My Cruiser Life Magazine

Cutter Rigged Sailboats [GUIDE] Advantages, Sailing, Options & Features

Cutter rigs are often more prevalent in boating magazines and theory than they are in your marina. Most cruising sailboats are Bermuda rigged sloops with just one permanently attached headsail. So, are two headsails better than one? Or, are they double the trouble?

Table of Contents

  • History of Cutters 

What is a Cutter Rig?

Cutter features, cutter rig options, sailing a cutter rigged sailboat, 5 popular manufacturers making cutter rigs, it takes two to tango, cutter rigged sailboat faqs.

Cutter rigged sailboat

History of Cutters

Cutters became popular in the early 18th century. These traditional cutters were decked (instead of open) and featured multiple headsails. Smugglers used cutters to smuggle goods, and the coast guard used cutters to try to catch the smugglers. 

Various navies also used the cutter rig. Navy cutters featured excellent maneuverability and were better at sailing to windward than square-rigged ships. 

Navies used cutters for coastal patrol, collecting customs duties, and “cutting out” raids. These “cutting out” operations consisted of a boarding attack. Fast, maneuverable cutters could stealthily approach an enemy vessel and board it. This type of attack was common in the late 18th century. 

US Coast Guard ships, now powerful, fast, engine-driven, steel vessels, are still called cutters today as a nod to their past.

A cutter rig sailboat has two headsails instead of just one. The jib is located forward and is either attached to a bowsprit or the bow. The inner sail is called the staysail and is attached to an inner forestay. 

Traditional cutters were built for speed. Today, cutter rigged sailboats are popular with ocean-crossing sailors, cruisers, and sailors looking for an easy to manage, versatile rig for all conditions.

It’s important to distinguish cutters from other types of boats with a single mast. Cutters regularly fly two headsails on nearly every point of sail. Many sloops are equipped to fly different-sized headsails, but it is unusual or unnecessary for them to fly more than one at a time.

Island Packet cutter rig

Solent Rig vs Cutter Rig

A solent rig is traditionally called a slutter–a little bit sloop and a little bit cutter. This configuration features two large headsails mounted close together. The solent rig is good if you do a lot of downwind sailing. You can pole out both headsails and go wing-on-wing, with one headsail on the starboard side and one on the port side. 

If you are on any other point of sail, you can only use one solent rig headsail at a time. If you use the inner sail, the wind flow is disrupted by the furled forward sail. And, if you use the forward sail, you’ll have to furl it to tack because there’s not enough space between the forestays.

The solent rig is a way to add more sail options to a standard sloop. Most solent stays are not required rigging to keep the mast up, so owners remove them when not in use to make tacking the primary headsail easier. 

Advantages of a Cutter Rig

There are a lot of reasons to like a cutter. A cutter rigged boat has redundant rigging and spreads the sail load across its rigging. And a cutter rig offers increased sail options–it offers increased sail area in light winds and easy and efficient ways to decrease sail area in heavy weather. 

In heavy weather, a cutter will drop or furl her larger headsail – usually a yankee or a genoa. That leaves just the smaller inner staysail. This arrangement is superior to the standard sloop, which sails in high winds by reefing her headsail. The staysail, however, lowers the center of effort on the sail plan and maintains draft over the reefed mainsail. That makes the boat more stable, maintains performance, and reduces stresses on the rig. 

If you imagine the sailor going to sea and needing to reef, it’s easy to see how many more choices they have than the sloop sailor. While each sailor can reef their mainsail, a cutter skipper has full control over both headsails as well. 

Because a cutter rig spreads the load across two headsails, it’s easier to manage. There might be more sails, but each sail is smaller and has smaller loads on it. That makes cutters the preferred option for sailing offshore when short-handed, as are more cruising couples. 

Lastly, it has to be added that there’s something appealing about the traditional looks of a cutter. 

Disadvantages of a Cutter Rig

While there are many benefits of a cutter, there are drawbacks and disadvantages too. 

Sailors will have more lines to manage and more processes to think through. More sails mean more halyards and sheets. And when it comes to maintenance and upkeep, a cutter will have more standing and running rigging to replace, along with one more sail. 

Cutters are also harder to tack. You’ll be dealing with two headsails instead of just one. Many designs deal with this problem by making the staysail self-tacking. This has fallen out of favor, but it’s a great advantage if you find yourself short-tacking up or down rivers.

Regardless of whether you need to tack both headsails or not, getting the larger sail to tack through the slot and around the inner forestay is sometimes a challenge. Many skippers find themselves furling the headsail, at least partially, to complete the tack. 

Cutters need extra foretriangle room, which can mean adding a bowsprit, moving the mast back, or both. 

Cutter Rig Position

Looking at a cutter rigged sailboat diagram, you might see a bowsprit depicted. Often, cutters fly their yankee from a bowsprit. Bowsprits allow boat designers to increase the fore triangle’s size without making the mast taller. Other cutters don’t use a bowsprit and mount the yankee sail on the bow. 

A cutter sailboat might seem like more work. After all, there are two sails to trim and manage. In addition, you’ll have to perform maintenance on two sails and purchase and maintain double the hardware. 

However, the two headsail arrangement can be easier to manage when the sails are under load. Instead of having one jib or genoa to trim, the weight and pressure are spread across two sails. 

Mast Location

Today’s modern boat designers often focus on providing living space in the cabin. Designers often move the mast forward to create a larger, more open saloon. When the mast is forward, there’s less space to mount two headsails. A cutter sailboat needs a decent foretriangle area. 

A cutter rigged sailboat is also more expensive for boat builders. The deck must be strong enough to handle the inner forestay’s loads. Between the additional building costs, saloon design issues, and customers’ concern over increased complexity, boat builders often favor a single headsail. 

Easier on the Boat and Crew

Since the loads are distributed between two smaller sails instead of being handled by one large genoa. This means there’s less pressure on attachments points and hardware, and therefore less wear and tear. In addition, because there are separate attachment points on the deck for each sail, the load is distributed across the deck instead of focused on one spot. 

Because each headsail is smaller, the sails are easier to winch in, so the crew will find it easier to manage the sails.

cutter rig

There’s nothing cookie-cutter about a sailing cutter. From the cut of the jib to the configuration of the staysail, each cutter sailboat is unique. 

Yankee, Jib, or Genoa

Traditional cutters have a yankee cut headsail along with a staysail. The yankee is high-cut and usually has no overlap. The high cut improves visibility, and a yankee has less twist than a typical jib. By sloop standards, it looks very small, but on a cutter it works in unison with the staysail. 

A jib is a regular headsail that does not overlap the mast, while a genoa is a big jib that does overlaps. The amount of overlap is measured in percentage, so a 100-percent working jib fills the foretriangle perfectly. Other options include the 135 and 155-percent genoas, which are popular for sailors in light winds. 

The problem with using a big jib or genoa with a staysail is that there will often be a close overlap between the two headsails. If flown together, the air over the staysail interferes with the air over the outer sail, making each one slightly less efficient. In these cases, it’s often better to drop the staysail and leave it for when the wind pipes up. 

Roller Furler, Club, or Hank-On Sails

Sailors have many options to manage and store their cutter’s sails. Sailors can mix and match the options that work for them. 

Roller Furler vs Hank-on Sails

You can have both sails on roller furlers, both hanked on, or a mix of the two. 

Buying and maintaining two roller furlers is expensive, but it makes the sails easy to manage. You can easily unfurl, reef, and furl both headsails from the cockpit without having to work on the deck. 

Hank-on sails are fool-proof and offer less expense and maintenance. You can use a hank-on staysail, either loose-footed or club-footed, depending on your needs. Hank-on sails make sail changes easy and they never jam or come unfurled unexpectedly. 

The most common setup on most cutters is to have the larger yankee or jib on a furler, and the smaller and more manageable staysail hanked on.

Club-footed Staysail

A club-footed staysail is attached to a self-tacking boom. Since there is only one control sheet to handle, there’s a lot less work to do to tack from the cockpit. It tacks just like another mainsail. You can tack the yankee while the club-footed staysail self-tacks. 

Island Packets and many other cutters feature this arrangement, which makes tacking easy. 

However, a club-footed staysail takes up space on the foredeck–it’s always in the way. It’s harder to get to your windlass and ground tackle. In addition, it’s harder to store your dinghy on the foredeck under the staysail boom. The boom also presents a risk to anyone on the foredeck, since it can swing during tacks and jibes and is even lower to the deck than the mainsail boom.

Loose-footed Staysail

Keeping a loose-footed staysail on a furler clears space on the deck. Without the boom, you can more easily move around the foredeck, and you’ll have more space when you are managing the anchor. In addition, you can more easily store your dinghy on the foredeck. 

However, the staysail loses its self-tacking ability. You’ll now have to have staysail tracks for the sheet’s turning blocks and another set of sheet winches in the cockpit. When it comes time to tack the boat, you’ll have two headsails with four sheets and four winches to handle. Most owners choose to furl the outer headsail before the tack. Then, they can perform the maneuver using the staysail alone.

The good news is that most offshore boats are not tacking very often. If you’re on a multi-day passage, chances are you’ll only tack once or twice on the whole trip.

Downwind and Light Air Sails

There are a number of light air sails that will help your cutter perform better when the wind is light. Popular options include the code zero, gennaker, and asymmetrical spinnaker. 

Adding one of these sails to your inventory can make it a dream sailing machine. A code zero can be flown in light air. Since the cutter is already well equipped for sailing in heavy air, a light air sail really gives you the ability to tackle anything.

Sloop Rig, Ketch, and Yawl

While some describe a cutter as a cutter-rigged sloop or a sloop cutter, a modern sloop has one mast and one permanent headsail. 

But you’ll also find the cutter rig used on a ketch or a yawl. A cutter ketch or yawl offers a cruising sailor increased sail area and choices by adding the mizzen mast and sail behind. 

Sailing a cutter rigged boat is not that different from sailing a traditional sloop. Sailors will have to pay close attention to trim and tacking. 

Sailing a Cutter Rig to Windward

A cutter usually can’t point as high as a sloop when sailing to windward. The yankee hinders the staysail’s airflow, and the staysail starts to stall. 

Tacking a Sailboat Cutter

If you need to short tack up a narrow channel, and both your sails are loose-footed, you can roll up one of the headsails and just use one headsail to tack. Many staysails have a boom and are self-tacking. This means you can tack the yankee, and the staysail will take care of itself. 

Reefing a Cutter

A cutter sailboat has more options to easily get the right amount of sail. You can add a reef to your mainsail, then furl or reef the yankee a little, and then add another reef to the mainsail. As the wind increases, you can take the yankee in all together, and sail with a double-reefed mainsail and the staysail. Finally, you can add the third reef to the mainsail. Some staysails can be reefed, too.  

A cutter rig offers many options during heavy weather. For example, you may end up taking the mainsail down altogether and leaving the staysail up. Or, you might choose to replace the staysail with a tiny storm sail. 

Adding a storm jib on a sail cutter is much easier than a standard sloop. On a sloop, you’d have to remove the large genoa from the bow and then add the storm sail. This operation places the skipper in a challenging situation, which can be avoided on a cutter. 

