The job of the standing rigging, the system that remains in place even when no sails are set, is to give the mast the support it needs to remain solid and upright. Standing rigging is commonly made up of cables. Those that hold the mast in its forward and aft positions are called stays. The forestay or headstay runs from the top of the mast or near the top, to the bow, the front of the boat. Some boats have a roller furling, where the luff of the jib sail is attached to a foil shaped tube that encloses the forestay. This system is convenient when the jib is not in use it can be put away by rolling it around the forestay with the aid of a roller furler at the bottom of the forestay. Shrouds provide the sideways support for the mast. They are attached to the top, or near the top of the mast and run to the outer edge of the deck where they attach to chainplates. On taller masts there can be several levels of shrouds. Sometimes spreaders are used to create a more effective angle of support and the shrouds are pushed further away from the mast with strong struts, called spreaders.
The ropes that are used to control the sails while sailing are known as the running rigging. Any piece of rope that has a job is called a line and every line has a name. A halyard is the line used to raise or hoist a sail. It is attached to the head of the sail and runs over a pulley on the top of the mast. You raise a sail by pulling on the part of the halyard that returns downward to the deck. A sheet is the line that controls the trim and sets the angle of the sail relative to the flow of the wind. A sheet is usually named for the sail that it controls, such as the jibsheet. There are two jibsheets, one for each side of the boat. The are usually attached directly to the sail’s clew. The mainsheet, used on a mainsail is attached usually by a system of pulleys to the aft end of the boom. Sailors call pulleys, blocks. Blocks can be combined to in many ways to increase your pulling power, or purchase. A series of blocks can be arranged to multiply the force applied to the end of your line. A block and tackle is often used for the boom vang. The boom vang restrains the boom from being lifted up by the mainsail when the mainsheet has slack. Some boats have a traveler. It is made up of a track that runs across the cockpit or deck and carries a movable car that the sheet is attached to. This is often used for the mainsheet. When the mainsail is raised it holds up the boom. When the sails are not set some boats have a rope or wire called a boom lift. This runs from the top of the mast to the aft end of the boom to give it support. A shackle is a fastening device that is used to connect the lines and wires to an item of hardware on the boat. Shackles come in a variety of shapes and configurations, yet are most often in the shape of a D. Some are designed for a specific purpose, like the halyard shackle. It is important to know how to unscrew or unsnap all shackles on your boat and to keep them well tightened. A shackle key is a good tool for tightening shackles and undoing pins.