A guide to superyacht rigging
Last updated: 08/02/2019
Every yachtsman will know that no two superyacht rigs are never quite the same; from majestic sailing sloops to competitive super-maxis, each will have its own rigging set up and complexities that hold the key to its stunning performance.
Josh Impey from Southern Spars commented, “Every sailor knows that the rigging of any sailing yacht is a major contributor to its performance: It affects a yacht’s ability to accelerate, its aerodynamics, heel, pitch, keel weight and the sails' response due to rigging stretch.”
With this in mind, Yachting Pages investigates the different types of sailing yachts and their rigging, defining the differences between standing and running rigging and the available rigging components for the beginner yachtsman.
Different types of sailing yachts and their rigging arrangements
There are six different types of sailing yachts, each determined by type of rigging and the number and location of masts on board, including:
Sloop: The sloop is the simplest and the most common/popular yacht rigging type, with one mast and two sails – a mainsail and a headsail. Depending on the size and shape of the headsail, it may be called a jib, genoa or spinnaker.
Cutter: Popular for long-distance sailing, the cutter yacht also has just one mast, but the mast is further aft to allow for an additional headsail on its own stay between the foresail and the headsail, making for easier sail handling in different wind strengths.
Ketch: Common on older yachts over 11m in length, the ketch has a second shorted mast behind the forward of the rudder post, called the mizzen mast. Recognised by the lack of standing rigging to support their two un-stayed masts, which are shorter to allow for easier sail handling.
Yawl: A yawl has a classic rig arrangement similar to that of the ketch yacht, featuring two masts. The yawl differs to the ketch as its mizzen mast is positioned aft of the rudder.
Schooner: A schooner has two or more masts, with the aft-most mast or main mast being the same height or taller than the foremast.
Cat: A cat has only one sail and the mast is located forward, commonly found on small catboats, racing dinghies, lasers, etc.
Each rigging set up of course has its own strengths and weaknesses; learn more about the different rig types and benefits here.
What is standing rigging?
The standing rigging of any sailing yacht refers to the wires that support and hold the mast in place. Standing rigging parts and equipment includes:
- Shrouds: Cables that provide lateral stability to the mast
- Spreaders: Horizontal spars that spread the shrouds from the mast
- Forestay: A line or cable that supports the mast from the bow (front) of the boat
- Backstay: A line or cable that supports the mast from the stern (back) of the boat
- Boom topping lift: A line which extends from the boom to the mast
What is running rigging?
- Haylard: A line used to raise a sail
- Sheet: The line used to adjust a sail against the force of the wind
- Boom vang: The line that places downward tension on the boom
- Outhaul: Places backward tension on the clew of the mainsail
- Winch: A device used to tighten a line
- Cleat: A metal or plastic device used to secure a line
- Block: A device used to change a line’s device
- Spinnaker control poles:
- Pole lift: Line that controls the height of a spinnaker pole
- Down haul: Line that keeps spinnaker pole from being pulled up by the spinnaker sail
- Spinnaker Guy: The spinnaker sheet on the pole or windward side of the boat
- Twing: The line used to pull the spinnaker guide closer to the hull
Composite and carbon rigging
There are many types of yacht rigging available to majestically propel a sailing superyacht, including PBO, wire, rod, solid carbon, aramid and EC6.
Pierre Gerber from Carbo-Link explained, “It’s currently not easy to be able to understand the differences between the different rigging solutions on the market. Worldwide, the most important rigging suppliers recently changed to carbon rigging due to the fact that PBO fibre (wound fibres) is not resistant against UV and humidity, and is resulting in a lot of failures, big safety factors and short warranty periods.
When compared to their steel alternatives, carbon-fibre rigging offers:
- Four times less weight at the same strength
- Unlimited length of stay cables without unsightly intermediate joints
- Much lower susceptibility to fatigue cracks in the cables
- Much lower sensitivity to surface damage created by external interferences from fittings, lines or spars
Josh from Southern Spars explained, “Composite rigging is a very general term these days, with products such as PBO and solid carbon rigging fitting into the mix. Although they are both composites, PBO doesn’t have the longevity carbon does, and solid carbon rigging doesn’t have the impact resistance or flexibility in which EC6 bundled carbon rigging has.”
EC6’s continuous carbon rigging can be used on yachts ranging from 3m to 76m plus. Some of the stand-out yachts currently utilising EC6 are, S/Y Aglaia (66m), S/Y Ganesha (46m), S/Y Vertigo, S/Y Zefira, S/Y Encore, S/Y Volvo Ocean (65’ fleet) and the Americas Cup yachts. EC6 carbon rigging has captured all sailing performance factors into one form, including aerodynamics, longevity, durability, strength and weight. So far, there have been no failures due to age, wear, waves, weather or water.
Josh said, "S/Y Rebecca (pictured) recently received an EC6 retrofit, and has saved 2.5 tons from her previous set up, just from the rigging.”
Talk to the superyacht rigging professionals…
Josh said, “For big boats like sailing superyachts we would always recommend asking professional project managers for assistance in rigging installation, helping you to compare the different specifications given by the rigging companies.
“Bear in mind that it is not necessary to take the rigging from the mast manufacturer, as the client can always select the rigging independently from the mast suppliers. With no doubt, the mast manufacturers are specialised in building masts, so are rigging suppliers with their rigging, so be sure to enlist both service providers separately where possible.”