On a cutter, you can remove the staysail and add the storm jib to the inner forestay. Working a little aft of the bow will give you increased stability while managing the staysail’s smaller load.  

While many modern sailboats are sloop-rigged, cutter-seeking sailors still have options. 

Rustler Yachts

While many new yachts have ditched the sturdy offshore cutter rig in favor of greater simplicity, Rustler is making a name for themselves by bringing it back. It’s still one of the best options for offshore sailing, and it’s great to see a modern yacht company using the rig to its full potential. 

The Rustler doesn’t need a bowsprit to accommodate its cutter rig. The Rustler is set up for single-handed and offshore cruising with all lines managed from the cockpit. Their smaller boats are rigged as easier-to-sail sloops for coastal hops, while the larger 42, 44, and 57 are rigged as true cutters with staysails and yankees.

Cabo Rico Cutters

Cabo Rico built cutters between 34 and 56 feet long. They aren’t currently in production but often come up on the used boat market. They are beautiful, semi-custom yachts that turn heads where ever they go. Of all the cutters the company built, the William Crealock-designed Cabo Rico 38 was the most long-lived, with about 200 hulls built. The second most popular design was the 34. The company also built a 42, 45, 47, and 56—but only a handful of each of these custom beauties ever left the factory. Most of the larger Cabo Ricos were designed by Chuck Paine.

Cabo Ricos have bowsprits, and the staysail is usually club-footed, although owners may have modified this. Cabo Ricos are known for their solid construction, beautiful teak interiors, and offshore capabilities. 

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Hold Fast Sailing (@sparrowsailing)

Pacific Seacraft

Pacific Seacraft features a full line of cutters. Pacific Seacraft boats are known for their construction, durability, and overall quality.

Just a few of the best-known cutters built by Pacific Seacraft include the following.

  • Pacific Seacraft/Crealock 34
  • Pacific Seacraft/Crealock 37
  • Pacific Seacraft 40
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Jeffersön Asbury (@skipper.jeff)

Island Packet Yachts

Island Packet boats are probably the most popular cutter design available today. Designer and company founder Bob Johnson created beautiful cutter-rigged full-keel boats with shallow drafts that were very popular around Florida, the Bahamas, and the east coast of the US.  

Island Packets are known for their comfortable, spacious layouts. Older models could be ordered from the factory as either sloop or cutter-rigged. The result is that you see a mix of the two, as well as plenty of cutters that have removed their staysails to make a quasi-sloop. 

Island Packet is still in business today, but now favors solent-rigged sloops with twin headsails. 

View this post on Instagram A post shared by SV Miette (@sv_miette)

Hess-Designed Cutters

Lyle Hess designed several famous cutter-rigged boats, including the Falmouth Cutter 22 and the Bristol Channel Cutter 28. These gorgeous boats are smaller than most cruising boats but are a joy to sail. Lyle Hess’ designs were popularized by sailing legends Lin and Larry Pardey, who sailed their small wood-built cutters Serraffyn and Taleisin around the world multiple times.

These beautiful cutters have a timeless look like no other boats. They have inspired many other designs, too. You’ll find them built from both wood or fiberglass, but a variety of builders and yards have made them over the years.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Professional photographer (@gary.felton)

Cutter rigged boats offer cruising sailors a flexible sail plan that’s perfect for offshore sailing. Sailors can adjust the amount of sail according to the current wind conditions. Traditional cutters were known for being fast and agile, and today’s cutters carry on the tradition with pride. 

What is a cutter rigged yacht?

A cutter rigged yacht features two headsails. One headsail, usually a high-cut yankee, is all the way forward, either on a bowsprit or the bow. The staysail is smaller and attached to an inner forestay.

What is the advantage of a cutter rig?

A cutter rig offers cruising sailors more flexibility. They can easily increase and decrease the sail area and choose the optimum combination for the sailing conditions. While there are more lines and sails to handle, each sail is smaller and therefore easier to manage.

tacking cutter rig sailboat

Matt has been boating around Florida for over 25 years in everything from small powerboats to large cruising catamarans. He currently lives aboard a 38-foot Cabo Rico sailboat with his wife Lucy and adventure dog Chelsea. Together, they cruise between winters in The Bahamas and summers in the Chesapeake Bay.

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tacking cutter rig sailboat

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  • Cutter Rig Sailboat

Why the Cutter Rig Sailboat Is My First Choice for Cruising

The cutter rig sailboat has two jibs, the foremost one usually a high-cut yankee set on the forestay and the other a staysail set on an inner forestay. It's a flexible, easy to handle rig, which is why I - along with a lot of other cruising sailors - am such a fan of it.

Alacazam, a cutter, under sail.

Admittedly a cutter rigged sailboat is not quite as efficient to windward as a sloop rigged version, but its other benefits outweigh this small mark against it.

Often both foresails are on furling gears, but I prefer to have a furling gear on the forestay only so that I can get rid of the hanked-on staysail and replace it with a hanked-on storm jib if I need to.

The inner forestay (or cutter stay) exerts a forward load on the mast which has to be resisted. This usually achieved by either aft-intermediate stays or running backstays.

Types of Cutter Rig Sailboats

There are two variants of the cutter rig:~

One where the yankee is set on a bowsprit and the staysail attached to the bow.

This arrangement is normally found on heavy displacement sailboats , as a way of increasing the size of the fore triangle without having to extend the height of the mast.

No Bowsprit

The other where the whole rig is contained inboard, with no bowsprit like the sailboat on the right.

You'll find cutter rigs on sloops , ketches and yawls too.

Examples of these are shown below:~

Tacking a Cutter Rig Sailboat

This is slightly more complicated than with a sloop as you've got two headsails and an extra pair of sheets to deal with when going about. Here's how we do it on Alacazam :~

  • centralise the mainsheet on its track;
  • put the helm over and release the yankee sheet as she goes through the wind;
  • let go the working runner and set the other one;
  • let go the staysail sheet and haul in on the working yankee sheet;
  • haul in on the the staysail sheet;
  • trim the yankee until the telltales are flying nicely, then do the same with the staysail and finally the main.

Many staysails are set on a self-tacking boom, which means that going-about is simplicity itself. However, unless you do a lot of short-tacking with both headsails set, this benefit is outweighed by the additional hardware. In my view, that is!

An Island Packet 380 cutter rigged sailboat

The staysail boom may well mean that you won't be able to stow your upturned dinghy on the foredeck. Not that this is an issue in Harmonium's case as she carries her dinghy in davits.

Reducing Sail on a Cutter Rig Sailboat

Reefing a cutter in deteriorating conditions usually goes like this:~

  • put first reef in the mainsail, then;
  • put a few rolls in the yankee;
  • put second reef in the mainsail;
  • furl the yankee completely;
  • put third reef in the mainsail.

This will leave you with a deep reefed mainsail and a staysail set on the inner forestay, which should serve you well right up to full gale conditions. It's storm jib and trysail territory after that.

Off The Wind with a Cutter Rig Sailboat

On a reach you'll find it very easy to balance your sailboat perfectly with a cutter rig, such that the windvane self-steering gear will have no difficulty in keeping her on course.

But when the wind drops and falls well aft of the beam the staysail (now blanketed by the mainsail) starts to flap and disturbs any airflow into the yankee, you're effectively sailing under mainsail alone.

With a sloop you'd probably pole the genoa out to windward in these conditions and sail wing-and-wing.

This isn't an option with the cutter rig as you'd be under-canvassed with just a yankee set on the forestay - you'll need a spinnaker, a prospect that doesn't fill some sailboat cruisers' hearts with joy.

On Alacazam we just drop both sails and hoist our colourful asymmetric spinnaker, which is a classy name for a cruising chute.

Alternatively you could turn your cutter into a slutter...

The Slutter Rig

Slutter isn't a formal term - it sounds a bit derogatory - but most cruising sailors will know what's meant by it.

an aluminium cutter rigged sloop sailing in the Caribbean

It's so called because it's a combination of a sloop rig and a cutter rig, the crucial difference being that a furling genoa is set on the forestay in place of the yankee, but no staysail is set (initially) on the inner forestay.

This is a sloop rig at this point, so windward ability isn't compromised at all, and the genoa can be poled out when sailing downwind.

The inner forestay is likely to prevent the genoa blowing through smoothly when you go about, so it's best to roll it in a few turns before you go through the wind.

Reducing Sail on a Slutter

Reefing a slutter in deteriorating conditions might go like this:~

  • roll a few turns in the genoa
  • roll a few more turns in the genoa
  • first reef in the mainsail
  • second reef in the mainsail.
  • furl the genoa completely and hoist the staysail
  • third reef in the mainsail.

As with the conventional cutter you've now got a deeply reefed main and staysail which will sail through all but the most depressing conditions.

So what's it for you, slutter or cutter rig sailboat? We usually set the cutter rig on Alacazam , as it's a great reaching rig for cruising through the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean.

Other popular rigs for cruising offshore...

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Is The Ketch Sailboat the Best Type of Sailboat for Offshore Cruising?

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What Are Cat Ketch Sailboats and Do they Make Good Cruising Boats?

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tacking cutter rig sailboat

What’s in a Rig? The Cutter Rig

By: Pat Reynolds Sailboat Rigs , Sailboats

What’s in a Rig Series #2

A variation on the last installment of What’s in a Rig (the sloop) is the Cutter Rig. Although it has gone through some changes through the course of history, the modern cutter rig is generally a set-up with two headsails. The forward sail is called the yankee and the one slightly behind it is the staysail.

Cutter rigs are a choice a cruising sailor might opt for more offshore work. Since longer passages usually means encountering heavier weather, the cutter rig can be the perfect choice to have a ready-to-go balanced sailplan when the wind picks up. They are not quite as easy to tack as sloops, but since cruisers go for days without tacking, the ability to quickly furl the yankee and have a small staysail up in a stiff breeze is worth the sacrifice.

Cutter rig fans also enjoy the balance it provides. A small staysail set farther back on the boat and a reefed main is a very solid arrangement on a windy day and for cruisers who want to be comfortable in 25-knots, this is important. Also, a staysail makes heaving-to easier – this is a task far more utilized by the cruising sailor.

So, there you have it – the cutter rig is a set-up preferred by sailors on a voyage. They have disadvantages in how they tack but strengths in how they behave in open-ocean conditions.

What's in a Rig Series:

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tacking cutter rig sailboat

  • Cutter Rig—Should You Buy or Convert?


In the last chapter I covered why a true cutter is a great rig for short-handed offshore voyaging.

And since I have infinite confidence in my powers of persuasion, I’m assuming that you are all now chomping at the bit to convert your sloops and ketches to the cutter rig.

But before we get into the how of adding cutter capabilities, let’s look at a bigger question: When does a cutter make sense, both when buying a new boat and considering a conversion?

