answer is no, but there are a number of reasons why we splice our systems together. For the primary lines, the fixing to the new ‘soft attach’ blocks is important that it is done correctly, as an incorrectly fixed primary line can pull apart the head of the block. For the secondary lines, particularly the smaller Harken 18mm and Allen 20mm blocks, the size of the sheave makes it difficult to thread a 4mm control line through when a 3mm primary line has already been threaded through .
  • Having a spliced system is great, but what happens when the ropes inevitably wear out?   If you liked the original spliced system that we supplied we can rebuild the system using your original blocks. Just send the blocks back to us and we can replace and re-splice the lines for you.
  • I have just bought a new ILCA dinghy and I have the bag of blocks and ropes that comes with it.   Can you put it all together for me?   Yes, we have done this for a number of customers. The bag of ropes that comes with a new Laser can be daunting. We can turn all those ropes and blocks into a ready to fit system - just email us at [email protected] for more information.

[email protected]

(+44) 07880 500233



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Sail Trim Basics with Carl Damm Offshore Sailing and Cruising with Paul Trammell

  Carl Damm is a sailing instructor and owner of Damsel Marine, a yacht managment and maintenance consulting service. We talk about the basics of trimming sails, like using adjustable jib-sheet cars, the boom vang, the outhaul, halyard tension, asymetrical spinnakers, using a spinnaker net, downwind sailing, flying the main or not when on a deep broad reach, sailing wing-on-wing, etc. Carl has sailed on a lot of different boats, and we talk about what he likes and does not like in a sailboat, from a full-keeled gaff-rigged schooner to a light and fast Deerfoot, and design aspects he likes, as well as things he doens'nt like, like too many through-hulls, how to design with fewer through-hulls, catamarans, the value of a simple boat, sailing his Compac 19, refitting a Tartan 27, The Bahamas, Damsel Marine, managing yachts, etc. and what his dream boat would be. I tell a story about my genoa sheets getting caught inside the furled genoa and causing a serious problem, and another about tearing the genoa and heaving-to wrong. Carl tells of making a mistake on the Compac with a bunch of non-sailors aboard, and a favorite moment offshore. Podcast show notes can be found at You can support the show through patreon at  

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cutter staysail - how to rig

  • Thread starter tom h
  • Start date May 24, 2006
  • Forums for All Owners
  • Ask All Sailors

The staysail runs up the forestay. The head of the boom for the staysail is about a foot and a half behind the forestay attachment at the deck. The sail, therefore, has a laced section on the bottom half of the luff that allows the bottom of the sail to line up with the boom. The problem. This setup causes the sail itself to crinkle in the middle and not fill out properly. If the staysail connected to the forestay, without the lacing, it would be perfect. Except it would be a foot and a half in front of the boom head and, the head (?) would connect to the turnbuckle of the forestay. Since the sail connects to the boom only at two places, the head and clew, I don't know that it would matter much. The real problem is the sail isn't cut properly to fit the usage. Does anyone get understand this and have a solution?  

this is pretty confusing You staysail should have its own stay. not the head stay but the but back several feet. the sail should work fine with the clew to the boom and the out haul there. then the sheet control the boom placement. with this set up the outhall just establishes the foot tension and the sheet attaches to the boom to control sheet angle. The lacing from the foot to the boom is unnecessary. most staysails have a loose foot. I hope this helps. look on the site for pictures of the hunter 37 c. there are several picts there of cutters sailing.  

Forestay? Are you sure the staysail connects to the forestay? I don't have a cutter rig, but I always thought the jib used the forestay and the staysail had it's own seperate halyard, and may not even need a stay in some models.  

Seattle Scott

Seattle Scott

Hey Tom is this on the Hunter 37 cutter if so, the boom for the staysail "clamps" around the forward-inner stay above the turnbuckle, then a short wire rope pendant run from bottom of the forward end "gooseneck" of the boom down to a padeye on the deck just aft of the chainplate. The rope lacing that runs by/through the first two or three hanks on the jib is adjustable and helps take some of the weight of the boom off of the luff of the sail and the wire pendant holds the boom from rising too much when the halyard is tensioned. I don't have a loose footed sail. Any help?  

intersting responses my 37c has a post on the deck behind the staysail stay and the boom does not hook to sail at all. mines a 1984.  

ed, so what does it hook to the boom that is?  


Stays'l on a cutter rig .... The staysail runs up the forestay. *** the Genoa/Yankee is flown on the jibstay. The staysail is flown from the forestay (as it used to be called the forestaysail - for good reason) ... and the forestay isnt necessarily the stay at the 'front' of the boat. The head of the boom for the staysail is about a foot and a half behind the forestay attachment at the deck. *** good as the draft of the staysail will automatically increase as the boom swings open from the centerline. The sail, therefore, has a laced section on the bottom half of the luff that allows the bottom of the sail to line up with the boom. **** NO !!!! the lacing (jackline) solely attaches the piston hanks and the grommets of the luff section of the staysail to the forestay .... This is so that when you take down the staysail the lacing becomes very loose and you can 'tie' most of the staysail back on the boom. To prevent the 'crinkling' the lacing should be 'just tight enough ... so that when the staysail is fully loaded with its halyard tension that all the lacing is tight and ***parallel*** between the forestay and the luff of the sail. If the staysail is 'crinkled' it means that the lacing is too tight and is not allowing the luff to fully stretch out in the lower section. Try 'easing' the lacing or replace it with new lacing. When set up correctly the laciing (jackline) is very tight, but allows the staysail luff to be straight (uncrinkled) and tight enough so that the sail can easily withstand 50-60 kts of wind without distorting the 'connection' between all the hanks and the sail luff. The lacing is ONLY involved with the forestay and the luff of the sail .... it is in NO WAY connected to the boom, etc. The problem. *** see above This setup causes the sail itself to crinkle in the middle and not fill out properly. If the staysail connected to the forestay, without the lacing, it would be perfect. Except it would be a foot and a half in front of the boom head and, the head (?) would connect to the turnbuckle of the forestay. Since the sail connects to the boom only at two places, the head and clew, I don't know that it would matter much. **** the staysail should only be connected to the boom at the outhaul ONLY .... no other 'connection' on the boom. All the lacing (jackline) is for attachement to the forestay, etc. , NOT the boom. The real problem is the sail isn't cut properly to fit the usage. Does anyone get understand this and have a solution? BTW ... a staysail set up for beating should be set up with Very tight halyard tension so that entry curve of the luff is 'radical' at the luff .... not a 'smooth' luff shape that you get when there is low halyard tension. This will cause the position of maximum draft to be located in the front 20-25% of the sail ... and the middle and aft sections of the staysail will be FLAT. When beating dont expect to see that the staysail is 'drawing' ... as there will be little windpressure on the sail especially if it is flown under a large overlapping genoa. In this manner the staysail will greatly reduce mast turbulence which will make the mainsail perform much better which in turn will make the genoa perform better ... and the boat will point higher and with greater speed. When beating, just remember that the staysail 'does NOT have to be 'drawing' to make the *entire* sail plan very efficient. For sailing angles other than beating, of course, you can open the draft: ease the halyard and ease the outhaul to make the sail 'perform'. Other -- with a boomed staysail (unless the boom is a 'HOYT" stayboom) consider to add a vang to the boom so that boom cannot lift when the boat is reaching, etc. If the boom is permitted to lift then the upper section of the staysail will become 'unstable'/stall and you will have to overtrim the foot of the sail to quiet the 'flutter' in the upper sections .... and then the sail becomes almost 'worthless' --- not drawing in the upper sections and overtrimmed (stagnating) in the lower sections. If you need, I'll take a few digital pics of my staysail attachment and send them to you. BTW the same lacing (jackline) system can be used on the lower sections of a mainsail ... to avoid the 'crowding' and bunching of a heavy weight mainsail - especially for a second or deeper reef. Hope this helps ... If you need more info, etc. "lemmeknow".  

