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Rigging 101

Running-rigging is the collection of lines actively used to sail a boat. The basic lines are similar on most any boat, with any differences related to the line locations, the number of sails, and the scale in terms of size. Helios has 3 sails: a mainsail with 1,150 square feet of sail area, a foresail (jib) with 635 square feet, and a trade wind sail (similar to a spinnaker) with 2,800 square feet. Here's an overview of the running rigging used to manage those sails.


Explanation of reefs:

First, an explanation of some terms. The Helios mainsail has 3 reefs rigged into it. That allows 4 options for the mainsail size: full main, reef 1 (about 90% of the full main), reef 2 (about 70% of the full main), and reef 3 (about 50% of the full main). As the wind gets stronger, we set progressively more reefs to avoid overpowering and breaking the mast. Each reef has 2 lines associated with it: a luff line that pulls down the front of the mainsail, and a leech line that pulls down the back.


Photo 1 below shows the primary set of lines at the base of the mast. Lines from left to right include:

Cluster A:

  • Jib sheet: controls the jib to unfurl it or trim it. For trimming, we pull it in tighter to sail more into the wind, and let it out to sail more downwind.

  • Topping lift: holds the back end of the boom up when the mainsail is not raised. Otherwise, the main halyard holds the boom up.

  • Reef 3 luff: holds down the front of the mainsail when set with 3 reefs.

Cluster B:

  • Reef 3 leech: holds down the back of the mainsail when set with 3 reefs.

  • Gennaker halyard: raises and lowers our big, colored trade wind sail.

  • Reef 1 leech: holds down the back of the mainsail when set with 1 reef.

  • Reef 2 leech: holds down the back of the mainsail when set with 2 reefs.

Photo 1

Cluster C:

  • Main halyard: raises and lowers the mainsail.

  • Reef 1 luff: holds down the front of the mainsail when set with 1 reef.

  • Reef 2 luff: holds down the front of the mainsail when set with 2 reefs.

Cluster D:

  • Port trade wind sail sheet: trims the port (left) side of big trade wind sail.

  • Starboard trade wind sail sheet: trims the starboard (right) side of the big trade wind sail.

  • These two sheets are run through blocks (pulleys not in the photo) to the left and right winches respectively.


Photo 2 below shows lines on one side of the mast.

  • Line A is the jib halyard used to raise or lower the jib.

  • Line B is the port side lazy jack. It controls a network of lines that help guide the mainsail into its sailboat when lowering it.

  • Line C is a flag halyard used to raise signal flags and courtesy flags.

  • Line D is the same jib sheet listed in photo 1. It runs part way up the mast and then back down to the tail end of the jib at the front of the boat.

  • The other side of the mast has an identical set of lines, except instead of the jib halyard there is a man-lift halyard used for hoisting a person to the top of the mast for maintenance.

Photo 2



Photo 3 below shows a cluster of lines to the left of the helm station. All of these lines utilize the winch at the bottom of the photo.

  • Line A is the main sheet, used to trim the mainsail. It runs back to a set of blocks that can be pulled side-to-side on a track using lines B and C.

  • Line B is a line used to pull the mainsail along the track to the starboard side.

  • Line C is a line used to pull the mainsail along the track to the port side.

  • Line D is the jib furling line, used to furl the jib up when not in use. This line runs to the furling drum at the bow of the boat.

Photo 3


Photo 4 below shows lines at the bow of the boat.

  • Line A is the halyard for raising the trade wind sail. It runs to the top of the mast and then back down to the base of the mast as shown in photo 1.

  • Line B (the blue line) runs to the roller-furler at the end of the bowsprit and is used to furl / unfurl the big trade wind sail.

  • Line C is the jib furling line previously shown by the helm station in photo 3.

  • Line D is used to raise and lower the bowsprit.

Photo 4











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