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More Articles From Online Book: Sail Handling and Rigging Made Easy:

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  • Don’t Forget About The Sails
  • Your Mainsail Is Your Friend
  • Hoisting the Mainsail Made Easy—Simplicity in Action
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  • Reefing Made Easy
  • Reefing From The Cockpit 2.0—Thinking Things Through
  • Reefing Questions and Answers
  • A Dangerous Myth about Reefing
  • Mainsail Handling Made Easy with Lazyjacks
  • Topping Lift Tips and a Hack
  • 12 Reasons The Cutter Is A Great Offshore Voyaging Rig
  • Cutter Rig—Optimizing and/or Converting
  • Cruising Rigs—Sloop, Cutter, or Solent?
  • Sailboat Deck Layouts
  • The Case For Roller-Furling Headsails
  • UV Protection For Roller Furling Sails
  • In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing—Convenience and Reliability
  • In-Mast, In-Boom, or Slab Reefing —Performance, Cost and Safety
  • The Case For Hank On Headsails
  • Making Life Easier—Roller Reefing/Furling
  • Making Life Easier—Storm Jib
  • Gennaker Furlers Come Of Age
  • Swept-Back Spreaders—We Just Don’t Get It!
  • Q&A: Staysail Stay: Roller Furling And Fixed Vs Hanks And Removable
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  • Rigging a Proper Preventer—Part 2
  • Amidships “Preventers”—A Bad Idea That Can Kill
  • Keeping The Boom Under Control—Boom Brakes
  • Downwind Sailing, Tips and Tricks
  • Downwind Sailing—Poling Out The Jib
  • Setting and Striking a Spinnaker Made Easy and Safe
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  • Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 1
  • Running Rigging Recommendations—Part 2
  • Two Dangerous Rigging Mistakes
  • Rig Tuning, Part 1—Preparation
  • Rig Tuning, Part 2—Understanding Rake and Bend
  • Rig Tuning, Part 3—6 Steps to a Great Tune
  • Rig Tuning, Part 4—Mast Blocking, Stay Tension, and Spreaders
  • Rig Tuning, Part 5—Sailing Tune
  • 12 Great Rigging Hacks
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  • Cruising Sailboat Spar Inspection
  • Cruising Sailboat Standing Rigging Inspection
  • Cruising Sailboat Running Rigging Inspection
  • Cruising Sailboat Rig Wiring and Lighting Inspection
  • Cruising Sailboat Roller Furler and Track Inspection
  • Download Cruising Sailboat Rig Checklist


What are views on making the staysail self-tacking? I have been considering installing one for short-handed and leisurely sailing when close quarters are involved. Would this impact performance? Complicate the setup?

Many thanks for your insightful articles! As a fairly new sailor they have been a great resource and motivation!

John Harries

Hi Gabriel,

Generally my thinking is that a self tacking system is more trouble than it’s worth, and just something else to trip over.

Even on out 25 ton boat, tacking the staysail is a very quick and easy business . Usually we get it almost all the way in by snubbing the winch, and then a couple of turns on the handle and we are done.

And don’t get me started on that invention of the devil, the jib-boom, AKA the ankle-smasher.

Steve and Pauline

Hi John Pauline and I are really looking forward to the coming cutter articles. We are considering fitting an inner forestay to our ketch and are interested in your experience. Especially the mast fitting for the running backstays, inner forestay and halyard. Cheers Steve

Cheers Steve and Pauline


This decision tree makes sense. Does the intent of the designer come into play? Our Pacific SeaCraft Dana 24 is set up as a sloop. However I understand that she was designed as a cutter. Many owners insist that the pleasure and performance of converting to a cutter rig is worth it.

Hum, I really don’t know enough about the Dana 24 to have a valid opinion, so if I were in your position I think I would be guided by other experienced owners of the boat.

What I can say is that on a boat that small there is no overwhelming need to convert, so it comes down to balancing off the work and expense (considerable) against the benefits.

Richard Dykiel

I have a Dana 24 that came with a removable stay. The first season I sailed her with a 80% yankee and staysail but found light air performance wanting (summer on east coast has plenty of light airs in my area). I now sail her as a sloop with a 130% genoa, and use the staysail only in strong winds. I have had a luff flattener installed on the Genoa to improve partially furled shape. Genoa is less convenient than high clew jib but I like the performance it gives me, compared to staysail+yankee.

Think that you must install running backstays if you plan on sailing her as a cutter. Also join the Dana 24 yahoo group you will find people with more experience than I and very helpful.

Hi Richard,

Thanks for answering that.

One thought, I wonder how performance would have been if you had replaced the 80% jib-top with say 100-110% and kept the cutter rig? Probably not as good in smooth water inshore, but I’m thinking it might have worked well offshore. Of course, you now have the best of both worlds, as I mentioned in the post, so that’s good too.

yes I thought of that but I’m still merely using the set of sails that came with the boat. With the combination you’re suggesting I might need to add a light air sail (e.g. drifter). In my experience (mostly inshore) the genoa is good in light -> moderate airs whereas the staysail + furled genoa is good in strong winds (esp. going upwind).

richard s. (s/v lakota)

my experience with cutter rigs is close to non-existent although i recognize their superiority as so capably described above…so my question concerns tacking the genoa around the inner stay…how is the best way to do that ? furl in the genoa enough to clear the inner stay and then unfurl the genoa once the maneuver is complete ? thanks mucho

richard in tampa bay (but counting down til late nov return to virgin gorda and beyond)

See Dick’s reply below, exactly the way we do it.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Richard, Going to wind you have both staysail and jib topsail in use. Just tack leaving the ss in place. The jib will slide along the ss easily and you can sheet it in. Then tack the now backwinded ss which usually just takes snubbing it in and a few moments with a winch handle. Done. Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Marc Dacey

I agree with Dick here and would only add that the triangular “cracker” shape of the Yankee-cut jib topsail (feel free to Google if my meaning is unclear) wil actually get blown *into* the slot by sliding (lightly) over the surface of the as-yet untacked staysail. In other words, not only is leaving the staysail sheeted in while tacking the jib easier and more leisurely for the crew, it actually aids the process, in our experience, of encouraging the jib to smartly transit that slot between the forestay and the staysail stay.

Boyd Goldie

You have two choices when tacking the headsail/yankee on a cutter. One is indeed to have the staysail deployed, then sheet it it before tacking the yankee. However in stronger winds you may not have the staysail unfurled and may not want to increase sail area. In that situation, I take in a few rolls on the Yankee before tacking and then unfurl again once on the new tack.

Sure, that will work. That said on a cutter I have always found it an advantage to have the staysail set when the wind is forward and up, and either no Jib Top or at least some reefed, so it has never come up.

Bill Attwood

Kinsa (Rustler 36) is rigged as a sloop, but has an inner forestay which can be quickly fitted (Highfield lever) to 2 positions on the foredeck: one about 15″ back from the forestay, the other about 45″ back. The fwd position is for running up a hanked on genoa 2, to match the genoa 2 on the furling forestay. The inner position is for mounting the storm jib. In the outer position the inner forestay is parallel to the roller furling forestay. Its position on the mast is about 30 ” below the masthead, and there are no running backstays. Can anyone tell me who the appropriate specialist would be to discuss a possible conversion to cutter rig – sailmaker, rigger, designer etc? Both genoa 2’s have a high cut foot, and the genoa 1 is also cut fairly high, so that the foot clears the guardrails. Maybe I already have a cutter and don’t know it? Any advice would be very welcome. Yours aye, Bill

Sounds like a cutter to me! I was wondering when the term “Highfield lever” would come into play; I’ve only ever seen one on old race boats still common here on Lake Ontario. You should definitely consult a rigger, but with no running backstays, your first job in my view is to check the backing plates and any tie-rods or straps beneath the Highfield lever’s deck padeyes. The forces on that stay, irrespective of its position, are impressive and it is essential that those loads are spread and, if possible, tied into the hull strongly. I speak as someone who had a genoa track tear through the deck at a mere 28 knots AWS and learned a) they don’t make that type of track anymore, and b) recoring and putting backing plates along part of the length of a side deck can be labour- and time-intensive. Of course, it’s easy to adjust the Highfield apparatus to get a nice and desirably taut stay, but that immediattely puts a great upward force on the deck. Throw in the pumping on the mast and even the flexing of the hull in heavy stuff, and you really want that foredeck to be strongly backed and tied firmly into the hull.

Let’s wait until the next post, in which I will deal with specific recommendations and the nuts and bolts of a conversion, before we get into this.

Hi Marc. Good point! The after position is attached to a large underdeck backing plate, L-shaped with a knee, which is bolted through the bulkhead to the anchor locker. This is as originally fitted by Rustler. The forward position I fitted myself, and that has an equally large stainless backing plate, this one attached with a rigging screw to an eyebolt which passes through the tang of the stem fitting. This rigging screw is in a straight line under deck with the angle of the stay. The tang bolt is one of 4 M12 bolts and the tang is 6 x 50 mm cross-section stainless. I subscribe to the rule “nothing too strong ever broke”. The rigging screw is pretensioned so that on tensioning the inner forestay the load is carried by the stem fitting rather than the deck. No question that the wire would part before the fitting gave way. Now there’s an uncomfortable thought! Yours aye Bill

Bill, your description is so reassuring I have no doubts that the execution is fit for purpose. The rigging screw idea is great, and I’ve seen it in “owner modifications”, but very rarely in production boats. I could deal, with difficulty, a parted stay, but a torn up deck would spoil my sail. Fair winds.


In an effort to have our cake and eat it too with removable staysail and furling, we had our staysail built on a dyneema luff and use a continuous line furler, flying the sail without a stay, so we can lower the rolled up sail and stow it in a locker when we need to do lots of tacking with the jib. The halyard is doubled up through a block at the head of the sail to get sufficient tension. This setup works well on our 50ft, 50,000lb boat, but truth be told, we don’t actually lower it very often, usually leaving it up for ease of deployment and redundancy peace of mind should the forestay fail. David svTigress

That’s an interesting idea, but is there a cover on that Dyneema line? I know of all the similar types of synthetic rigging, it’s at or near the top in this regard, but I believe when used as lifelines, it’s got a five-year lifespan in full sun.

Hi Marc, Yes, the luff rope is inside the luff of the sail, so protected by the fabric, and the sail has a sunbrella sun shield like a typical roller furling jib, so the sail itself is protected too. But for longer periods of disuse, we store it in a locker to avoid any exposure.

That’s interesting, although I think I prefer our separate staysail stay so that support is available even when there is no sail set and also so that we can set a storm jib, should that be required, say due to a damaged staysail.

Good points. I wouldn’t recommend this approach as a replacement for those who already have a stay, only as an option for those thinking to add a staysail. To set a storm jib, we lower and stow the rolled-up staysail, and hoist a rolled-up storm jib, unfurling it using the same furler, which is easy to move from one sail to another. But my hunch is that in that situation, a stay with hanks would be easier to work with, as you wouldn’t be hoisting anything until it was securely hanked on, and you’d have that stay to hold onto during the mayhem.

It would probable be a good idea to leave the discussion of the nuts and bolts of the cutter rig for the next post, where I will be looking at just that. That way all the great ideas and discussion of such things will be in one place, rather than on this post, which is more about whether or not to go with the cutter rig.

