Standing Rigging

Masthead Vs. Fractional Rigs

The main distinction between these two popular rigs is how far up does the headstay go?  


To the top: Masthead

Part of the way up: Fractional

Fractional rigs offer a smaller headsail luff but a much more adjustable mast. Since the headstay doesn’t meet the backstay at the head of the mast, the section between the two stays acts as a lever which can effectively bend the mast to tune the sails. All this equates to much higher performance from the boat. 

Typically, fractional rigs are seen on racing boats while mast head rigs are seen on slower cruising boats.  

Two Headsail Setups

Have you ever wondered about different types of two headsail setups  on a sailboat?


There are actually three different types. Cutter, Slutter, and Solent.  

A cutter has the mast set aft of 40% line of the boat, meaning that 40% of the boat is bow and 60% is stern. Since the mast is farther aft, there is more space for headsails and that means that you can easily fit two different headsails on the bow and fly them at the same time.  

If the mast is forward of the 40% line, the boat is a Sloop, but a sloop only has one headsail. When you add a second headsail, the boat becomes either a Slutter if the inner headsail is set on the deck like a Cutter, but runs all the way up to the masthead. A Solent has the inner headsail set just aft of the headsail, making it a sloop with two different headsail options.  

Slutters and Solents don’t work well at flying both headsails at the same time like a cutter can, except when Sailing dead down wind with the headsails set wing on wing. 

Why you might be wondering why the inner sail leads to the top of the mast on both of these sloop combinations? Well, there are two reasons: 1. The space for the inner sail is so small that if it doesn’t lead to the masthead, it would be too small to have any effect. Leading it to the masthead gives it the extra sail area that makes that sail effective. 

The second reason: 2. by leading the sail to the masthead, the counter loads are supported by the backstay meaning they don’t need to rig additional running backstays. 

These are the different options available to sailboat that wants to have two headsails. Either already be a cutter or be a sloop with a Slutter or a Solent rig.  

Alternative to Cotter Pins

Cotter pins are used to secure the turnbuckle from unscrewing. At the same time, cotter pins are great at snagging your sails, sheets, and flesh!

The quest to find the best method to secure your turnbuckle while also sparring your flesh has led to a lot of creativity and innovation.  

At a consignment shop, I saw these used turnbuckles for sale with a creative method of securing the screws and body.  


The wire wraps around the body of the turnbuckle and then passes through the hole in the screw.  

If you have turnbuckles, this method will help you neatly secure your standing rigging. If you have dead eyes, then you don’t have to worry about cotter pins and turnbuckles! 

What are spreaders for?

Most older yachts have a single spreader, most modern yachts have double spreaders. Why? 

Spreaders offer a way to position the standing rigging in a more favorable stance to provide the most strength at the lowest force. They also serve as a point of support to the spar, giving it loads of strength and rigidity. 

The video below shows how spreaders work to support the mast via demonstration with a raw piece of spaghetti. 

If you liked that video, consider subscribing to our channel so you can follow along with our adventures as we voyage the ocean with our synthetic standing rigging and electric motor.