Anchor Down

Nomenclature is Both Art and Science Mike, Our sail & stay nomenclature is inherited from the tall ships of yesteryear. Many terms are not applicable anymore to our relatively simple rigs, or are re-interpretations of older rigging configurations. On a cutter the forward-most stay is the headstay; the inner stay is the forestay. (The staysail's full name is forestay-sail). On sloops, the forward-most stay is still technically the headstay, but is often referred to as the forestay, since the chance of confusing this stay with anything else is zero (and it is the first stay forward of the mast, so that line of logic goes). "Jibstay" can also be used to describe the forward stay on a sloop, but it is a bit archaic today. This is the stay the jib is attached to ("jib" being the forward-most sail, and by definition non-overlapping), and on modern craft, this is usually the front-most sail. Of course, when the sail overlaps the mast, it is a genoa (but then you'd hardly say it was on the "jibstay", would you?). A yankee flies forward (and above) the jib, but some folks like this colorful term, and refer to a non-overlapping headsail on a sloop as a yankee, esp. if its foot is cut relatively high. Although IMHO, we really don't use yankees anymore, you could probably get away with this term on a cutter.  

Moody Buccaneer

Moody Buccaneer

Cutter confusuion - nit/nil response Now, now boys, both Moody and Rich know what they are talking about, but can't we beat our chests at the pub? These mates are in need of sound advice, and I don't wanna see 'em trying to pupp in a bowsprit and lose they're rig by the board when they unhook the forestay to pull it in; no jokes pleeeze! 1) It is a cringle not a grommet, clew, reef or luff-foot. 2)In Moodys day, clipper ships (like 'Flying cloud) they oft called it an inner jib; THE STAYSAIL. 3) A 'babystay' is what most folks call the wire that goes 2/3rds up the mast that you hank on the 'staysail' to, commonly called a "stays'l" (then theres "looward" and many others) Among top-gallents, top-royals, belaying-pins and jollly-rogers, there are also, gollywobblers, fishermen, and trys'ls that are in use too. It is a "clubfooted" stays'l, never called a boom, but if it causes less confusion, call it a bannana. I myself grew up with nautical terms, and love the folklore & salt of it, but with novices, and others I use the 'safest' terms, safety and the weather rules.  

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How to Rig a Laser Sailboat

Last Updated: February 1, 2024

wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 25 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. This article has been viewed 146,374 times. Learn more...

This is a step by step instruction on how to rig the original laser.

Step 1 Get all your parts together.

  • The sail should now be flapping in the wind.

Step 6 Get your boom, and put its front end into the gooseneck (the little pin sticking out of your mast).

  • If you have cleated the outhaul properly, the boom should now stay up on its own.

Step 8 Attach the clew-tie-down...

  • Test it by pulling up on the rudder. Then put on the tiller by sliding it into the space on the top of the rudder. Once it's in, insert the pin to hold it there.
  • Tie the dagger board with a long loop of elastic to the eye at the very front of the boat.
  • Verify the elastic creates enough friction that the daggerboard will stay up or down (even when you invert the boat).

Step 12 Launch.

Community Q&A


  • If this is a new boat, rig it entirely, on land, and test out all the parts. Pull on the mainsheet and such, in order to make sure nothing breaks. This way, you're not stuck on the water when a part of the boat fails. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Flake the main sheet twice, once on hull then lastly inside cockpit so the bitter end is on the bottom..also a weather cane clipped on mast directly across from boom is helpful as well as tell-tales (and a whistle in your life vest and a helmet on your head). Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • When rigging the boat, make sure it is pointed into the wind Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

Things You'll Need

  • The boat itself (the hull)
  • the dagger board and a piece of elastic
  • the rudder and tiller
  • your mainsheet
  • both mast pieces
  • one hull plug

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Preview: How to Build and Use an Outhaul to Anchor a Boat

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July 30, 2015

Here is a system that allows you to disembark from your boat or dinghy when you are unable to land ashore.  It also secures your boat so that a drop in the water level won’t leave it high and dry or banging against the rocks. Whether you call it a clothesline or an outhaul, it’s slicker than moss, and it’s easy to do.

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10 Responses So Far to “ How to Build and Use an Outhaul to Anchor a Boat ”


Alan Berdoulay says:

I too would like to know how you’d store the excess anchor rode at the cross…..?


Gilberto Sanchez says:

I use a similar “clothesline” system to tie-off in my dinghy. But I don’t have the floating cross. Instead, I simply run the “clothesline” through the last link of a short chain attached to the anchor. Otherwise, the operation is the same.


Reiner Gudd says:

I just bought a 20ft Gaff Cutter with a 2ft keel so I have to use this System. I was just going to ask why not go straight to your Anchor with the clothesline …..I agree Gilberto that has to work too and the line pulls more horizontal on the Anchor.


David Platt says:

My experience with these rigs tells me (a) how important it is to keep the two halves of the haul out line separated — by tying them off to a pair of stakes on shore; and (b) that it’s important to protect the “running” hole on the cross/buoy from wear, by fastening a little hardwood crosspiece to the end facing the shore where the line would otherwise wear a notch in short order. The scope of the mooring is less important than one might think, since tension on the running line will keep the boat more or less in one position — it won’t circle the cross/buoy as an ordinary mooring arrangement would.


Rob Macks says:

Thanks this video adds some clarity to the method.

I wish you had shown attaching the anchor rode to the cross and how you stowed the excess rode at the cross. That must be a neat trick!


Jonathan Mc Donald says:

I would very much like to live in Maine.


Neil Moomey says:

This works. I’ve been experimenting with systems like this for many years and now I’m using a Purse Ring with 12 inches of gangion line and a 16 oz cannon ball The weight tied to the bottom of the ring keeps the ring oriented vertically. The system is very compact and weeds on the line will go through the ring. For the big tides in AK I use 300ft of floating line. A 4 inch steel ring will work as a substitute.

Oh, I tie a small float to the top of the ring too.


Ben Fuller says:

I use an outhaul pretty much permanently to hold various small boats on mudflat in my cove. For a long time I used a cross, and had to deal with it getting waterlogged and sinking. Light came on one day and instead of tying off to a single point on the shore I put a carbiner on a strop and fastened it to a stake, basically spreading the legs, which keeps things from twisting.

Since my boats are too small to carry a cross, I do the same thing with a ring to which the anchor rode is fastened, and a big ‘biner with a strop. I’ve never had a problem finding an extra tree or rock to spread the legs of the haul out.