Onno ten Brinke

We rigged our 1984 Baltic 38DP with a removable aramid stay to fly a small jib with soft hanks. For a 38 footer she is light (only 7 tonnes), so the staysail is 17m2 (compared to our 58 m2 genoa which reefs down to 33m2), but we’ve added a traditional slab reef at the bottom to reef down to 10m2. With this set-up we feel very comfortable that we can deal with 9 – 10 BF. On our first big crossing over Biscay after restoring the boat we had gusts up to 45 knots true and we were very, very happy with our stay. It all performed flawlessly. The stay is very light and because it is well-coated aramid, it does not slam or make a noise when not in use. It was expensive, though!

As an aside, I am deeply indebted to sites like this which allow an inexperienced ocean sailor to prepare himself properly – provided they take the time to understand the advice offered properly. We took about 2 years of research before setting off and it turned out we were very well prepared. The new sail plan was based on some input from North Sails, but mostly based on my own ideas which were all theoretical. It was very satisfying to see it work so well in tough conditions. So thanks again, we love this site!

Patrick Genovese

At the risk of going a bit off topic, I would be interested to hear views on the rationale behind the Boreal” style approach (vs true cutter) where although there is a staysail it is not intended to be sailed as a cutter.

Regards Patrick

Hi Patrick,

I did discuss this briefly with Jean-François Delvoye. He said that the velocity prediction program he uses showed that the cutter rig would be a performance hit going up wind so they went with a low cut overlapping jib and a staysail that is used in heavy weather. The thing is that these performance programs are not very good at taking into account the effect of waves, and particularly swell, where the cutter excels. See this comment and the one under it for a technical explanation (thanks Colin and Stein).

Having said that JFD was not in any way dogmatic about this and agreed that there were advantages to the cutter rig.

In the end I’m going to guess that the tipping point reason was that, as I understand it, the cutter rig is not that common in France. So the reasons are probably at least partially marketing related.

I believe Colin had quite a task to get Ovni to rig his boat as a cutter . Is that right Colin (Speedie)?

Rob Gill

Hi Patrick, I have long admired cutter rigs, but we bought a sloop with a second removable inner as described by Onno above, tensioned with a Highfield lever as described by Bill, and hoisted conventionally. The inner forestay attaches just below the masthead so no runners needed. We hoped this would provide us with the best aspects of both rigs, but in reality – not so. Without runners, we could never get the staysail luff tensioned properly, even though our back stay has a tensioning ram. With a small gap between the two forward stays, the rolled genoa disturbed the flow over the staysail. Further, unless we un-hanked the staysail and removed the inner stay, we couldn’t tack the genoa without furling it first. Interestingly, our 12 tonne, 15 metre boat did not meet John’s criteria for meriting a cutter conversion (our offshore use being less than our coastal), and in any case we did not want the added complexity of runners. We did however want to get rid of our 130% overlapping genoa for short handing.

Our solution was to replace both genoa and staysail with a 100% (non-over-lapping) jib on the roller forestay (moderately swept back spreaders are helpful here so the leach can be straight). The new jib sheets inside, and forward of the side stays on the forward track, so is quick to tack by hand for all but the last few inches. Better still, it allows us to sail about 5-7 degrees closer to the wind with significantly less heel and same speed as before in 12+ knots of wind. The new jib has vertical battens in the leach to aid longevity whilst still rolling and reefing neatly. I am installing an outboard track on our rail for eased sheets as we have easy access for through bolting. Our only hesitation was light wind performance, but our sail maker advised replacing the old asymmetric chute with a new Code 0 on a furler. This allows us to point almost as high upwind as with the old genoa in up to 12 knots of breeze, with noticeably more boat speed (off the wind it also outperforms our old chute). The removable inner-forestay remains for setting the storm jib and as a backup offshore.

Whilst possibly not as flexible as a true cutter rig at sea, we are pleased with our “zloop” rig – the code zero really is a game-changer. Rob

Makes a lot of sense to me.

Herb Bradley

Hello, this is my first posting as I have just subscribed to this site. Congrats on a wonderfully informative and well designed forum. I have recently purchased an 87 Goderich 37 that is set up for use as a cutter but at presently sloop rigged. I have purchased this boat fully intending to sail her to all points possible and am in the planning stages of a refit. I need to replace all the sails and I am likely to rig it as a cutter. In your and opinion would there be much benefit to increase sail area with the addition of a bowsprit to accommodate larger sails? Thank you for any comments

Welcome here!

As a general rule, I’m not in favour of making rig modifications. My thinking is that Ted Brewer knew what he was doing when he designed the boat and therefore it’s best not to mess with it. Also, adding a bowsprit is not trivial, if it’s done properly.

Having said that, there are incidences where a rig modification has improved a stock design—although I can’t think of an example off hand—and has therefore become common for that particular boat type. If that’s the case for the Goderich, it might be worth considering, but if so, I would strongly recommend that you hire a real naval architect to spec out the change.

If you want to take it further, I would talk to Brewer himself: http://www.tedbrewer.com/consulting.html

What an excellent idea speaking to the designer. Thank you for your thoughts.

You might want to find out first if Brewer actually drew the 37. His partner at the time, Bob Wallstrom, drew the Goderich 40 for Huromic Metals, the builder of the Goderich line (35, 37 and 40), and may have done the 37. Ted drew the 35. Bob Wallstrom was still kicking four years ago. https://books.google.ca/books?id=D6-vOYPKOvcC&pg=RA3-PA204&lpg=RA3-PA204&dq=goderich+40+huromic&source=bl&ots=6N2ITwVhpj&sig=l-0kpFlgf1Bz9Bx3sq5Bt-ZoKQM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjX7ZTSkJHKAhVEJh4KHYMcDsgQ6AEIQDAG#v=onepage&q=goderich%2040%20huromic&f=false


Hi John, do you have any intentions to discuss ketch and ketch cutter for small crews as well? Would be interesting to read your (and others) thoughts.

Not specifically. I’m afraid I’m not a big fan of ketches, too much complication and clutter for very little benefit, except perhaps with boats over 55 feet. And this is not just theory in that I did a lot of miles on a ketch back in my ocean racing days. The problem, at least for me, is that there are very few apparent wind directions where the mizzen does any good. Up wind it just adds more drag and often weather helm and downwind it blankets the main.

So, in summary, I think a cutter is a better way to break the sails down into more manageable sizes and the problem with cutter rigged ketches is that except in the above mentioned much larger boats, the fore-triangle ends up too small to make a good cutter.

P D Squire

It is often light at sea, sometimes light wind and a leftover sea. What is easier to keep set and driving in these conditions: Genoa or Jib-top & stays’l?

Don’t think there would be any difference. The keys to keeping going in light air and waves are sail area and weight of sail cloth. So if you really want to sail in light air the answer is a larger lighter sail specifically for that purpose: code 0 type for upwind work and/or asymmetric spinnaker for down.

Jason Cox

I have been going through a few of your rigging/sailing articles (great job on them), and have a thought/question that I am not sure was addressed. In regards to adding a staysail to a sloop, do you need running backstays if you have swept back spreaders?

Yes, I would still want running back stays. Swept back spreaders do stabilize the mast to some extent, but not enough to deal with the loads of a staysail, particularly since it will be used in heavy weather and big seas on an offshore boat.

tacking cutter rig sailboat

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tacking cutter rig sailboat

CRUISING SAILBOAT RIGS: Sloops, Cutters, and Solent Rigs

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In our previous episode in this series we discussed what I like to call split rigs–ketches, yawls, and schooners–where a sailplan is divided among two or more masts. Cruising sailors once upon a time preferred such rigs, at least on larger cruising boats, because each separate sail requiring handling was smaller and thus more manageable. These days, however, by far the most popular rig for both racing and cruising sailboats is the simple sloop rig. This has a single mast supporting a single Marconi mainsail with a single headsail supported by a single headstay flying forward of it.

Its advantages are manifest: there are only two sails for the crew to handle, each of which can be hoisted with a single halyard and trimmed with a single sheet. While sailing, there are normally only two lines–the jib sheet and mainsheet–that need to be controlled at any given moment. And because there is but one headsail flying forward of the main, tacking a sloop is easy, since the headsail, even if it is a large overlapping genoa, can pass easily through the open foretriangle.

Sloop rigs are highly efficient to windward, thanks to the so-called “slot effect” created by the interaction of the mainsail and headsail. How this actually works is a matter of some debate. The traditional theory is that airflow in the narrow slot between the sails is accelerated, which decreases air pressure on the leeward side of the mainsail, thus increasing the lift the sail generates.

The revisionist theory is that air deflected from the headsail actually works to decrease airflow in the slot, increasing pressure on the windward side of the headsail, thus increasing the lift it generates. Since increasing the lift generated by one sail seems to necessarily decrease that generated by the other, others believe a single Marconi sail must be just as aerodynamic, if not more so, than two sails. This last proposition, however, is contradicted by real-world experience, as no one has yet created a single-sail rig that is as fast and closewinded as a double-sail sloop rig.

The almighty slot in action. Its effects are salubrious, but no one can really explain why

The primary disadvantage of a sloop rig is that the sails must be relatively large. They are therefore harder to handle in that they are heavier (making them harder to hoist) and generate larger loads when flying. Much of this difficulty, however, is obviated by modern winches and roller-furling gear, which is why sloop rigs are now so popular, and deservedly so. In light to moderate sailing conditions, which is what most sailors normally encounter, a sloop is by far the fastest, most easily handled rig currently available.

In heavier conditions sloops do present some challenges. To reduce sail area forward of the mast, if the headsail is hanked on to the headstay, which was the traditional practice, you must change the sail for a smaller one. This requires crew to work for extended periods on the bow of the boat, where conditions can get wild and wet. If the headsail is on a modern roller-furler, the sail can be easily roller-reefed from the cockpit, but past a certain point a roller-reefed headsail’s shape becomes inefficient. You either must live with this or unroll the sail and change it for another smaller one. The stronger the wind gets, the more distorted the roller-reefed sail becomes, and the more important it is to change it. Changing a sail on a furler in a strong wind, however, is an awful chore. The very first thing you must do (unroll the sail) greatly increases sail area right when you most want to decrease it. Then you must somehow control a large headsail as it comes off a furling rod with its luff unrestrained in strong wind.

Coastal cruisers are never likely to sail in strong conditions for very long. On the few brief occasions their boats are pressed hard they are normally willing to limp along on an ugly scrap of roller-reefed genoa. They are also more likely to have to short-tack their boats in confined areas, thus the ease of tacking a sloop makes it the rig of choice on coastal boats. Bluewater cruisers, on the other hand, may sail in strong weather for days on end, so there are advantages to cutting up the sail area in the foretriangle into smaller more manageable pieces. Bluewater cruisers traditionally therefore often prefer a cutter rig, which has a single mast and a headstay like a sloop, but also an inner forestay behind the headstay from which a smaller intermediate staysail can be flown.

Modern cutter-rigged cruiser sailing under a staysail and a reefed mainsail

The big advantage of a cutter rig is that in a big blow the jib on the headstay can come right off (or be rolled up) and the smaller staysail can carry on alone, more inboard and lower in the rig, where it balances better against the reduced area of a deeply reefed mainsail. Cutters are also efficient to windward, though some claim they are not as efficient as sloops. Personally, I’ve found cutters are sometimes actually more closewinded than sloops, at least in moderate to strong winds, as the sheeting angles on a pair of smaller, flatter headsails can be narrower than the angle on one larger, more full-bodied sail. In very heavy conditions, with just a staysail and reefed mainsail deployed, I believe a cutter is almost always more efficient to windward than a sloop.

