Rig and Sailplan

Rig and Sailplan – Sailing Course

To carry a sail a boat needs a rig. The Rig describes the sailplan configuration of the mast and sails. Since 500 BC and earlier boats used the wind for propulsion. Since then the rig changed many times. Here are some rigs which we can find nowadays.

Braque,  Bermuda rig, Bermuda sloop, Brig, Brigantine, Caravel, Catamaran, Catboat, Clipper, Cog, Cutter (used in our sailing course), Dhow, Dinghy, Felucca, Frigate, Gaff Rig, Galeas, Junk, Ketch, Lugger, Pilot Cutter, Sailing barge, Schooner, Sloop, Smack, Square Rig, Tall Ship, Windjammer, Yawl

We will discuss here the most common used rigs for sailing yachts.

The Sloop – Sailing course


Sailing course Sloop Sail Plan

Bermudan sloop sail plan

Probably the most used rig nowadays is the sloop rig which has above all other types the best performance to windward but needs extra sails like a spinnaker to perform well down wind. The sloop rig has one mast which carries a main sail to aft and a fore or head sail to forward. The Bermudan sloop originates from the Bermudan Islands in the 17th century and was continuously developed further. We can find this rig on racing sloops with high aspect sails competing in the America’s Cup. This the rig used during the sailing course.

The Cutter – Sailing course


Cutter rig - Sailing course / Ocean Hiker

Cutter gaff rig

The cutter rig has one mast which is further aft than on a sloop and carries one mainsail and two or more head sails. A traditional cutter will have as well a bowsprit. Pictured on the left is a gaff rig cutter which has a mainsail and a main top sail. The main sail has four sides and is supported by a gaff, therefore a gaff rig cutter. Nowadays you will find as well Cutter rigs with Bermudan sails. This is a easy to handle cruising rig. The sail before the mast is called stay sail which can have its own boom on the food of the sail which allows self tacking.

The Ketch – Sailing course

Ketch sail plan - Competent Crew Course / Ocean Hiker

Ketch sail plan with Bermudan sails

The Ketch is a popular cruising rig too. It offers a large sail area and is still shorthanded manageable. This rig has two masts, the main and the smaller mizzen mast which is forward of the rudder. The sail on the mizzen mast is called mizzen sail. It is as well possible to have a cutter rigged ketch which will carry more than on fore sail, usually a self tacking stay sail and a jib. The main and mizzen sail could be with a gaff or a Bermudan shaped sail.

The Yawl – Sailing course

Yawl sail plan - Competent Crew Course / Ocean Hiker

Yawl sail plan gaff rig

The yawl rig has like the ketch to masts but the mizzen mast is aft of the rudder. This sail plan derived originally from commercial fishing boats. Later on it became quite popular with single-handed sailors because sails could be trimmed to sail without having to control the rudder. In comparison to the ketch the mizzen sail on a yawl is less for propulsion than for balancing the rest of the rig. Nowadays the yawl lost popularity since other steering aids like electronic auto pilots or mechanical wind vanes make her mizzen sail and mizzen mast redundant. The yawl comes as well with gaff or Bermudan sails.

The Schooner – Sailing course


Sail plan schooner - Competent Crew Course / Ocean Hiker

Sail plan schooner gaff rig

The schooner has two masts were the first one is smaller than the second and can have more than one foresail. This type of rig emerged in the 18th century and the largest schooner build had seven masts. They were used commercially as pilot, fishing  or cargo vessels and could sail better to windward than previous rig designs. Nowadays some larger cruising yachts use the two masted schooner rig which is easy to sail short handed. The schooner comes as well with gaff or Bermudan sails.

The Cat boat – Sailing course


Sail plan of a catboat - Competent Crew Course / Ocean Hiker


The cat boat has a single mast well forward. This design of sail plan emerged in the 19th century in north America and was used for fishing and transport in coastal waters because of there great beam. Catboats can be quite fast but perform poor to windward. They come gaff rigged or with Bermudan sails. Nowadays there are mostly used as a small pleasure day sailing vessel and it has its own place within the racing community.


During our Sailing course

During the sailing course we will discuss all Rigs and Sailplans used nowadays.

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9 Responses to “Rig and Sailplan”

  • Comment from Bra Brief Sets

    Thanks-a-mundo for the blog.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

  • Comment from Dr. Homework

    Wow, awesome layout! I find the information given here quite good presented. Thanks for this work.

  • Comment from Hubert Beckner

    I researched a few of the sailing sites and I actually like your approach of teaching. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website record and will be checking back soon.

  • Comment from Pete

    wow, thanks for the information… nice illustration too…

  • Comment from Wanda

    5 stars for this site.

  • Comment from tom

    Thanks for the info, will get back by e-mail to you.

  • Comment from rafael

    pretty good stuff you having here. I am getting really into sailing now. Your site is quite helpful. Keep going..

  • Comment from admin

    Hi Tom, please use our booking form or info@ e-mail.

  • Comment from Emmanuel

    Tahnks for this nice lesson….

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