Sailboat Rig Dimensions

  • Sailboat Rig Dimensions

    • Sailboat Rig Dimensions


The sailboat rig dimensions are the measurements between the main parts of a sailboat like the hull, the spars, the sails, and the rigging. A sailboat or sailing boat is a boat propelled partly or entirely by sails. Each part of a sailboat has a special name. Sailors everywhere take great pride in using the proper terms when referring to the sailboat rig dimensions.

Sailboat Rig Dimensions

Mainsail Area = P x E / 2
Headsail Area = (Luff x LP) / 2 (LP = shortest distance between clew and Luff)
Genoa Area 150% = ( 1.5 x J x I ) / 2
Genoa Area 135% = ( 1.35 x J x I ) / 2
Fore-triangle 100% = ( I x J ) / 2
Spinnaker Area = 1.8 x J x I

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Use this sailboat database every time you need to determine your sailboat's sail area. 

I = Height of headstay termination above the sheer line
J = Distance between headstay termination at deck and front of mast at the sheer line.
P = Distance between black bands on the mast, or the maximum luff length of the main.
E = Distance between black bands on the boom, or the maximum foot length of the main
PY & EY are similar to P & E, but indicate mizzen dimensions
  • Fore-mast - the first mast, or the main-mast
  • Main-mast - the tallest mast of the ship
  • Mizzen-mast - The mast immediately aft of the main-mast
  • Jigger-mast - the fourth mast

Sailboat Rigging Types

Sailboat rigging types vary and refers to the ropes or cables that support the masts and adjust the sails. The term may also refer to the formation of masts and sails on a ship.

We will describe the the five most common sailboat rigging types referred to as, the formation of the mast and sails, on a ship.

  • Fractional rig: A fractional rig on a sailing vessel consists of a foresail, such as a jib or Genoa sail, that does not reach all the way to the top of the mast.

  • Sloop rig: sloops are designed to optimize upwind sailing. However, sloops also offer an excellent overall compromise acceptable, if not optimal, to all points of sail.

  • Bermuda rig: The rig consists of a triangular sail set aft of the mast with its head raised to the top of the mast; its Luff runs down the mast and is normally attached to it for its entire length; its tack is attached at the base of the mast; its foot controlled by a boom; and its clew attached to the aft end of the boom, which is controlled by its sheet.

  • Gaff rig: Gaff rig is a sailing rig (configuration of sails) in which a sail is a four-cornered fore-and-aft rigged item controlled at its peak and, usually, its entire head by a spar (pole) called the gaff.

  • Mast aft rig: A mast aft rig is a sailboat sail-plan that uses a single mast set in the aft half of the hull to support a jib or multiple staysails, with either a small or completely absent mainsail.

The Mast

  • Fore-mast: the first mast, or the mast fore of the main-mast.

  • Main-mast: the tallest mast, usually located near the center of the ship.

  • Mizzen-mast: the third mast, or the mast immediately aft of the main-mast. Typically shorter than the fore-mast.

In the 1930s aluminium masts were introduced on large J-class yachts. An aluminium mast has considerable advantages over a wooden one : it is lighter and slimmmr than a wooden one of the same strength, is impervious to rot, and can be produced as a single extruded length. After the Second World War, extruded aluminium masts became common on all dinghies and smaller yachts. Higher performance yachts would use tapered aluminium masts, constructed by removing a triangular strip of aluminium along the length of the mast and then closing and welding the gap.

From the mid 1990s racing yachts introduced the use of carbon fibre and other composite materials to construct masts with even better strength-to-weight ratios. Carbon fibre masts could also be constructed with more precisely engineered aerodynamic profiles.


Sails are fabric aerofoils designed to catch the wind and manipulate the air currents surrounding the vessel. They are attached to spars and rigging in various ways, such as metal clips, rope hoops, or in a luff-groove. Sails are usually rectangular or triangular in shape, which determines their use and placement.

Sails are classified according to their shape and location. The name of a sail on a square-rigged vessel with multiple masts consists of the mast name and the sail's vertical position. On a three-masted vessel the masts are, from bow to stern, Fore, Main and Mizzen; the "plain" square sails are, bottom to top, Course, Topsail, Topgallant, Royal and Sky. Thus the sail second up the mizzen-mast is the "mizzen topsail", and the third sail up the fore-mast is the "fore topgallant sail". Sails set in other positions, or only in special circumstances, have a variety of other names for instance: a triangular sail set on a stay might be called a staysail, or jib if the stay in question runs to the prow or bowsprit; sails set either side of square sails to increase sail area in light winds are called studding-sails, qualified by the side and the plain sail name (such as "port topgallant studding-sail", but more likely to be pronounced "port t'ga'ant stun'sl"); a gaff sail set aft of the mizzen mast may be called a Spanker or Driver.


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