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Basic tips to rigging a sailboat

Preparing for your first sail? It is recommended you take a class to learn about rigging your sailboat. Until then, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when rigging your sailboat.

Tips to rigging your sails

The first time you hoist your sails you may want to raise them while you are docked. This will help you focus and practice without worrying about where you are headed. Make sure the bow of your boat is positioned into the wind.


A halyard is a line that pulls a sail up. Each sail has its own halyard for hoisting. Lower your halyards from the mast of the boat and undo them. Make sure that both ends of the halyards are secure – attached to something or in your hand.


The first sail to rig is the mainsail, which is attached to the back of the mast. You will connect a halyard to the head of the sail by knotting it or some sailboats have a plastic stopper to lock it in place. Put the top of the sail in the mast track and pull on the halyard. You may need two people to do this, one to feed the mainsail into the mast and one to pull the halyard. The sail will usually hoist easily by pulling down on the halyard. If it gets caught in something, lower the sail a little to clear it and then raise it again. The mainsail may get harder to hoist when it hits the last two feet. At this point, you’ll need to pull harder on the halyard until it completely stops. Once it is up, tie the halyard around a cleat. Coil up the extra line. Always make sure your head is out of the way of the boom (the part that holds the bottom of the mainsail), as it will swing side to side in the wind.


This is the triangular sail at the bow of the boat. You will rig it before you leave the dock, and it is often raised after you are underway. The tack of the jib or bottom corner attaches to a fitting on the deck with a shackle. You will then connect the jib to the forestay with clips or hanks. Now attach the head of the jib to the jib halyard with a shackle and split ring. Tie each jib sheet to the clew on both sides of the boat with a figure eight stopper knot to secure them in place. You will find that the jib is much simpler to hoist than the mainsail.

We hope these basic tips help you rig your sailboat safely and properly. For further protection on the water, be sure to check out Markel boat insurance. Markel offers specialized boat insurance that protects on (and off) of the water.

Find a licensed Markel Marine agent in your area, and start protecting your boat today!