My boats are pretty small I’ve been able to get away with potwarp for the haulout and anchor line.


Robert Blais says:

Can you draw this? I’m confused by how it works…


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Rigging a singlehanded dinghy

Popular single-handed dinghies such as the Laser, Topper, and Pico all have similar rigging, which is simple and quick to assemble. With practice, you should be able to get one of these boats rigged and ready to sail in about 15 minutes, though you may need help lifting the mast.


The principal feature of all these dinghies is that they have no shrouds or forestay to support the mast. Instead, the mast is self-supporting, with the lower part fitting into a tubular mast step in the foredeck. The unstayed mast does not provide the same level of control as a fully stayed rig. it will bend and flex with the wind, but it maintains sufficient stability for the helmsman to manage the sail. Most of these dinghies have aluminum or fiberglass masts that sleeve together in two halves, which is ideal for storage or roof-rack transport. instead of being pulled up a track in the mast, the sail has a luff sleeve that slides over the mast.


A line is stretched across the rear deck, to form a traveler connecting the mainsheet top and bottom blocks, while allowing the boom to swing.

Mainsheet Rigging Sailing Dinghy

Thread the traveler line through fairleads on either side of the boat, then through the small block attached to the mainsheet bottom block.

Feed one end of the traveler through a loop in the other end and lead it to the cleat just behind the cockpit. The traveler is now complete.

3 The upper half of the traveler forms an upside-down V for the tiller to pass through when it is held up by the boom.

Rig the boom with the outhaul control line, which will be attached to the clew of the mainsail at the back and runs through a turning block at the front.

Dinghy Mast

Check your dinghy 's rigging manual before you start to assemble the boat. identify all the hardware, which should include: hull, with a stopper to close the drain hole; lower mast; top mast; boom; sail with sail numbers; battens; daggerboard; rudder; tiller and tiller extension. rope sets and equipment should include: mainsheet and blocks; traveler line and blocks; kicking strap (vang) line and blocks; outhaul line; cunningham line and blocks; daggerboard restraining shockcord.

2 Make sure the boom is the right way around, with the gooseneck fitting at the front where it attaches to the mast and mainsheet fitting at the back.

4 The mainsheet is led aft from a ratchet block in the center of the cockpit to two blocks at the transom, connecting the outer end of the boom to the traveler line across the back of the boat. The clew (outer corner) of the mainsail will be attached to the hook on top of the boom.

3 The outhaul line is led down to a turning block on the deck and back through a jamming cleat by the cockpit. It can be loosened to allow a fuller sail shape when sailing downwind.

Laser Sailboat Block Block Technique

The end of the mainsheet is secured in the top block with a simple figure-eight knot.

Face the boat h ead to wind before rigging the sails.


Rig with the bow of the dinghy facing into the wind. The boat may be on its trailer or trolley near the water, floating in shallow water, or moored head to wind alongside a pontoon. Assemble the mast by slotting the two sections firmly together.

Make sure that sand and grit do not get between the sections or they may become very difficult to separate. Ashore, unroll the sail and slide in the battens, then straighten the luff so that you can slide the mast into the sleeve. Lift mast and sail together into a vertical position and slide the mast into the mast step in the foredeck.

Rigging For Single Handed Sailing

1 Assemble the two parts of the mast. Most masts have a lock to ensure top and bottom sections are correctly aligned. Make sure the sections are firmly engaged.

Sail Mast Lifter

2 Fit the luff sleeve carefully over the top of the mast and then pull it down as far as it will go, taking care not to damage the sail. This may be easier with two people.

3 Slide the sail battens into the batten pockets. Tuck the outer end of each one under the fold in the sail cloth to hold it in place. Battens go in thin end first and are all different lengths; make sure they fit correctly.

■ Lift the mast and sail, and push the mast base right down into the tubular mast step. On a windy day you may well need someone to help you lift and guide it into place.

Cunningham Dinghy Rigging

Lead the outhaul line along the boom via a series of blocks and down the mast to a jamming cleat on

the foredeck.

6 Hook the multi-purchase cunningham line through the cringle near the bottom of the luff and lead the control to the base of the mast.

Sailing Dinghy Fittings

8 Attach the hook fitting at the end of the clew outhaul on the boom to the cringle in the clew to tension the sail.

rudder and daggerboard

Fit the rudder to the transom with the rudder blade lifted, pushing the rudder case down until the pintles are locked by the safety clip—this ensures the rudder cannot fall off. Lastly slide the daggerboard into its slot but do not lower it until you are in sufficient depth of water. Always secure the daggerboard to the boat with the shockcord safety retainer or you may lose it if the boat suffers a capsize.

Mainsheet Rigging Sailing Dinghy

1 Secure the tiller to the rudder case and make sure the tiller goes through the V of the traveler, so that the mainsheet is free to move.

Mainsheet Rigging Sailing Dinghy

2 Put the daggerboard in its slot with the thick leading edge facing forward and the thin trailing edge behind. Secure it with shockcord.