On anything from a beam reach to a tight closehauled angle, a cutter can also fly both its headsails unobstructed. Sailing on a broad reach, however, the staysail blocks air from reaching the jib, reducing the rig’s effective sail area just when the decrease in apparent wind speed caused by the wind blowing from behind the boat demands that sail area instead be increased. Another problem is that a cutter requires extra standing rigging–not only the inner forestay, but also, very often, either an extra set of swept-back aft shrouds or a pair of running backstays to help support the inner forestay from behind. This adds complexity and increases rig weight well above the deck.

The biggest disadvantage of a cutter rig is that there are two headsails to tack (or jibe) across the boat instead of just one. There is an extra set of sheets to handle, plus the jib quarrels with the inner forestay every time it comes across the foretriangle. This is less of a problem if the jib is small and high-cut (these are called yankee jibs) so that it slips more easily through the narrow gap between the inner forestay and headstay. When flying a large genoa, however, crew must often go forward to help horse the sail around the inner forestay. If you don’t have enough crew for this, you may have to roll up part of the genoa (assuming it’s on a roller-furler) before tacking or jibing and unroll it again afterward, which is a bother. Also, if the wind grows strong again, but not so strong that you can sail on the staysail alone, you either have to change your genoa for a smaller sail or roller-reef it into an inefficient shape, which is (theoretically) precisely the conundrum that drove you to favor a cutter rig in the first place.

On a true cutter specifically designed to accommodate a staysail, the mast is usually farther aft than it would be on a sloop and/or there is a bowsprit to enlarge the foretriangle. This allows for a larger, more useful staysail and should enlarge the gap between the headstay and inner forestay so a jib can tack through more easily. A larger foretriangle also allows the jib to be larger without overlapping the mainsail, but a big overlapping genoa will still present problems when tacking or jibing.

A “true” cutter under sail. With the mast aft the foretriangle is bigger, which allows for a bigger, more useful staysail. As on this boat, a true cutter often flies a high-cut yankee jib forward of the staysail

The staysail can also be made club-footed with its own boom. Such a spar, known as a jib-boom, can be controlled by a single sheet that need not be adjusted when tacking. When short-tacking in enough breeze for the boat to sail under main and staysail alone this is the height of convenience. You can shift the helm back and forth without ever touching a line. A jib-boom, however, unless sheeted tight, will flail about the foredeck whenever its sail is luffing while being hoisted, doused, or reefed. It may harm crew on the foredeck during an accidental jibe, as it can sweep suddenly across the boat with some force unless restrained by a preventer.

A cutter-rigged cruiser with a club-footed staysail

Bear in mind, too, that enlarging the foretriangle, particularly on a boat without a bowsprit, usually means mainsail area must be reduced commensurately. In many cases the mainsail is then too small and/or too far aft for the boat to sail and maneuver under main alone. When attempting to dock, anchor, or moor under sail this can be a significant disadvantage. (Note, however, that many sloops are also often unable to maneuver under mainsail alone.)

One variation increasingly popular with bluewater cruisers is a sloop/cutter hybrid, sometimes called a slutter rig, where a removeable inner forestay is installed on what would otherwise be a straight sloop rig. The removable stay normally has some sort of quick-release mechanism at deck level that makes it easy to set up and tension the stay and to loosen and remove it. When stowed, the removeable stay is brought aft to the mast and secured.

Example of an inner forestay with a retro-fitted inner forestay with a quick-release fitting that allows the stay to be moved out of the way when desired

To a large extent, the slutter rig does offer the best of both worlds. In light to moderate winds you can stow the inner forestay and sail the boat as a straight sloop with one large genoa passing through an open foretriangle. In heavy conditions, you can set up the inner forestay, hank on a staysail, roll up or douse the large genoa, and sail the boat under main and staysail alone. Since setting up an inner forestay and hanking on a staysail is normally less taxing than stripping a large genoa off a furling rod and hoisting a smaller working jib and/or storm sail in its place, this is a viable practice.

Sometimes you see true cutters that have been converted to slutters. Here the foretriangle is normally large enough to fly two headsails simultaneously if desired, which is often not possible on a converted sloop. The downside to this arrangement is that making the inner forestay removable makes it impossible to install either a roller-furling staysail (currently a popular arrangement on cutter rigs) or a club-footed staysail.

Another variation that has appeared more recently is the so-called solent rig, where a solent stay is installed directly behind a boat’s headstay. The headstay carries a big genoa (usually on a roller-furler) that is flown in light to moderate wind, and the solent stay carries what is effectively a smaller working jib (or a “blade jib,” as some like to call them now) to fly in stronger conditions. The solent jib (which is normally larger than a staysail) can be rigged permanently on its own roller-furler, or it can be on a removable stay, as is seen on slutters and some cutter rigs.

The huge problem with a permanent solent rig is that the genoa forward on the headstay is normally so close to the solent stay that it cannot be pulled through the gap between the stays, but must be entirely rolled up and unfurled again every time the boat is tacked. In some cases the solent stay actually isn’t terribly close to the headstay, but still the top of the stay is always very close to the top of the headstay and tacking is thus always problematic. For this reason, personally, I strongly favor removable solent stays.

Typical solent rig with the two stays quite close together

On this example, the two stays are farther apart, until you get up to the masthead

One recent innovation that has made the handling of removable sails much easier are sails with torque-rope luffs that are mounted on continuous-line furlers. These were developed first on shorthanded ocean-racing boats, but are now leaking on to cruising boats with increasing frequency. For these to work the sail must usually be a lighter laminated sail rather than straight Dacron. A length of high-modulus rope especially designed to resist twisting, a torque rope so called, is sewn into the luff of the sail, which is then mounted on a removable lightweight continuous-line furling drum. Once the sail is hoisted with its torque rope tensioned it can be furled up on its own luff. It can also be taken down and stowed in a bag this way, all rolled up on itself. And it can be hoisted again while still rolled up. Handling the sail is thus very easy, as the only time it is unrolled and flying free is when you are actually flying it.

The great flexibility of a torque-rope sail actually gives you two different options if you are trying to create a solent rig. The smaller solent sail can be made a removable torque-rope sail, in which case you will be setting and flying it inside the headstay. Or you can keep a small working jib on your headstay and set up a larger removable genoa-size torque-rope sail forward of it. Sails like this have all sorts of names–Code Zero sails, screechers, gennakers, etc. The most important thing, if you are ordering one, is not what you call it, but rather that it is cut flat enough to sail efficiently to windward. Also, when flying such a sail you’ll need some sort of bowsprit forward of your headstay to carry it, and the sprit must be strong enough to carry the rig’s full headstay load when the sail flying.

The headsail arrangement on my cutter-rigged boat Lunacy . A triple-headsail sloop you might call it. The headstay and the inner forestay are permanently rigged. The screecher, as I call it, flies on its own luff forward of the headstay and is controlled with a removable continuous-line furler. The bowsprit and the plate under it were added to carry the big load the sail generates. When the screecher is flying the headstay goes slack and the screecher’s torque rope is what’s holding up the front of the mast

An IMOCA Open 60 flying a staysail on a continuous-line furler

A continuous-line furler up close and personal, removed from the rig with sail furled

Yet another option is to make the staysail in a cutter rig a removable torque-rope sail. I have seen these on shorthanded racing boats, but never on a cruising boat. I wonder sometimes if I should try it on my boat. If anyone has tried it on their boat, I do wish they would get in touch!

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My last two boats–a Bristol 39 and a Warwick 47–have been sloops with inner forestays. The present Warwick has a r/f forstaysail so it’/s more or less permanent. This is a great heavy weather and offshore rig–perfect for the ocean and he Caribbean, the Med not so much. The forestayail is pretty small so it takes a considerable blow to make it the right choice.

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Go easy on the torque rope idea unless a) the mast is beefed up for it b) the winches, lead blocks and the deck under the winch base on which the halyard lays are beefed up. You need to plan on having a halyard lock for the top of the torque rope AND a robust purchase to load the bottom end. THIS is how the race boats are set up Coop

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tacking cutter rig sailboat

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Tacking with a cutter rig

Moderator: bobdugan

Post by brianhall » Sun 2/11/07 11:45 pm

Tacking a CD 31

Post by Tom in Cambria » Mon 2/12/07 3:21 am

User avatar

There is also technique

Post by Mark Yashinsky » Mon 2/12/07 10:10 am

Dangerous nautical terms

Post by Neil Gordon » Mon 2/12/07 12:36 pm

Tom in Cambria wrote: ... you just have to put the helm down.

Fine with yankee

Post by Dean Abramson » Mon 2/12/07 12:58 pm

Post by Mike » Mon 2/12/07 2:44 pm

User avatar

tacking a cutter

Post by Phil Shedd » Mon 2/12/07 11:35 pm

Post by brianhall » Tue 2/13/07 9:16 pm

Post by brianhall » Tue 2/13/07 9:23 pm

Post by Bill Goldsmith » Tue 2/13/07 10:46 pm

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Preview: Our Favorite Sailing Rig: The Cutter, by Lin and Larry Pardey

Cutter Rig

F or any sailing boat under 45 feet, nothing beats a properly-designed cutter rig, especially if you sail shorthanded. By properly designed I mean, having a staysail that is large enough to be used as the only headsail in winds above 20 knots. Thus, if your boat has a bowsprit, you can bring the jib in as soon as the sea begins to build, and continue saling with a rig that’s all inboard—one that balances nicely when the mainsail has a reef or two in it. Your staysail should also be of sufficient size and far enough forward so you can tack in tight confines using only staysail and mainsail, even in relatively light winds. This makes it very easy to maneuver up to moorings or into marina berths because, when you’re finished with it, you can more easily douse a staysail than the big jib of a sloop.

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5 Responses So Far to “ Our Favorite Sailing Rig: The Cutter, by Lin and Larry Pardey ”

Roger Elmes

Roger Elmes says:

The racing version McGregor 65 had essentially the same set-up – cutter staysail on a removable (albeit hydraulic) cutter stay. It really increased the sail options available and was great for singlehanding with main and stay sail. Had a great sail alone one day with staysail and full 900 sq ft main at 17 knots for 5 hours. Also when crewed and running with a learning crew you could sail wing on wing with jib and stay sail poled out and main if too narly for 2400 sq ft spinnaker. I LOVE that rig.


Vincent Mitchell says:

I realize that this is an older article but still an excellent one. Thank-you, very much and I do agree with your conclusions, on the cutter rig. My first wooden boat was a double head sail sloop (1927 Eldridge-McGinnis design) effectively making it a cutter with a self tending staysail w/boom and running back-stays. A very versatile rig, indeed!


