One method of categorising different sail boats is by their various types of rigging configuration. We’ve listed what we feel is the most common rig types amongst sailors below. There are types which we’ve not listed, if you feel we’re missing one then please leave us a note in the comments.
Masthead sloop rig
The Bermudan Sloop [Masthead Sloop] is the most common type of rigging found on cruising sailboats. With a single mast and two sails [a mainsail and headsail]. You can identify this rig by the forestay [a wire that supports the mast] on this rig attaches to the top of the mast from the deck.
The masthead rig is identified by the forestay which attaches to the top of the mast from the deck.
Fractional sloop rig
A fractional sloop rig is very similar to the masthead rig. The main difference is that the forestay does not reach the top of the mast. Instead it is connected lower down the mast. The reason for this is sail trim. With a fractional rig you are able to bend the top of the mast which allows greater flexibility over sail trim. Fractional rigs are often found on performance cruisers and racing yachts. Note, fractional rigs often have running backstays or checkstays.
A fractional rig can be identified by the forestay which attaches at a point which is lower than the top of the mast.
Similar to the sloop, the cutter rig has an outer forestay which attaches to the top of the mast from the deck. The main mast sits further aft to allow for a second [inner] forestay. The outer stay carries a Jib or Genoa and the inner stay carries a Staysail. This is the rig of choice for serious cruising because it offers a greater range of flexibility for different conditions.
A cutter rig's mast is often [but not always] further aft to allow for both a Jib/Genoa headsail and inner Staysail. These are hoisted on an outer forestay and an inner forestay.
The Ketch rig is the first double masted rig of this article. The main mast is usually stepped in the same location as a sloop rig. Quite a few boat builders use the same deck mold for both types of rigs. It then has a mizzen mast, which is always shorter than the main mast, positioned aft.
It is extremely common that the ketch is mixed with the cutter rig, thus making a cutter-ketch (as seen below).
A Ketch has the same forward configuration of a traditional sloop rig. In addition to this, has a smaller mizzen mast aft.
The schooner rig is another slip rig plan. Like the Ketch, it has two masts however the aft mast [which is considered the main mast] is of equal size or larger than the forward mast [otherwise referred to as the foremast].
A Schooner rig has an aft [main] mast which is of equal size or larger than the forward mast [foremast].
Yawl’s are very similar to Ketch Rigged vessels in the sense they have a mizzen smaller than their main mast. The notable difference between the two is that the mizzen on a Yawl sits much further aft, usually aft of the rudder stock.
A Yawl rig's mizzen mast sits aft of the rudder stock.
While uncommon, the wishbone rig is still spotted on the water from time to time. The wishbone rig [or wishbone boom] is similar to that of a wind surfer. Do to it’s strength and the fact it acts as a rigid spar – no stays are required to support the boom. The downside to this is that you cannot hoist a headsail [due to the lack of stays] to improve your head-to-wind angle of attack.
A Wishbone rig [or wishbone boom] acts as a permanent spar allowing for the mast to stand without the use of stays.
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