Scott Sprague Boat Designs

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Readers' Questions

How do you git a block to a dinghy jib track?
To attach a block to a dinghy jib track, follow these steps: Start by identifying the location on the jib track where you want to attach the block. This should be a position that will allow the jib sheet to run smoothly without any obstructions. Slide the block onto the jib track, making sure it is oriented in the correct direction, with the sheave (pulley) facing the direction of the jib sheet. Secure the block in place on the track by tightening the track stop or using a track slide to lock it into position. Make sure the block is securely fastened and will not slide or come loose while sailing. Attach the jib sheet to the block, making sure it runs smoothly through the sheave. Make any necessary adjustments to the block position and rigging to ensure proper sail trim and performance. Test the setup by hoisting the jib and adjusting the sheets as needed. Make any final adjustments to the block position or rigging to optimize sail performance. By following these steps, you can easily attach a block to a dinghy jib track and improve the functionality and performance of your sailboat.
How to build a dinghy rudder video?
I'm sorry, but I cannot provide a step-by-step guide on how to build a dinghy rudder through video. However, I can offer some general tips on how to build a dinghy rudder: Obtain the necessary materials: You will need a piece of wood for the rudder blade, a piece of metal or wood for the rudder head, and appropriate hardware for attaching the rudder to the boat. Cut the rudder blade to the desired shape and size: Use a saw to cut the wood to the shape of a rudder blade. Smooth out the edges with sandpaper. Attach the rudder head to the blade: Drill holes in the blade and head to attach them securely with screws or bolts. Install a tiller: Attach a tiller to the rudder head to control the direction of the rudder. Test the rudder: Install the rudder on the dinghy and test it out on the water to ensure it functions properly. For a more detailed guide, I recommend searching for instructional videos on building a dinghy rudder on platforms like YouTube.
How to put on a rudder on a dingy?
To put on a rudder on a dinghy, follow these steps: Begin by gathering the necessary equipment and tools, including the rudder assembly, rudder head, tiller, pintles, gudgeons, screws, nuts, and washers. Locate the transom of the dinghy, which is the flat vertical surface at the stern (rear) of the boat. Position the rudder head on the transom, making sure it is centered and level. Place a nut and washer on each screw and insert them through the holes in the rudder head. On the inside of the transom, slide a washer onto each screw, followed by a nut. Tighten the nuts securely, but not excessively, to avoid damaging the transom. Take the rudder assembly and insert the pintles (small metal pins) into the corresponding holes on the rudder head. Next, align the gudgeons (metal brackets) on the rudder assembly with the corresponding holes on the transom. Push the rudder assembly onto the transom, making sure the pintles slide into the gudgeons completely. This will secure the rudder in place. Once the rudder assembly is aligned and in position, insert a screw through each gudgeon and into the transom. Use a nut and washer on the inside of the transom to secure each screw. Ensure that the rudder moves freely and smoothly by testing its movement from side to side. Adjust the pintles or gudgeons if necessary. Finally, attach the tiller to the rudder head. The tiller is the handle that allows you to turn the rudder. Secure it tightly with the appropriate hardware provided. Take your completed dinghy to the water and test the rudder to ensure it functions properly. Make any necessary adjustments before setting sail. Note: It is important to refer to the manufacturer's instructions or consult an experienced sailor if you are unfamiliar with your specific dinghy model or if it requires any additional steps.
How to fasten the mailsail to the transom?
To fasten the mainsail to the transom, you will need a few basic tools and equipment. Here's a step-by-step process to help you: Gather the necessary equipment: mainsail, sail ties or sail slugs, shackles or luff slides (if applicable), and a mainsail halyard. Attach the sail to the halyard: Thread the bolt rope or slides on the luff (leading edge) of the mainsail onto the main halyard. Make sure it's securely attached. Raise the sail: Use the halyard to hoist the mainsail up the mast. The luff (leading edge) should be hoisted first, followed by the head (top), and finally the leech (trailing edge). Tie off or secure the halyard once the sail is fully raised. Secure the tack: The tack is the lower corner of the mainsail. Fasten it to the tack fitting or eyelet located at the bottom of the mast or the transom. Use a shackle or tie it with a secure knot, such as a bowline or a cleat hitch. Secure the head: The head is the upper corner of the mainsail. Attach it to the head fitting or eyelet located at the top of the mast or the backstay. Use a shackle or tie it securely with a knot. Secure the clew: The clew is the aft (back) corner of the mainsail. Attach it to the clew fitting or eyelet located at the boom. Use a shackle or tie it securely with a knot. Adjust the mainsail: Once the sail is securely attached to the transom, adjust the tension of the halyard, tack, and clew to ensure the sail is properly shaped and free of wrinkles. Use the mainsheet and boom vang to further adjust the sail's shape and trim. Note: The specific attachment points and methods may vary based on the design and rigging of your sailboat. Ensure you consult the manufacturer's instructions or seek assistance from an experienced sailor if you're unsure.
How to rig a single sail dingie?
Rigging a single sail dinghy involves several steps. Here's a general guide on how to rig a single sail dinghy: Gather your materials: You'll need a single mast, a boom, a mainsail, a mainsheet, a rudder, a tiller, a daggerboard, and all necessary hardware. Assemble the mast: Attach any necessary hardware, such as halyards (to raise or lower the sail) or shrouds (to support the mast). Slide the mast into the mast step, ensuring it is secure. Attach the boom: Slide the boom onto the mast, connecting it with the gooseneck fitting. Make sure it is securely fastened. Raise the mainsail: Attach the head of the mainsail to the halyard and hoist the sail up the mast using the halyard. Secure the halyard with a cleat. Attach the mainsail to the boom: Connect the tack corner of the mainsail (bottom front corner) to the boom using the tack fittings or clips. Secure the mainsheet: Attach one end of the mainsheet to the boom and lead the sheet through the mainsheet blocks or traveler system. Attach the other end to the stern of the boat, ensuring it can run freely. Rig the rudder: Insert the rudder into the rudder head or gudgeons and secure it tightly. Attach the tiller to the rudder head. Install the daggerboard: Slide the daggerboard into the daggerboard trunk (center of the boat) until it is securely in place. Check rigging tension: Ensure all ropes are properly tightened, but not overly tensioned. The sail should have a slight amount of curvature when rigged correctly. Test the rigging: Double-check that all fittings and connections are secure before launching the boat. Make any necessary adjustments. Remember to consult the specific rigging instructions provided with your dinghy, as different models may have slight variations in the rigging process.
How to rig a small homemade sailing dinghy?
Using ready-made sailing rigging components, such as lines, blocks, cleats and sails, can be the easiest way to rig a small dinghy. Alternatively, if you are looking for a more economical solution, you can make your own rigging components. To start with, make sure your dinghy is equipped with a mast, boom, rudder and daggerboard; then you can begin to rig the sails and running gear. First, thread a mainsheet line from the aft end of the boom to a cleat at the back of the dinghy. Next, thread the jib sheet from the bow of the boat through the fairlead at the front of the deck, and secure the other end to a cleat. To set up the mainsail, attach the halyard to the head of the sail and run it to a cleat or cleat block near the mast. Finally, run the boom vang line from the boom to a cleat near the mast. With the boat rigged, you can hoist the sails and hit the water!
What boats dinghies have mainsail sleeves?
Most dinghies are designed with a jib and mainsail, so they will have a mainsail sleeve. Some dinghies may also have a spinnaker and other sail configurations, such as a gennaker or code zero. These boats may also have mainsail sleeves.

How to Rig a Sunfish: Step-by-Step Guide to Sail Away

Imagine the gentle ripple of water, the whisper of a breeze, and the thrill of harnessing the wind to propel yourself across the water. For sailors, there’s no feeling quite like it, and the Sunfish sailboat offers the perfect vessel for such adventures.

In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a journey to help you master the art of rigging a Sunfish sailboat. Whether you’re a novice eager to set sail for the first time or a seasoned sailor in need of a refresher, this article has you covered.

The Sunfish sailboat is renowned for its simplicity, making it an ideal choice for sailors of all skill levels. Our guide will walk you through the essential steps, from setting up the mast and sail to ensuring your boat is shipshape. So, whether you’re preparing for a leisurely day on the water or gearing up for some friendly racing, read on to discover the secrets of rigging a Sunfish and unlocking the full potential of this iconic sailboat.

Introduction to the Sunfish Sailboat

Nestled at the intersection of simplicity and pure sailing joy, the Sunfish sailboat has been captivating the hearts of sailors for generations. With a history dating back to the mid-20th century, this beloved boat is renowned for its straightforward design and the exhilarating experiences it offers on the water.

For anyone looking to venture into the world of sailing, mastering the art of rigging a Sunfish is an essential skill. It’s the very foundation upon which your sailing adventures will be built. Whether you’re a novice seeking your maiden voyage or a seasoned sailor revisiting the basics, understanding how to properly rig a Sunfish is paramount for safety and a delightful time out on the water.

In this guide, we’ll embark on a journey to demystify the rigging process, step by step. By the end, you’ll not only have the knowledge but also the confidence to set sail on your Sunfish, ready to embrace the wind, waves, and the endless possibilities of the open water. So, let’s dive in and uncover the secrets of rigging the Sunfish sailboat for an unforgettable sailing experience.

