Five Little-Known Ways to Use Your Sailing Running Rigging!

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Did you know that you can put your boom topping lift to work in two different ways? And do the same thing with a headsail sailing winch? Here are five little-known ways to use your running rigging to save you time and effort

* Topping Lift Mast Halyard Replacement

Use the topping lift to hold the boom up when you hoist or reef the sail. But what happens if your mainsail halyard parts? Disconnect the topping lift, bend it on to the head of the main, and hoist the sail to the masthead. Sure beats a trip up to the top of the sailboat mast!

Match the winch handle to the winch radius. Use a winch handle at least 4 times the radius of the winch drum for the best mechanical advantage.
Match the winch handle to the winch radius. Use a winch handle at least 4 times the radius of the winch drum for the best mechanical advantage.
* Headsail Sailing Winch Anchoring Aid

Headsail sheet winches reduce the amount of effort needed to get just the right sail trim in your headsail.

But did you know that you can use the winch to help lift a heavy boat anchor off the bottom?

If you sail without an anchor windlass, lead the anchor rode aft to a sheet winch and put that mechanical power to work.

For the least amount of sweat equity, use a winch handle four times longer than the winch radius.

Measure from the center of the winch drum to the outer edge of the drum (see illustration)

On a sailboat winch with a radius of 3", a 12" handle will give you a 4:1 advantage to ease your work load.

* Spinnaker Halyard Headsail Hoister

If you already have a dedicated spinnaker block on the forward side of the sailboat mast, then you're covered in case something happens to your jib furling unit.

Furlers are hard to beat as a time and effort saver--but they also tend to break down if not cared for. If that happens, lower the furling headsail, stow it below, and hank on another jib. Hoist it with the spinnaker halyard and you're good to go.

* Boom Vang Lifting Power

Your boom vang and mainsheet handle heavy loads to shape your mainsail. But did you know you can use that 4 to 6-part tackle to lift an engine out of the boat for an overhaul, lower a heavy outboard over the side, or--in larger boats--hoist and lower the dinghy?

For example, with a 4-part tackle, you could hoist or lower a 100 pound outboard with only 25 pounds of effort on your end. Put your block and tackles to work to make muscle pulls and back injuries a thing of the past.

* Halyard Stay Replacement Duty

Someday, you might need to replace a turnbuckle sleeve or threaded swage fitting on your headstay or backstay. But you want to be sure your mast stays up while you make repairs.

To work on the headstay, shackle a spare jib, Genoa, or spinnaker halyard to the stemhead fitting at the bow. If you need to work on the backstay, lead the mainsail halyard aft and cleat it to a robust stern cleat. Now you can make repairs without the worry of the boat mast falling down.


Learn how to sail a boat better with these tips that show you how to double-up the duty of your running rigging. This will save you time, effort, and big $$$s for many common tasks you can do yourself aboard your small cruising boat.

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