How do I adjust my
rigging? How tight should it be? How will I know if I've got
In this article I'll try to answer some
of the most common questions about rigging. It's meant as a simple,
practical guide, without going in to the theory of it.
This is a basic way of getting your mast(s)
standing the way it should, with correct tension on the rigging.
It's for the average Bermudan rigged cruising yacht. Gaff and
other different rigs will differ in the details but the idea
is the same for most rigs. Like everything in sailing there are
other ways, but this is how it's been done for many new and used
Just do it!
The first thing is not to be afraid of making adjustments. If
you ever adjusted the spokes on your bicycle wheel you'll find
the principle is much the same.
Before you loosen any rigging, mark its
tension with a piece of tape or a cable tie on the thread above
the turnbuckle. That way if you stuff up you can at least return
to this setting.
The steps to adjusting rigging are-
1. Get the mast(s) standing upright in the boat
2. Get it straight.
The second is the tricky one. It may look straight at anchor
but you'll need to sight up the sail track while sailing to make
sure. So it's really a multi-step process of adjustment/sailing/adjustment.
STEP 1 - Get it standing upright in
Sounds obvious but you'd be surprised how many masts lean to
one side. Don't worry about measuring from the masthead to the
gunwale or any other clever measurement methods. Few boats are
Not just the home made ones - before Talisman
I lived on an up-market production boat. The centerline of her
deck was an inch or more from the centerline of the hull. Her
mast step also tilted to one side. We discovered this when we
couldn't get the mast to stand straight and corrected it but
there are fifteen sisterships probably still sailing around with
Please bear in mind I'm not saying NOT
to do this more scientifically, only that you don't need to.
Get the boat level.
Make sure no one is walking around on board while you're doing
this and do it in the calm of morning.
Go round the boat and check it is sitting
level from side to side and fore and aft. Don't even look at
the mast at this stage, just the boat. Actually block the mast
from view with your hand.
When you reckon she's level have a look
at the mast. You can do this by eye, or by lining up with marina
piles or buildings ashore - anything handy that should be straight.
In a marina it can be hard to get far enough away for a proper
look, you need a clear view from at least a boat length away.
Otherwise use a plumb bob suspended from
the mast head. I caution against using a spirit level as you
need to be on board for this and your weight will affect the
reading (yes, even on a multi)
Where there is more than one do the main
mast first. If it's upright you can proceed to Step 2.
If not, loosen all the side rigging except
the cap shrouds. Make sure there is nothing else influencing
the lean of the mast (main boom hanging to one side, wind etc.).
Caution! Keep the threaded part of the
turnbuckles well within the barrel, at least as far as the diameter
of the thread. Never undo a piece of rigging completely unless
you are absolutely certain something else is supporting the mast
in its place.
Adjust the cap shrouds until it stands
upright side to side. When it's right you could do the other
mast(s) but it's probably better to finish the main mast so there's
not too much loose rigging flopping around making you nervous.
To get another mast lined up with the main one, sight both sides
of it - just checking one side gives a false impression
Fore & aft
Check the rake of the mast from the side. Loosen the fore and
aft rigging and adjust until you're happy with the way it looks.
Unless you have a junk rig it should not lean forward. Straight
up and down is OK but won't look good. A few inches of rake generally
If your boat has weather helm keep the
mast almost vertical. If weather helm is not a problem a bit
more mast rake will look better. If you have lee helm (pretty
unusual) raking the mast aft will help.
When adjusting the rake of the smaller
mast don't bother trying to measure the rake on the main mast.
It is possible to exactly duplicate the rake of a mast but a
mizzen generally needs to lean back further than the main in
order to appear parallel.