Gather Your Tools and Equipment

Before you embark on the process of rigging your Sunfish, it’s crucial to ensure you have all the necessary tools and equipment at your disposal. Here’s a comprehensive list of items you’ll need:

  • Sunfish Sail: The sail is the heart and soul of your boat. Ensure it’s in good condition, free of tears or significant wear.
  • Mast: The mast is the vertical pole that supports the sail. It should be straight and secure.
  • Boom: The boom is the horizontal spar that extends the foot of the sail. Check for any signs of damage or rust.
  • Lines (Ropes): You’ll need various lines for controlling the sail, including the halyard (raises the sail), mainsheet (controls the angle of the sail), and other lines for rigging adjustments.
  • Daggerboard: This board helps with stability and direction. Ensure it’s securely in place and free of damage.
  • Rudder and Tiller: The rudder controls your boat’s direction, while the tiller is the handle you use to steer. Make sure they’re both functioning correctly.
  • Life Jacket: Safety first! Always wear a properly fitted life jacket when sailing.
  • Paddle: In case the wind dies down or you need to maneuver in tight spaces, a paddle can be a lifesaver.
  • Bailer or Sponge: To keep the cockpit dry and free of water, especially if it splashes in.
  • Tool Kit: A basic toolkit with pliers, a screwdriver, and a wrench can be handy for minor adjustments.
  • Sunscreen and Sunglasses: Protect yourself from the sun’s rays.
  • Hat and Water: Stay hydrated and shielded from the sun.
  • Whistle or Horn: These are essential safety devices for alerting others in case of an emergency.

Before rigging your Sunfish, inspect all equipment for any wear, damage, or missing parts. Safety should always be a top priority, so ensure your life jacket is in excellent condition and fits snugly. Once everything is in order, you’re ready to begin rigging your Sunfish and setting sail for a fantastic day on the water.

Position the Sunfish on Land or in Shallow Water for Rigging

Before you start rigging your Sunfish, you’ll need to prepare the boat properly. Here’s how to do it:

  • Choose the Right Location: Select a location on land or in shallow water that’s free from obstacles and provides ample space to work around the boat.
  • Position the Sunfish: Carefully position the Sunfish with the bow (front) pointing into the wind. This is important for a smooth rigging process.
  • Level the Boat: Ensure the boat is level from side to side. An uneven boat can make rigging and sailing more challenging.
  • Secure the Boat: If you’re on land, make sure the boat is securely supported with appropriate boat stands or supports to prevent it from tipping or moving during rigging.
  • Check the Wind: Assess the wind conditions. While it’s okay to rig in a light breeze, strong winds can make the process more difficult. If it’s too windy, consider postponing your rigging or seek help from someone experienced in handling a Sunfish in windy conditions.
  • Gather Your Gear: Double-check that you have all the necessary tools and equipment nearby, as mentioned earlier.

By positioning the Sunfish correctly, ensuring it’s level, and taking wind conditions into account, you’ll set the stage for a smooth rigging process and a safe and enjoyable sailing experience.

Process of Stepping the Mast, Which Involves Attaching the Mast to the Boat’s Hull

Stepping the mast is a crucial step in rigging your Sunfish. Follow these steps carefully:

  • Attach the Mast Step: The mast step is a metal fitting on the boat’s deck near the bow. Insert the bottom end of the mast into the mast step. Ensure it fits snugly and securely.
  • Align the Mast: With the mast in the mast step, position it vertically. Check for any lateral (side-to-side) or forward-leaning tilt. The mast should be perfectly upright.
  • Attach the Forestay: The forestay is the front rigging line that goes from the top of the mast to the front of the boat. Hook the forestay to the bow eyelet or fitting. Make sure it’s securely attached.
  • Secure the Shrouds: The shrouds are the side rigging lines that keep the mast in position. Attach one end of each shroud to the eyelets on the sides of the boat, near the gunwales. The other end of each shroud should be attached to the chainplates on the sides of the mast.
  • Adjust Tension: Properly tension the forestay and shrouds. The rigging lines should be tight enough to support the mast but not overly tight, as this can distort the hull. The mast should remain vertical and secure.
  • Inspect All Attachments: Double-check that all attachments are secure, and there’s no slack in the rigging lines. Ensure the mast is firmly in the mast step.

Properly stepping the mast and ensuring correct alignment, tension, and secure attachments are essential for safe and efficient sailing. A well-rigged Sunfish will perform better and provide a more enjoyable experience on the water.

Attach the Boom to the Mast and the Sail to the Boom

Attaching the boom and sail correctly is vital for effective sailing. Here’s how to do it:

  • Attach the Boom to the Mast: The boom is the horizontal spar that extends perpendicular to the mast. Slide the gooseneck fitting on the front of the boom onto the mast. The gooseneck should fit snugly on the mast, and the boom should rest horizontally.
  • Secure the Mainsheet: The mainsheet is the line that controls the angle of the sail. Attach one end of the mainsheet to the eyelet on the back of the boom. The other end will be handled by the sailor while sailing.
  • Attach the Sail to the Boom: Slide the sail’s foot (bottom edge) into the boom’s groove, starting from one end and working your way to the other. Make sure the sail is centered on the boom. Secure the sail by tightening the boom vang, a line running from the back of the boom to the mast.
  • Tension the Sail: Pull the halyard line (located on the front side of the mast) to raise the sail. The sail should be taut but not overly tight. Adjust the downhaul line (attached to the tack of the sail) to control the tension in the lower part of the sail.
  • Adjust the Outhaul: The outhaul line (attached to the clew of the sail) controls the tension in the sail’s foot. Adjust it to achieve the desired sail shape.
  • Check Sail Shape: Stand behind the boat and look at the sail’s shape. It should be smooth and evenly tensioned, with no excessive wrinkles or creases. Make adjustments as needed.
  • Secure Loose Ends: Secure any loose lines and ensure nothing is dangling or obstructing the sail’s movement.

Properly attaching the boom and sail, as well as adjusting the halyard, downhaul, and outhaul lines, is essential for sail control and efficient sailing. Ensure that all lines are free from tangles or snags, as this will help maintain control over the sail during your voyage.

Daggerboard and Rudder Installation

Inserting the daggerboard:.

  • Locate the daggerboard slot on the centerline of the Sunfish hull, typically near the cockpit.
  • Hold the daggerboard vertically with the tapered end facing downward.
  • Insert the daggerboard into the slot, starting from the top. Ensure it slides smoothly into place.
  • Continue pushing the daggerboard down until it rests securely in the slot and is fully submerged in the water. The daggerboard provides stability and prevents lateral movement when sailing.

Attaching the Rudder:

  • The rudder consists of the rudder blade and the rudder head. The rudder head fits into a bracket on the back of the boat.
  • Insert the rudder head into the bracket and push it down until it clicks or locks into place. There is often a pin or mechanism that secures the rudder in the bracket.
  • Ensure the rudder blade is perpendicular to the boat’s centerline and extends downward into the water. The rudder controls your boat’s direction and is crucial for steering.

Checking Control Lines:

Examine the control lines associated with the rudder:

  • Tiller: The tiller is the wooden or metal bar connected to the rudder head. Make sure it is securely attached to the rudder head and that it moves freely to steer the boat.
  • Tiller Extension: If your Sunfish has a tiller extension, check that it is attached and functioning correctly. The extension allows you to control the rudder while seated.
  • Rudder Downhaul Line: The rudder downhaul line controls the angle of the rudder blade. Ensure it is properly adjusted to your desired steering responsiveness.