Daniel Jones says:

Love the cutter rig. Love the Staysail. Good article. Thanks


michael pike says:

While, like so many others who have followed your tales and stories over the many, many years. This article explaining the benefits of cutter rigs, is as usual right on the button. I am as you may realise, a new subscriber. though, I have bought your disk and books and used them in while building now rebuilding mary t, a Hartly 21f 6Trailer sailer with a fixed ballast keel. She has been a nice little sea boat. Thanks for all the imfo they has given me. I shall be on the water again quite soon now.


Kaci Cronkhite says:

Way, way, way more than just a favorite rig here! Thanks Lin & Larry for another excellent share.


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Sailboat Cutters: The Ultimate Guide


Sailboat cutters are a distinct type of watercraft designed specifically for sailing enthusiasts and adventurous individuals seeking thrilling experiences on the open water. These boats are meticulously crafted with features and functionalities that enhance the sailing experience. This typically includes spacious cabins, comfortable seating areas, and efficient sail handling systems. In this comprehensive comparison, we will delve into the key characteristics of sailboat cutters, including their design, features, rigging options, and explore the top sailboat cutter brands available in the market.

Sailboat cutter boat on the water with sails open

Sailboat Cutter Design and Purpose:

Sailboat cutters are meticulously designed to facilitate comfortable and efficient sailing journeys. These boats typically feature a hull design focused on stability and seaworthiness, enabling them to navigate various water conditions, from coastal cruising to extensive offshore passages. Sailboat cutters often boast spacious cabins with well-appointed sleeping quarters, a galley equipped for cooking meals, and a salon perfect for dining and relaxation during your sailing adventures.

Sailboat Cutter Key Features:

Cruising Amenities: Sailboat cutters are equipped with a wide array of amenities to enhance the cruising experience. These may include comfortable berths, a fully functional galley complete with a stove and refrigerator, a marine head featuring a shower, and ample storage space for provisions and personal belongings. Some models even offer additional features like air conditioning, heating systems, and entertainment systems to elevate onboard comfort.

  • Sail Handling Systems: Sailboat cutters are equipped with efficient sail-handling systems that make sailing a breeze. These systems often include roller furling headsails, in-mast or in-boom furling mainsails, and electric winches for effortless control of the sails. With these advanced features, sailors can easily adjust the sails to adapt to changing wind conditions without the need for extensive manual labor.
  • Stability and Performance: Sailboat cutters prioritize stability and performance to ensure a smooth and enjoyable sailing experience. These boats generally possess a moderate to heavy displacement and incorporate a keel or centerboard to provide stability. They also minimize excessive rolling in rough seas. Sailboat cutters are designed to strike a balance between speed and comfort, allowing sailors to embark on long-distance cruising with confidence.

The Cutter Rig:

The cutter rig distinguishes itself by featuring two headsails. An inner forestay equipped with a smaller headsail (known as a staysail) in addition to the genoa or jib. This rig offers increased sail area and flexibility in sail combinations, enabling sailors to adjust to varying wind conditions more effectively. The cutter rig is particularly popular among cruisers planning offshore passages.

Sailboat cutter "thistle" shown in an historic document

Appropriate Buyers and Considerations:

Sailboat cutters are ideal for individuals passionate about sailing and those seeking comfortable and self-sufficient accommodations for extended journeys on the water. When considering a sailboat cutter, potential buyers should take the following factors into account:

  • Cruising Style: Determine the type of cruising you plan to undertake, whether it’s coastal sailing, offshore passages, or long-distance voyages. This will help you choose a sailboat cutter that is specifically designed and equipped for your preferred cruising needs.
  • Accommodation Needs: Evaluate the number of people you intend to accommodate on board and ensure that the boat provides adequate sleeping quarters and living space to ensure comfort during extended stays. Consider the available amenities, such as a fully equipped galley, a marine head, and sufficient storage capacity for provisions.
  • Budget: Sailboat cutters vary in price depending on factors such as size, brand, features, and rigging options. Establishing a budget and researching different models within your price range will assist you in finding the sailboat cutter that best meets your requirements.

Sailboat cutter with sails up on the water

Top Sailboat Cutter Brands:

When searching for a sailboat cutter, it’s crucial to explore reputable brands known for their quality construction, exceptional performance, and sailing-specific features. Here are three top sailboat cutter brands worth considering:


Hallberg-Rassy is a renowned brand in the world of sailboat cutters, known for its impeccable craftsmanship, seaworthiness, and luxurious interiors. With a legacy spanning over six decades, Hallberg-Rassy has established itself as a leading name in the industry. They deliver sailboat cutters that offer exceptional performance and comfort on the water.

Hallberg-Rassy sailboat cutters are meticulously designed and constructed. They place a strong emphasis on both form and function. Their robust hull constructions prioritize stability and durability, ensuring a smooth and safe sailing experience. The interiors of Hallberg-Rassy sailboat cutters exude elegance and sophistication.  With spacious accommodations, exquisite finishes, and thoughtful layouts Hallberg-Rassy prioritizes comfort and convenience.

Hallberg-Rassy Key Features:

  • Impeccable Craftsmanship: Hallberg-Rassy sailboat cutters are built with an unwavering commitment to craftsmanship and attention to detail. Every aspect of the boat, from the joinery work to the choice of materials, reflects the brand’s pursuit of excellence.
  • Seaworthiness: Hallberg-Rassy sailboat cutters are designed for bluewater cruising; with a focus on stability and performance. The combination of a well-balanced hull shape, a deep keel or centerboard configuration, and a robust rigging system ensures exceptional seaworthiness and handling.
  • Luxurious Interiors: The interior spaces of Hallberg-Rassy sailboat cutters are meticulously crafted to provide a luxurious and comfortable living experience on board. Spacious cabins, well-appointed galleys, and ergonomic seating areas create an inviting and sophisticated atmosphere.

Hallberg rassy 50 exterior

Sw https://www.nautorswan.com/ an:

Swan sailboat cutters embody the perfect synergy between elegance, performance, and luxury. With a rich heritage and a legacy of producing top-quality yachts, Swan has earned a reputation for excellence in the sailboat cutter market. Swan sailboat cutters are designed to deliver exceptional performance and an unparalleled sailing experience.

Swan sailboat cutters are characterized by their sleek lines, graceful profiles, and outstanding performance on the water. Their sailboat cutters offer a harmonious blend of speed, comfort, and seaworthiness. The interiors are designed to provide luxurious and sophisticated living spaces, featuring high-quality materials, elegant finishes, and customizable layouts.

Swan Key Features:

  • Performance-oriented Construction: Swan sailboat cutters are engineered for exceptional sailing performance. With innovative hull designs, lightweight construction materials, and advanced rigging systems, Swan sailboat cutters offer impressive speed, agility, and maneuverability.
  • Luxurious Interiors: Swan sailboat cutters provide sumptuous and well-appointed interiors, designed with meticulous attention to detail. From spacious cabins to lavish saloons, every aspect of the interior is crafted to offer comfort, style, and a sense of luxury.
  • Cutting-edge Technology: Swan sailboat cutters embrace the latest technologies to enhance performance and onboard comfort. State-of-the-art navigation systems, integrated entertainment setups, and advanced control systems ensure a seamless and enjoyable sailing experience.

Swan 55 interior of saloon

Island Packet:

Island Packet sailboat cutters are renowned for their focus on comfort, durability, and ease of handling. With a dedicated following among cruising enthusiasts, Island Packet has established itself as a leading brand in the sailboat cutter market. Island Packet sailboat cutters are designed to provide a balance of performance and livability, making them ideal for extended offshore passages and comfortable cruising.

Island Packet sailboat cutters feature robust construction, prioritizing durability and reliability. Their sturdy hulls, full keels, and generous displacement contribute to exceptional stability, sea-kindly motion, and ample storage space. The interiors of Island Packet sailboat cutters are thoughtfully designed. They provide spacious accommodations, functional galleys, and well-protected cockpits that ensure a comfortable and enjoyable cruising experience.

Island Packet Key Features:

  • Solid Construction: Island Packet sailboat cutters are known for their robust construction and attention to detail. The use of high-quality materials, reinforced fiberglass hulls, and superior bulkhead structures ensures longevity and reliability.
  • Comfortable Interiors: Island Packet sailboat cutters prioritize comfort and livability. Spacious cabins, ergonomic galley setups, and well-appointed living areas create an inviting and cozy atmosphere for extended stays on board.
  • Self-sufficiency: Island Packet sailboat cutters are designed to enable self-sufficiency on extended journeys. With large tank capacities, ample storage, and robust electrical and plumbing systems, Island Packet sailboat cutters provide the necessary amenities for comfortable and independent cruising.

The sailboat cutters produced by Hallberg-Rassy, Swan, and Island Packet represent the pinnacle of craftsmanship, performance, and comfort in the market. Each brand offers its own unique combination of design principles, key features, and exceptional qualities. Whether you prioritize impeccable craftsmanship, elegance, and speed, or comfort and self-sufficiency, exploring the offerings of these top sailboat cutter brands will lead you to find a vessel that provides an unforgettable sailing experience, combining both luxury and functionality.

Island Packet Sailboat Cutter in blue green water


Sailboat cutters offer dedicated features and functionalities to enhance the sailing experience for enthusiasts and adventurers. When considering a sailboat cutter, it’s crucial to assess the design, cruising amenities, rigging options, and accommodation to ensure the boat aligns with your specific cruising requirements. Exploring reputable brands such as Hallberg-Rassy, Swan, and Island Packet will aid you in making an informed decision and finding a sailboat cutter that seamlessly combines comfort and performance on the water.

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New to cutter rigging, question.

  • Thread starter Murgatroid
  • Start date Aug 22, 2021
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My, new to me, 76 HMS 23 is cutter rigged, last night in very, almost non existent winds, I started wondering if it would be better to just douse the stay sail and only use the head sail? Any wisdom on dealing with and setting a cutter rig is appreciated.  


SBO Weather and Forecasting Forum Jim & John

Congrats on your new to you boat. I watched the YouTube video you made of your sailing it on Lake Monroe. Sailboat Data has an image of the Watkins 23 XL that they say is like the Helsen HMS 23. Appears that the Main sail is cut a little small. Your video showed a long outhaul line. I am thinking you could add a foot or so to the leach, which might help. The boat design has a tall cabin. Nice to move around in for a 23 ft boat, but adds a lot of "freeboard" which translates into drag when sailing. In the video your Jib looks to be on a boom. I suspect you were flying your "cutter" stay sail. It was moving around a lot in the chop. I could not tell if you had a traveler and a sheet on the sail. I would see if I could get the stay sail to be trimmed down at the foot a bit. This would improve the efficiency of the sail as it would straighten the leach and spill less of the wind off the sail. Cutters can fly two fore sails. The design is that the staysail and the outer genoa are trimmed to help each other. Without seeing your rig it is hard to tell if you would get improved performance or not. Often cruisers use the stay sail instead of a Genoa to better manage the sail plan in heavy air. Good luck and enjoy your new bigger boat.  


I think I would agree with Murgatroid (First name Heaven's to..?). In light wind it may be better to sail on the head sail without the stay sail. Setting both sails may not allow the sails to ventilate enough for good attached flow. Of course I don't know how big the head sail is. But even if it's modest, at least going upwind (As much as Cuttters do) it is worth a try. Once off the wind, both sails would be better but not if either is over trimmed. If you look at pictures of sailing ships the fore/aft rigged sails become more trimmed as you look aft. That is because each is sailing in the lift of the more forward sail.  


