The Rigging

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Once you call yourself a navigator, whether you are a Sunday sailor or a seasoned one, it becomes essential to master a specific vocabulary if you want to be understood effectively on a ship.

“Why should I bother ?” you may say. Well, simply because in the middle of a wild sea, it will be much faster and more precise to say “haul in the mainsheet!” rather than “catch the rope that hangs from the mainsail, and pull on it to steer the boat !”.

Are you convinced ? Then let’s start with all the elements that allow any sailing boat to go forward: the Rigging.


The standing rigging consists of all the cables that hold the mast and on which one does not act during navigation, hence its name “standing rigging”.

A good setting beforehand is thus important to ensure navigation without too much damage.

Regular and thorough checks of the state of the rigging of a ship are essential because, like any other material, the latter also suffers from the ravages of time.

That is why, unless you are yourself an expert in the field, calling a professional like SAILTECH TAHITI is often recommended to carry out these checks and to carry out at the same time the replacement of the used rigging.

As a general rule, the replacement of the standing rig is recommended every 10 years, except for regatta (ie racing yachts), multihulls and rod or composite fiber rigging.

The standing rigging consists of, among others, the following elements :

Le gréement - le mât

The mast

The mast is a generally vertical piece of boat, used to maintain the elements necessary for the propulsion of the ship by the wind: sails, yards, boom, forestay, etc ...

Le gréement - Le beaupré

The bowsprit

Also called "bowsprit mast", it is major mast of a sailboat. It is at the bow of a ship, strongly inclined forward.

Le gréement - Le boute-dehors

The bowsprit (short)

It is a fixed or retractable spar located and pointing to the front of the boat.

Le gréement - La queu de malet

The tail of malet

It is a horizontal spar used in the back of a boat in order to push back the point of pull of the listening of malet or tapecul.

Le gréement - L'étai

The forestay

On a sailboat, the forestay is a cable more or less long used to maintain the mast longitudinally towards the front of the boat.

Le gréement - Le pataras

The pataras

Single or double cable connecting the masthead to the rear of the ship: it helps maintain the mast in its vertical position in the longitudinal direction.

Le gréement - Les haubans

The shrouds

The shrouds are cables that are fixed on both sides to the top of the mast. They serve in particular to keep the mast properly aligned with the length.

Le gréement - Les barres de flêche

The arrow bars

Small spars, perpendicular to the mast of the sailboats, allowing a better grip of the masts by spreading the shrouds in order to have a better angle of maintenance and thus to reduce the compression on the mast.

Le gréement - L'outrigger

The outrigger

Refers to two spars that act as spreaders on the deck of a boat.


The running rigging refers to all moving parts of a sailing boat and on which it is likely to act during navigation.

It consists of all the mobile ropes that allow hoisting and adjusting the sails.

For a better understanding, a short definition of some elements that make up the running rigging is necessary :

Le gréement - Le bôme

The boom

Also called "mistletoe", is a horizontal spar, articulated at the base of the mast, and which allows to maintain and direct certain sails of the boat.

Le gréement - Le tangon de spi

The spinnaker pole

A spinnaker pole is an element of the rigging of the forward sails, associated with the spinnaker, held horizontally by a hale-high and a hale-low, connected to the spinnaker by the arm, opposite to the boom downwind.

Le gréement - Les écoutes


Ropes used to adjust the angle of a sail relative to the longitudinal axis of the sailboat and consequently the angle of incidence of the wind on the sail so as to optimize the running of the boat.

Le gréement - L'hale-bas


It is a device to keep down a spar.

Le gréement - La balancine

Topping Lift

Rope which, on a sailboat, supports a spar, allowing to adjust its height.

Le gréement - La bastaque

The Running backstay

Rope connecting a mast point to the back of the boat, preventing the mast from tipping forward.

La gréement - La bosse de ris

The Reefing line

Rope present on the fall of a sail and allowing the taking of reef: once the semi-slack sail, the reefing line serves to tension the border.

Le gréement - Les garcettes

The Gaskets

Small short ropes, generally recovered by the crew on a larger and worn rope, and which are most often used for mooring equipment of the boat.

We have chosen here to focus on some of the most “common” elements that make up the rigging.

Of course, the domain of Rigging is not limited to this. Indeed, depending on the type of sail used or the number of masts, the type of Rigging adapts and evolves.

We hope at least for neophytes that this little article have helped you a little to understand the world of sailing.

Article réalisé par Hereiti SING LING, James CONVOI
Crédits photos : Hereiti SING LINGBrice BORGETGuy DOLIQUE.

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