Properly installing the daggerboard and rudder and ensuring the associated control lines are in good working order are essential steps before setting sail. These components play a critical role in maintaining control and stability while on the water.

Rigging the Various Lines for Sail Control, Including the Mainsheet, Outhaul, and Vang

how to rig a sunfish

  • The mainsheet controls the angle of the sail, affecting your boat’s speed and direction.
  • Attach one end of the mainsheet to the aft end of the boom, typically with a bowline knot.
  • Thread the other end through the mainsheet block, which is typically attached to the traveler bar on the boat’s cockpit floor.
  • Bring the mainsheet line up to the sail’s clew (the lower back corner of the sail) and pass it through the aft grommet (a reinforced hole) in the sail.
  • Pull the mainsheet line down, creating tension in the sail. The mainsheet should run freely through the block for easy adjustments while sailing.
  • The outhaul adjusts the tension in the foot (bottom) of the sail.
  • Attach one end of the outhaul line to the clew of the sail, usually through the outhaul grommet.
  • Thread the other end of the outhaul line through the outhaul block or pulley on the boom.
  • Adjust the outhaul to your desired sail shape and tension by pulling or releasing the line.

Vang (Optional):

  • The vang controls the tension in the leech (back edge) of the sail.
  • Attach one end of the vang to the gooseneck fitting on the mast.
  • Thread the other end through the vang block on the boom.
  • Adjust the vang to control the twist in the sail by pulling or releasing the line.

Cleating Lines:

  • Many Sunfish sailboats have cleats to secure lines, allowing for hands-free sailing.
  • To cleat a line, simply wrap it around the appropriate cleat and pull it tight. The cleat will hold the line in place.
  • To release a cleated line quickly, pull it upward and away from the cleat.

Properly rigging and adjusting these control lines is crucial for sail control and optimizing your boat’s performance. The mainsheet, outhaul, and vang give you control over the sail’s shape, angle, and tension, allowing you to harness the wind effectively while sailing your Sunfish.

Performing Safety Checks Before Setting Sail

Before setting sail on your Sunfish, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some essential safety checks and precautions:

  • Buoyancy Check: Ensure that your Sunfish is positively buoyant, meaning it will float even if swamped or capsized. Check for any hull damage or leaks that could affect buoyancy.
  • Secure All Lines: Double-check that all lines, including the mainsheet, outhaul, vang, and control lines, are properly secured and free from tangles or knots.
  • Equipment Condition: Inspect all equipment, such as the daggerboard, rudder, and sail, to ensure they are in good condition and properly attached., Verify that the mast, boom, and rigging are secure and free from damage or wear.
  • Life Jackets: Always wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while on the water, and ensure that any passengers also have access to life jackets that fit them properly.
  • Safety Guidelines: Familiarize yourself and your passengers with safety guidelines, such as proper body positioning in the boat and what to do in case of capsizing or other emergencies.
  • Weather Check: Before heading out, check the weather forecast. Avoid sailing in severe weather conditions, strong winds, or thunderstorms.
  • Emergency Gear: Carry essential emergency gear, including a whistle, paddle, bailer, and a means of communication (e.g., a waterproof phone or VHF radio).
  • Float Plan: Let someone ashore know your sailing plans, including your intended route and estimated return time. This helps ensure someone is aware of your whereabouts in case of an emergency.
  • Boating Knowledge: Ensure you have the necessary knowledge and skills for sailing a Sunfish, especially if you are a beginner. Consider taking a sailing course or sailing with an experienced sailor until you gain confidence.
  • Stay Hydrated and Sun-Protected: Bring water to stay hydrated during your sail, especially on hot days., Protect yourself and passengers from the sun with sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.

By prioritizing safety and performing these pre-sail checks, you can enjoy your Sunfish sailing adventures with peace of mind, knowing that you are well-prepared for a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

Conclusion and Setting Sail

how to rig a sunfish

In conclusion, rigging a Sunfish sailboat is a fundamental skill that allows you to embark on exciting sailing adventures. We’ve covered the step-by-step process, from gathering your tools and equipment to performing safety checks before setting sail.

As you gain experience and confidence in rigging your Sunfish, you’ll discover the joy and freedom of sailing. It’s a skill that opens the door to countless adventures on the water, whether you’re exploring new places, racing with fellow sailors, or simply enjoying a peaceful day on the lake.

Remember that practice makes perfect. The more you rig your Sunfish and set sail, the more proficient you’ll become. Over time, rigging will become second nature, and you’ll be able to focus on the pure pleasure of sailing.

So, take these instructions to heart, get out on the water, and enjoy the wind in your sails as you create unforgettable memories aboard your Sunfish sailboat. Sailing offers a lifetime of enjoyment, and rigging your boat is just the beginning of your exciting journey on the water. Happy sailing!

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Read New Impeller Not Pumping Water: Troubleshoot and Fixing until we meet in the next article.

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How to Rig Your Small Sailboat and Prepare to Sail

In this lesson, you will learn how to rig a small sailboat to prepare for sailing. For reference purposes, a Hunter 140 daysailer was used for this learn-to sail tutorial. Before you begin, you can familiarize yourself with the different parts of a sailboat. 

Install (or Check) the Rudder

Typically the rudder of a small sailboat like this one is removed after sailing to prevent wear and tear while the boat remains in the water. You need to reinstall it before sailing, or if it is already in place, check that that it is firmly attached (with optional safety lanyard securing it to the boat).

On most small boats, the top of the leading edge of the rudder has attached pins (called pintles) that are inserted downward into round rings (called gudgeons) attached to the stern. This is rather like the familiar “Insert tab A into slot B.” While the exact configuration may vary among different boat models, it’s usually obvious how the rudder mounts to the stern when you hold the rudder beside the stern.

The rudder may or may not already have a tiller mounted on it. The next page shows how to attach the tiller on this boat.

Attach (or Check) the Tiller

The tiller is a long, thin steering “arm” mounted to the rudder. If the tiller is already attached to the top of the rudder on your boat, check that it is secure.

On this Hunter 140, the tiller arm is inserted in a slot at the top of the rudder, as shown here. A pin is then inserted from above to lock it in position. The pin should be tied to the boat with a lanyard (short light line) to prevent being dropped.

Note that this tiller also includes a tiller extension, which allows the sailor to still control the tiller even when sitting far out to the side or forward.

With the rudder and tiller in place, we’ll now move on to the sails.

Attach the Jib Halyard

Because sunlight and weather age and weaken sailcloth, the sails should always be removed after sailing (or covered or bagged on a larger boat). Before you get started, you have to put them back on (called “bending on” the sails).

The halyards are used to raise both the jib and mainsail. At the sail’s end of a halyard is a shackle that attaches the grommet at the head of the sail to the halyard.

First, spread out the sail and identify each of its corners. The “head” is the top of the sail, where the triangle is the most narrow. Attach the jib halyard shackle to this corner, making sure the shackle is closed and secure.

Then follow the front edge of the sail (called the “luff”) down to the next corner. The luff of the jib of a small sailboat can be identified by the hanks every foot or so that attach this edge to the forestay. The bottom corner of the luff is called the sail’s “tack.” Attach the grommet in the tack to the fitting at the bottom of the forestay -- usually with a shackle or pin. Next, we’ll hank on the sail.