The Allmand 23 (HMS 23) https://sailboatdata.com/sailboat/allmand-23-hms-23 looks like it is designed for taking on December gales single-handed in the North Sea. Kudos for trying to get it to move in light air. The cutter rig is often seen on on long-haul passage makers because it provides a way to hoist a variety of sails to keep the boat balanced in different wind strengths. If you're making one long tack, the two foresails can help provide more drive and keep the boat steady, especially on a reach, when there will be a bigger 'slot' for the staysail to work in. The cutter rig is not known for being close-winded. In light air and working upwind making multiple tacks, the cutter rig is less desirable. The inner forestay increases windage and the staysail cannot be efficient, working in the narrow slot, backwinded by the larger yankee. The inner forestay makes tacking the bigger sail a real chore. Some owners furl their yankees, tack, and then unfurl it again. Many cutters make their inner forestays removable to avoid this problem. The owners then lose the hyfield levers used to rig them, and stop using the staysail altogether. It would appear that the HMS 23 is rigged as a cutter to permit a singlehander to furl the outer jib with a roller-furler without having to go forward, and to continue sailing with reduced sail area with the staysail keeping the boat balanced. In your light-air scenario, you want maximum sail area, but perhaps not the windage and hassle of the staysail. Make it removable, take off the staysail, and see if opening up the slot and reducing windage doesn't help.  

shemandr said: I think I would agree with Murgatroid (First name Heaven's to..?). In light wind it may be better to sail on the head sail without the stay sail. Setting both sails may not allow the sails to ventilate enough for good attached flow. Of course I don't know how big the head sail is. But even if it's modest, at least going upwind (As much as Cuttters do) it is worth a try. Once off the wind, both sails would be better but not if either is over trimmed. If you look at pictures of sailing ships the fore/aft rigged sails become more trimmed as you look aft. That is because each is sailing in the lift of the more forward sail. Click to expand
PaulK said: The Allmand 23 (HMS 23) https://sailboatdata.com/sailboat/allmand-23-hms-23 looks like it is designed for taking on December gales single-handed in the North Sea. Kudos for trying to get it to move in light air. The cutter rig is often seen on on long-haul passage makers because it provides a way to hoist a variety of sails to keep the boat balanced in different wind strengths. If you're making one long tack, the two foresails can help provide more drive and keep the boat steady, especially on a reach, when there will be a bigger 'slot' for the staysail to work in. The cutter rig is not known for being close-winded. In light air and working upwind making multiple tacks, the cutter rig is less desirable. The inner forestay increases windage and the staysail cannot be efficient, working in the narrow slot, backwinded by the larger yankee. The inner forestay makes tacking the bigger sail a real chore. Some owners furl their yankees, tack, and then unfurl it again. Many cutters make their inner forestays removable to avoid this problem. The owners then lose the hyfield levers used to rig them, and stop using the staysail altogether. It would appear that the HMS 23 is rigged as a cutter to permit a singlehander to furl the outer jib with a roller-furler without having to go forward, and to continue sailing with reduced sail area with the staysail keeping the boat balanced. In your light-air scenario, you want maximum sail area, but perhaps not the windage and hassle of the staysail. Make it removable, take off the staysail, and see if opening up the slot and reducing windage doesn't help. Click to expand
PaulK said: Found the video here: Hoisting a genoa or yankee would help immensely, especially if you had a whisker pole to hold it out going downwind. It did look like the staysail was doing something, but it is too small to do much. Once you have the bigger sail up, the smaller one will simply be in the way most of the time. People have different opinions on staysail booms... Rigging a boom vang for the main might also be useful going downwind. Click to expand
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tacking problems on a cutter

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Hi, I am a new sailor and have just bought a 41' Islander. I have previously only sailed sloops and I am having trouble squeezing thenJib between the Jibstay and Forestay when I tack or Jibe. I have to go foreward and loosen it and push it over manually. Any tips greatly appreciated. Laurel  

tacking cutter rig sailboat

Deliberately backwinding the sail during the tack will help "blow it by" obstructions like the inner headstay or a babystay. By that I mean don't release the sheet on the tack till the sail fills on the new side. Another technique used by some (with furlers) is to partially furl the sail before tacking. OK offshore perhaps but a pain on a nice afternoon upwind leg. Making your sheet bowlines or shackles as compact as possible can help avoid hangups too. Getting a technique down that works is probably all it will take for you to resolve this problem.  

I have a 44' cutter and this too drives me nuts. I'm thinking about putting a cover on the inner stay like are on the shrouds now. This way, the jib sheet will have less friction while trying to pull the sail through. Has anyone else ever done that? Would it help?  

Faster is absolutely correct. On a Cutter Rig, you have to backwind the jib when you come about you will find that jib pulls through more easily. So what this means is that your start to come about and do not release the jib. Instead allow the wind to blow the boat around. Just as you reach the point where you have completed the tack, release the sheet and winch it in on other side. It should pop right through.  

JR: A cover such as you describe would indeed solve the hangups during tacks, but wouldn't it interfere with the hanks on your staysail? If not, go ahead. A thought: Rather than buy the thin "turnbuckle covers", remove the stay and slide a 3 - 4 foot long piece of 2" black ABS pipe over it then reattach. It visually shows up less than a white cover, the longer length and larger diameter works even better. (you can clean off the factory markings with solvent or sand it off)  

Faster: It's true, I would have to remove the cover in order to use the staysail. Since I primarily just use the Main and the Jib, maybe a cover would work. But, I wouldn't want to have to do surgery to remove the cover in order to hank on the staysail when I DID want to use it. My inner stay is removable, but I have no place to put it once i remove it; so it's inconvenient and I tend not to remove it. It bangs around all over the place. I've tried lashing it down a hundred different ways, but the loose stay still bangs around along the length of the mast. This is why I've been considering a cover. Maybe someone could describe the best way to secure this beast and I could forget this silly cover idea.  

make it temporary JR: Maybe as a temporary trial you could take that piece of plastic pipe and slit it lengthwise, snap it on your stay, and tape it in place. See if that deals with your hangups, and take it from there. If it's temporary that might be good enough. Remove it on the rare occasions you use the staysail.  

tacking cutter rig sailboat

I have found that after wrapping shroud covers (the slit type by Davis) over my inner forestay, my genoa doesn't hang up as much when tacking or jibing. I have this problem mostly in lighter winds, which sometimes requires furling the headsail partway with the control line, prior to winching in the leeward sheet. Since I solo-sail quite often and my winches aren't self-tailing, this is when I wish I had four arms.  

Rigging only offers a "storage plate" for your inner forestay when not attached. Never tried it, but might be worth a look.  

Imo... Welcome to cutters. A big jib really hangs up all the time, and I roll it up each time. Even then, the flailing lines still get caught up often. It must be difficult if you haven't got a roller.  

This is a constant problem on my cutter, so I roll in the genny as I come about. I have ha some people suggest recutting my headsail to a yankee, but of course that would leave much less sail. One other thing to try is to release your leeward sheet and tighten your windward sheet so that they meet at the inner stay. If your headsail is a jib and not a genoa it will carry through. It all depends on the proportions of the rig and timing. I have successfully done this on my cutter with a 135 genoa, but it seems that it was more luck than skill at work.  

You will find out that the operation is easier with the staysl raised. The Jib somehow uses the staysl to slide through after being backed up.  

While there are products on the market for stowing a released inner forestay, you could probably fabricate one yourself. If you will, picture a large (maybe 12" diameter) sheave clamped to a stanchion abeam of the mast. When the inner forestay is released from the deck it is brought back, wrapped around this radius and secured fairly tightly to the rail. If it's tight enough, it won't bang against the mast and will be aft of the forward lowers. Just make sure that the radius is big enough to prevent kinking the wire. You can procure a fast-pin to replace the bottom clevis of your turnbuckle so that with just a couple of turns you can release it. Truly, if you are not using your staysl that much, it will make it much easier if you just get it out of the way. Good Luck  

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Offshore Log: The Reefing Staysail

With a double-headsail rig, you already have some powerful gear-shifting options. putting your staysail on a furler adds an overdrive..

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One lesson we learned during our circumnavigation was the danger of the dogmatic approach to almost anything, from the choice of a boat to the selection of a rig. There are those who claim that the only suitable offshore boat is a deep, heavy, traditional boat with a long keel. Others scoff at anything so old-fashioned, and say that a modern, lightweight boat is the only way to go. 

Offshore Log: The Reefing Staysail

What we’ve found is that given careful preparation and a modicum of good luck, you can sail around the world in almost anything.

There’s one tenet of cruising dogma, however, that we have found to be so true so repeatedly that we are convinced of its validity. For safety, convenience, and performance, the only choice for the foretriangle configuration on most boats is the double-headsail rig, with a relatively small roller-furling genoa on the headstay, and a roller-furling heavy staysail on an inner forestay.

When we left Rhode Island in 1997, westbound round the world, Calypso’s foretriangle was a bit of a compromise. We had a relatively large (135%) roller-furling genoa, and a removable inner forestay with a fairly small, hank-on heavy-weather staysail. I would call this an adaptation of the coastal cruising rig, with a nod towards offshore sailing.

My thinking was that the big genoa would be useful in light air, and could be reefed for heavier air. When it started to blow hard, we would furl the headsail, and I would go forward to raise the staysail, which was kept hanked on in a bag at the inner forestay.

With the inner forestay on a release lever, I could remove the forestay to make it easier to tack the fairly large genoa when not using the staysail.

In practice, we never removed the inner forestay. On the few occasions when we tacked upwind in light air-offshore, you might go days without tacking, even when the goal was dead to windward. I merely reefed the genoa before tacking to make it easier to pass between the inner forestay and the headstay.

I dreaded going on the foredeck to set the staysail, and often put it off until far too late. Setting the sail required unzipping the storage bag, hooking on the halyard, then going back to the mast to raise the sail. By this time, mind you, it would always be blowing 30 knots or more, and headed upwind, the foredeck would be pretty wet and wild. While I was hoisting, Maryann would start to trim the sail while it thrashed about and threatened to tie its sheets in knots. No fun.

In 1998, we bit the bullet and installed a big Furlex 300S furler on the inner forestay. We have never looked back. In fact, we have seen more and more boats converting to this rig. The changeover is obviously easier if you already have an inner forestay, but this rig is so much better than anything else that it’s usually worth the trouble to install, even on a boat without an existing inner forestay.

Although commonly referred to as a cutter rig, it’s more properly called a double-headsail rig on most boats. A cutter rig implies, among other things, that you normally sail with two headsails: a jib and a staysail. In most cases, boats with a double-headsail rig use one headsail at a time: the big reefing headsail on the headstay, or the smaller staysail on the inner forestay.

Naysayers There’s a lot of prejudice against a reefing inner forestay, particularly when the staysail is used as the heavy-weather headsail. Conventional wisdom states that a heavy-weather headsail should hank onto the forestay, since it could rip out of the foil of a furler. There’s also fear about the reliability of furling systems.

