Sailboat Rigging and Some Nomenclature

Learning to sail can be a bit overwhelming at the start because of the nomenclature. But don’t worry it’s just a matter of learning a few at the start then adding to them as you progress in your sailing education.

The following illustration shows the parts of the sail and associated control lines. Of note is the bolt rope which is one of very few actual ropes on a boat (another is the bell rope). And note that you can use this information to win some decent size bets with many sailors because many are under the illusion that there are no ropes on a boat.

learn to sail

learn to sail

  • The bolt rope provides strength to the luff of the sail and is used also to slide into the track if there is one. On a head sail the bolt rope provides strength to the luff of the sail when “hanks” are used.
  • Hanks are basically sliding clamps that slide up the forestay and are clamped onto the bolt rope at the leading edge (luff).
  • The main halyard is attached to the head of the sail and is used to pull the sail up the mast.
  • The gooseneck is a swivel connection from the boom to the mast.
  • The reefing points are points where the sail can be pulled down in order to reef the sail if a roller furling system is not used.
  • The topping lift holds the back of the boom up.
  • The boom vang holds the boom down when beating to wind. On down wind legs the boom vang can be loosened to provide more shape to the sail.
  • The cunningham pulls the sail down tight and is used also when reefing.
  • The outhaul line is attached to the clew to pull the sail out along the boom.

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  • Grant Headifen

    My vision for NauticEd is to provide the highest quality sailing and boating education available - and deliver competence wherever sailors live and go.

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Last updated on July 11th, 2022