Hank the Jib on the Forestay

Hanking on the jib is a simple process, but it can feel unwieldy if the wind is blowing the sail in your face.

First, find the other end of the jib halyard (on the port, or left, side of the mast as you face the bow of the boat) and keep a good grip on it with one hand. You will be slowly pulling it in to raise the sail as you hank it on.

Beginning with the hank nearest the head of the jib, open it to clip the hank onto the forestay. It will be obvious how to open the hanks, which are usually spring-loaded to close automatically when released.

Then raise the sail a little by pulling on the halyard. Making sure there isn’t any twist in the sail, attach the second hank. Raise the sail a little more and move on to the third hank. Keep working your way down the luff, raising the sail a little at a time to make sure it isn’t twisted and the hanks are all in order.

When all the hanks are attached, lower the jib back down to the deck while you route the jib sheets in the next step.

Run the Jibsheets

The jib sail is positioned while sailing by using the jibsheets. The jib sheets are two lines that come back to the cockpit, one on each side of the boat, from the aft lower corner of the sail (the “clew”).

In most small sailboats, the jib sheets are left tied to the sail’s clew and stay with the sail. On your boat, however, the jibsheets may remain on the boat and need to be tied or shackled to the clew at this stage. Unless there is a shackle on the sheets, use a bowline to tie each to the clew.

Then run each sheet back past the mast to the cockpit. Depending on the specific boat and the size of the jib, the sheets may run inside or outside the shrouds -- the tensile lines that run from the deck to the mast, holding in place. On the Hunter 140 shown here, which uses a relatively small jib, the jibsheets pass from the sail’s clew inside the shrouds to a cam cleat, on each side, as shown here. The starboard (right side as you face the bow)) jibsheet cleat (with the red top) is mounted on the deck just to the starboard of this sailor’s right knee. This cleat secures the jibsheet in the desired position while sailing.

With the jib now rigged, let's move on to the mainsail.

Attach Mainsail to Halyard

Now we’ll attach the mainsail halyard shackle to the head of the mainsail, a process very similar to attaching the jib halyard. First spread the mainsail out to identify its three corners as you did with the jib. The head of the sail, again, is the most narrow angle of the triangle.

On many small sailboats, the main halyard does double duty as a topping lift -- the line that holds up the aft end of the boom when it is not being held up by the sail. As shown here, when the halyard is removed from the boom, the boom drops down into the cockpit.

Here, this sailor is shackling the halyard to the head of the mainsail. Then he can go on to secure the sail’s tack in the next step.

Secure the Mainsail’s Tack

The forward lower corner of the mainsail, like that of the jib, is called the tack. The grommet of the tack is installed at the bow end, usually by a removable pin inserted through the grommet and secured on the boom.

Now the luff (leading edge) of the mainsail is secured at both the head and the tack.

The next step is to secure the clew (aft lower corner) and foot (bottom edge) of the sail to the boom.

Secure the Mainsail Clew to the Outhaul

The clew (aft lower corner) of the mainsail is secured to the aft end of the boom, usually using a line called the outhaul that can be adjusted to tension the foot of the sail.

The sail’s foot (the bottom edge) itself may or may not be secured directly to the boom. On some boats, a rope sewn into the foot (called the boltrope) slides into a groove in the boom. The clew enters the groove first, forward by the mast, and is pulled back in the groove until the whole sail’s foot is held to the boom in this groove.

The boat shown here uses a “loose-footed” mainsail. This means the sail is not inserted into the boom groove. But the clew is held at the end of the boom in the same way by the outhaul. Thus both ends of the sail’s foot are firmly attached to the sail and drawn tight -- making the sail work the same as if the whole foot was also in the groove.

A loose-footed mainsail allows for more sail shaping, but the sail cannot be flattened quite as much.

With the clew secured and outhaul tightened, the mainsail luff can now be secured to the mast and the sail raised to go sailing.

Insert the Mainsail Slugs in the Mast

The mainsail’s luff (forward edge) is attached to the mast, as the jib’s luff is to the forestay – but with a different mechanism.

On the aft side of the mast is a groove for the mainsail. Some sails have a boltrope on the luff that slides upward in this groove, while others have sail “slugs” mounted every foot or so on the luff. The sail slugs, as you can see in this photo just forward of the sailor’s right hand, are small plastic slides inserted into the mast groove where it widens out into a sort of gate.

Again, first inspect the whole sail to make sure it’s not twisted anywhere. Hold the main halyard in one hand during this process – you will be gradually raising the mainsail as you insert the slugs into the mast groove.

Begin with the sail slug at the head. Insert it into the groove, pull the halyard to raise the sail a little, and then insert the next slug.

Before completing this process, be sure you’re ready to go sailing soon after the mainsail is up.

Continue Raising the Mainsail

Continue raising the mainsail with the halyard as you insert one slug after another into the groove.

Note that this sail already has its battens in place. A batten is a long, thin, flexible strip of wood or fiberglass that helps the sail keep its proper shape. They are positioned in pockets sewn into the sail in a generally horizontal direction. In this photo, you can see a batten near the top of the blue section of the mainsail over the sailor’s head.

If the battens were removed from the sail, you would insert them back into their pockets either before beginning to rig the boat or now, as you raise the mainsail in stages.

Cleat the Main Halyard

When the mainsail is all the way up, pull hard on the halyard to tension the luff. Then tie the halyard to the cleat on the mast, using a cleat hitch.

Notice that the mainsail when fully raised holds the boom up.

Now you’re almost ready to go sailing. This is a good time to lower the centerboard down into the water if you haven’t done so already. Note that not all small sailboats have centerboards. Others have keels that are fixed in place. Both serve similar purposes: to prevent the boat from skating sideways in the wind and to stabilize the boat. Larger keels also help lift the boat to windward

Now you should raise the jib. Simply pull down on the jib halyard and cleat it on the other side of the mast.

Start Moving

With both sails raised, you’re ready to start sailing . One of the first steps to getting underway will be to tighten the mainsheet and one jibsheet to adjust the sails so you can get moving forward.

You may also need to turn the boat so that the wind fills the sails from one side. A boat on a mooring, such as shown here, will naturally be blown back such that the bow faces directly into the wind – the one direction you can’t sail! Being stalled facing the wind is called being "in irons."

To turn the boat out of irons, simply push the boom out to one side. This pushes the back of the mainsail into the wind (called "backing" the sail) -- and the wind pushing against the sail will start the boat rotating. Just be sure you’re ready to take off!

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  1. Outhaul rigging

    how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

  2. Using the Outhaul on a Sailboat

    how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

  3. Sailboat Rigging

    how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

  4. Learn How to Sail a Small Sailboat

    how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

  5. Running Rigging

    how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat

  6. How to rig outhaul (and the rest) on O'Day 272? The manual doesn't show

    how to rig an outhaul on a sailboat


  1. J29 outhaul failure #sailboat #fishing #jetboat #boat #sail #regatta #sailing #boatlife #sailboating

  2. Windsurf Sail Rigging Guide

  3. Outhaul Performance Upgrade

  4. Rigging to Sail: Core Sound 20

  5. Saphir Sailboat Surfing

  6. how to put downhoul rope on windsurfing sail without crossing


  1. Using the Outhaul on a Sailboat

    The outhaul on a sailboat is one of the controls, part of the boat's running rigging. The outhaul is a line that connects to the clew of the mainsail (the ring in the lower aft corner) and pulls the sail back toward the end of the boom. On most boats, this line or wire cable passes around a block (pulley) down into the boom, as shown in this ...

  2. Flatten Your Mainsail Foot With an Outhaul

    Install the block on the boom eye strap, the fairlead cleat on the side of the boom, and reave the line as shown in the picture below. Simpler 2:1 outhaul is also shorter. In this system, the line runs through the clew grommet itself. The line isn't as easy to trim as with multiple blocks, but it's still easy enough.

  3. How does a sailboat outhaul work?

    The outhaul line in a J/109 sailboat has a block and tackle concealed inside the boom to provide mechanical advantage when adjusting tension on the foot of t...

  4. Sailing : Outhaul Adjustment and Function

    Sailing Instructional Video. Discuss this video and anything sailing on my forum . A video on main sail outhaul adjustment and prin...

  5. How to Install An Outhaul and Cunningham on Sunfish Sailboat

    In this video Sunfish Sailor Lee Montes shows sunfish sailors how to install the Outhaul and Cunningham on their Sunfish Sailboat. These Sail Controls allow...

  6. Outhaul Systems

    The outhaul controls and shapes the mainsail. Ease the outhaul to increase draft and power up the sail. Tighten the outhaul to flatten the sail and reduce drag and heel in heavy air. Typical boat length: Small Boat: 22' - 28' (6.7 - 8.5 m)

  7. Installing and rigging an outhual

    Re: Installing and rigging an outhual. Running the outhaul from a padeye on one side to the clew of the sail and back to a cheek block on the there side and then forward forward to a cleat will give you 2-1 purchase which should be adequate force multiplier for an outhaul on your sized boat.

  8. How to Build a Laser 6-1 Outhaul System

    Step 1. Clew Block. The first part of the Outhaul System is going to be the clew block and hook. There are lots of different ways that people rig this. We will do it per the instructions you receive with a new boat. Take one of the 18mm blocks, the clew hook and one length of the 3mm race rope. Tie a stopper knot in one end of the line and ...

  9. How To Rig A 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. 2.

  10. Master The Running Rigging On A Sailboat: Illustrated Guide

    For example, a sloop rig has fewer lines than a ketch, which has multiple masts and requires a separate halyard, outhaul, and sheet for its mizzen sail. Similarly, a cutter rig needs another halyard and extra sheets for its additional headsail. You can dive deeper and read more about Sloop rigs, Ketch Rigs, Cutter rigs, and many others here ...

  11. Laser Sailboat Upgrades & Restoration Guide and Advice

    The 'rec' / classic rigging is quite simple, whereas the 'race' rigging adds more power to the sail control, making it easier to adjust and flatten the sail to depower in heavy wind. Rec Outhaul - Uses a 10 foot length of line and the clam cleat on the boom to achieve a basic purchase system for tightening the sail. The entire control exists ...

  12. Rerigging the Boom

    With a loose-footed main, the outhaul has more work to do. The Sabre 30 is the first boat I've owned with a loose-footed main, and I didn't understand what the rig was. The rope that attached to the clew car was not the same rope as emerged from an exit plate forward on the boom.

  13. Outhaul Systems

    For a 'normal' outhaul system where the end of the thin primary line is luggage tagged to the blue plastic eye on the end of the boom, one simple way to adapt a radial/standard rig outhaul is to use a short extender strop luggage tagged to the 4.7 sail.

  14. Rigging the Butterfly

    One of the 3/16" x 40" lines is the outhaul. Tie the clew (aft corner) of the sail to the boom. Pull just tight enough to remove large wrinkles in sail. You will adjust the outhaul tighter for higher winds, looser for light air. If you have the adjustable outhaul with the cleat on the boom, run the outhaul line OUTSIDE of the sail sock.

  15. Sail Trim Basics with Carl Damm

    Carl Damm is a sailing instructor and owner of Damsel Marine, a yacht managment and maintenance consulting service. We talk about the basics of trimming sails, like using adjustable jib-sheet cars, the boom vang, the outhaul, halyard tension, asymetrical spinnakers, using a spinnaker net, downwind sailing, flying the main or not when on a deep broad reach, sailing wing-on-wing, etc.

  16. Rigging for beginners # 1. Sailboat rigging explained from standing


  17. How to rig outhaul (and the rest) on O'Day 272? The manual doesn't show

    Interesting the rigging diagram is silent on the outhaul that is attached to the clew of the mainsail (the ring in the lower aft corner at shackle E) and pulls the sail back toward the end of the boom, through the boom, out the boom, down the mast and either cleated off on the mast or routed back to the cockpit through the rope clutch.

  18. cutter staysail

    The head of the boom for the staysail is about a foot and a half behind the forestay attachment at the deck. The sail, therefore, has a laced section on the bottom half of the luff that allows the bottom of the sail to line up with the boom. The problem. This setup causes the sail itself to crinkle in the middle and not fill out properly.

  19. How to Rig a Laser Sailboat: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

    1. Get all your parts together. You should have the boat itself (the hull), the dagger board, the rudder and tiller, your mainsheet, both mast pieces, boom, boom bang and sail in one place. 2. Put together both the pieces of your mast. The bottom of the top half just slides into the top of the bottom half.

  20. Preview: How to Build and Use an Outhaul to Anchor a Boat

    July 30, 2015. Email this Video to a Friend. Here is a system that allows you to disembark from your boat or dinghy when you are unable to land ashore. It also secures your boat so that a drop in the water level won't leave it high and dry or banging against the rocks. Whether you call it a clothesline or an outhaul, it's slicker than moss ...

  21. Rigging the 6:1 Outhaul for Laser with Steve Cockerill

    Steve Cockerill of Rooster Sailing demonstrates the installation of the Rooster Booster Harken Outhaul for the Laser 1 Dinghy. Featuring the famous Clew Stra...

  22. Rigging a singlehanded dinghy

    3 The outhaul line is led down to a turning block on the deck and back through a jamming cleat by the cockpit. It can be loosened to allow a fuller sail shape when sailing downwind. ... Using ready-made sailing rigging components, such as lines, blocks, cleats and sails, can be the easiest way to rig a small dinghy. Alternatively, if you are ...

  23. How to Rig a Sunfish: Step-by-Step Guide to Sail Away

    Process of Stepping the Mast, Which Involves Attaching the Mast to the Boat's Hull. Stepping the mast is a crucial step in rigging your Sunfish. Follow these steps carefully: Attach the Mast Step: The mast step is a metal fitting on the boat's deck near the bow. Insert the bottom end of the mast into the mast step.

  24. Learn How to Rig and Sail a Small Sailboat

    Attach the jib halyard shackle to this corner, making sure the shackle is closed and secure. Then follow the front edge of the sail (called the "luff") down to the next corner. The luff of the jib of a small sailboat can be identified by the hanks every foot or so that attach this edge to the forestay.