This is nonsense. A properly designed and properly installed heavy staysail on a reefing inner forestay is a far safer and more efficient rig than its hank-on cousin.With a proper halyard lead and a correctly built staysail head, with a luff-tape head pendant if necessary, a headsail in a luff-groove device is as well-attached to the stay as a hanked-on sail. The luff-groove sail will also usually have a better shape due to the even tension on the luff and the lack of local distortion around hanks.

The advantages of the reefer/furler are obvious. There’s no more going onto a pitching foredeck to set the sail. The sail is under complete control as it is unrolled, so there’s less risk of damage or entanglement. Because it’s easily set, the staysail will be used more often, and more likely at the proper times. You will have a more versatile rig, since the foretriangle can be changed from full size to almost infinitely small from the safety of the cockpit, and with relatively little work.

The permanent inner forestay, when coupled with running backstays, offers dramatically greater fore and aft support for the mast, reducing the risk of rig failure.

In short, the naysayers are wrong.

The Staysail First and foremost the furling staysail is your heavy-weather headsail. The maximum size the sail should be is 5% of the height of the foretriangle squared. For a boat with a 53-foot foretriangle height—typical of a masthead 40-footer—the maximum area of the staysail would be 140 square feet.

This is actually quite large for a storm headsail on the typical 40-footer. However, it is a very good size for a heavy-weather headsail on the same boat. With a properly sized furler and properly designed staysail, the sail can be safely and efficiently reefed to a much smaller size for the really hard going, giving much more versatility than the non-reefing staysail commonly used for heavy weather.The non-reefing staysail will either be too large for storm conditions, or too small for “normal” heavy weather, which is far more common.

Offshore Log: The Reefing Staysail

The cut of the staysail will be determined by the location of your sheet leads. The sail may have to be cut fairly high at both tack and clew to clear foredeck obstacles such as a dinghy carried upside down forward of the mast.

A low-cut, high-aspect-ratio staysail will be more efficient for upwind sailing, but is less forgiving of sheet lead changes when the sail is reefed. The low-cut sail also puts much greater loads on the lead blocks due to the greater deflection angle of the sheet at the block. Generally speaking, a higher-cut staysail is less efficient, but more forgiving of trim errors. For most of us, the choice of a high-cut sail is a no-brainer, all other things being equal—which they seldom are.

In practice, most boats have a short piece of T-track for the headsail lead, and don’t change the lead as the sail is reefed. This is almost an essential compromise, as going forward to move a lead block partially defeats the purpose of this do-it-from-the-cockpit system. A short piece of track allows for variances in the cut of the staysail, and lets you tweak the lead block position at your leisure, before the sail is used in anger.

Some boats now come with a boomed staysail. Although this has some significant advantages in trimming the sail, it has the disadvantage of putting a solid swinging spar on the foredeck. If the main boom is potentially the most lethal piece of gear on a boat, a staysail club must be considered in a similar light.

A reefing staysail is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. It should be custom-made for your boat by a sailmaker with real experience in offshore sailing. This is no place for a discount sail. The sail should have the full array of controls, including leech line, foot line, and telltales. Sophisticated cuts are fine, as long as the materials and design are suited to the conditions in which the sail will be used.

Conventional wisdom says that the cut of the staysail doesn’t matter much since you won’t go upwind when it’s blowing 40 knots. In offshore cruising, nothing could be further from the truth. Along with two other boats, we were caught in a local gale just 30 miles out of Oman, on the Arabian Peninsula, at the end of an Indian Ocean crossing. It was almost dead to windward. Snugged down to two reefs and well-cut staysail, we covered the distance in five hours, beating the other two boats in by two to three hours, never tacking. Each of the other boats was forced to tack at least twice, and both ended up motorsailing to make it in. I ‘d like to say that it was our sailing ability that made the difference, but the autopilot did all the steering after I quickly discovered that it did a better job than I did. The good staysail, however, made a huge difference.

In 30,000 miles of offshore sailing, we have only reefed Calypso’s staysail a few times. In practice, we go upwind—not by choice, mind you—with full staysail and double-reefed main (a total of about 370 square feet of sail area) in winds of up to 40 knots. Beyond that, we’d just as soon not go upwind unless absolutely critical, thank you.

Despite having a separate trysail track on the mast, the trysail stays in the bag. Two deep reefs have done the job in all the conditions we have encountered, although we have sailed off the wind with no mainsail at all a few times. For offwind sailing in really heavy air—over 35 knots—a scrap of rolled-out genoa will keep the boat tracking better than a staysail by shifting the center of effort further forward.

Sizing the Furler Don’t make the mistake of choosing a furler that’s too small. Just as in winches, there’s no such thing as a furler too big. The larger the diameter of the furler drum, the easier it is to reef or furl the staysail, and the less likely you are to overload any of the components.

Don’t size the furler based on the size of the staysail. The loads on the 140-square-foot staysail of a 42-foot cruising boat will be huge compared to the loads on a similarly sized jib on a smaller boat, because the staysail will be used in much heavier weather.

Offshore Log: The Reefing Staysail

Be sure the staysail furler requires the same size luff tape as the primary headsail furler. The larger luff tape will give added security against pull-out, and will allow you the option, in case of an emergency such as the destruction of your jib, to set the staysail on the headstay as a small jib.

As a general rule, if your headstay furler is sized properly, going down one size for the staysail furler will be a reasonable choice. Aboard Calypso, we used identically rated furlers for both the genoa and the staysail. It is massive overkill on the staysail, but it gives peace of mind that far outweighs the penalty in cost, weight, and windage.

Furling Lines and Leads Some furler kits come with a furling line. With others, you provide your own line. We like to use a hard-lay, high-strength line such as a double braid with a Spectra core and a polyester jacket. Lines with a firm lay are harder to handle, but they seem less prone to being wedged into the turns of line already on the furling drum.

Chances are that the furling line will lead to your secondary cockpit winches for additional grunt power in reefing or furling in very heavy going. If that’s the case, the furling line must be sized not only to fit the furler drum, but to fit the self-tailer of the secondary winches.

If you’re going to put the furling line on a winch—and you will, at least in some circumstances—you have to be aware of the risk of damage to the rig if you try to reef or furl the sail when there’s some problem with the system, such as seized furler bearing or an hourglassed sail. We’ve seen more than one headstay and forestay pulled completely out of a boat by an adrenaline-pumped crew furiously grinding away without paying attention to what’s going on up there on the foredeck. If it’s harder than normal to reef the sail, look for a problem before applying more grunt. Needless to say, care here is even more critical if you put the furling line on a powered winch, or if you have a powered furler.

Furling lines don’t last forever. They tend to wear most at turning blocks, winch leads, rope clutches, and in the drums of self-tailing winches. Replace double-braided line whenever the cover starts to shred or chafe through.

We use heavy-duty Lewmar Superlock clutches to hold furling line loads. Because these are probably getting close to their working load limit in very heavy air, we leave the loaded furling line on the winch as a backup in these conditions.

Furling line leads can add considerable friction to the entire system, making reefing more difficult. On staysail furlers, the first lead block is usually mounted on a stanchion slightly aft of the furler drum. This will result in high side loading on the stanchion. You don’t want this lead to result in a right-angle turn for the furling line. Although it may clutter the deck more, it’s better to install the first lead block further from the furler, on the next stanchion aft.

The block should also be mounted as low on the stanchion as possible—consistent with the correct line entry angle to the furling drum—to minimize leverage on the stanchion. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to use a deck-mounted high-load turning block for the first point of deflection.

Whether deck-mounted or stanchion-mounted, the first lead block must be able to swivel.

From here aft, the angle of deflection is relatively small, and the loads on the stanchions are far less. We have used Schaefer Clear Step lead blocks on both headsail and staysail furling lines for 30,000 miles with no problems. These blocks require flushing with copious fresh water at regular intervals to keep the bearings free-running, and must be periodically examined for ultraviolet degradation of the sheaves.

With any fixed stanchion-mount blocks, it’s critical to keep the blocks properly aligned with the line to reduce friction . Changes in the heights of the blocks on the stanchions as you move aft must be gradual, with minimal vertical deflection between blocks.

Fairleads and blocks without roller bearings have no place in this application. There’s enough friction in the system already, so there’s no sense in adding to the problem. The bigger the lead block sheave, the lower the friction will be.

Running Backstays Perhaps the strongest argument against any inner forestay system is the need for running backstays. Runners can be a nuisance. As generally rigged, they require changing over from one side to the other as the boat is tacked.

Surprisingly, we’ve found the runners to be more of a problem in downwind sailing than upwind. We use the runners all the time, upwind and down, in light or heavy air, just for the additional rig support, even when the staysail is furled. That just reflects our ultra-conservative way of sailing offshore, and may not be necessary on other boats.

Upwind, the runners are necessary to minimize pumping of the rig, which at the very least reduces the efficiency of the staysail. Most cruising rigs are so overbuilt that the typical runner arrangement, with the runners tensioned by a four-part self-cleating purchase, does not really provide significant additional tension on the inner forestay. For that, you need to put the runner tail on a winch. Runner blocks must be carefully chosen for the expected load, particularly if you expect to tension the runners using a winch.

Were we rigging a new boat, we would configure the runners with a retractor line from either the flying block or the lower block to a point on deck just aft of the lower shrouds. The retractor would lead from that point aft to a clutch. Swapping over the runners would then just require a couple of easy maneuvers from the cockpit, rather than a trip on deck.

When we rigged our boat, Phil Garland of Hall Rigging convinced us to install runners of ultra-low-stretch Technora, rather than wire. The T-900 runners are far lighter than wire, and do not chafe the main on the leeward side when sailing upwind with both runners on. (Racing boats usually use runners of Kevlar or PBO “rod.” which is even lighter and lower in stretch.)

Generally speaking, a normal masthead rig with a permanent backstay is not going to fall down just because you take your time with the runners.

Conversion If you already have an existing removable inner forestay, 90% of your work is already done if you want to convert to a furling headsail. If you’re starting from scratch, the installation will be much more complex. You have to locate a suitable strong point for the lower termination of the inner forestay, and find a suitable location on the mast for the upper termination, halyard block, and running backstay tangs. You also have to determine sheet leads, and locate a suitable spot for the lead blocks. This may require local reinforcement of the deck.

Consultation with your boat’s builder, a yacht designer, or an experienced rigger may be required unless you are very comfortable with complex projects. Once these issues are resolved, the installation is much the same as a conversion from an existing non-reefing staysail setup.

Installing a reefing staysail may seem like a big job, but if you’re serious about long-range cruising, whether coastwise or around the world, this is a rig configuration that will greatly simplify your sailing in a wide variety of conditions. It’s definitely worth the trouble.


An educational illustration of what can happen with a jackline positioned overly close to the rail—the subject can get thrown to weather and get dragged. In this instance the inflatable keeps the subject high and dry...but you get the point.

Another Look at Fitting Jacklines

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Collision Avoidance When ‘See and Avoid’ Fails

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When a Welcome Home Becomes a Rescue

I’m trying to find approx 30-36ft sailboat (likely used) that is already designed with an inner staysail Not having much luck. Wondering if you might have a list. thank you Sue

Darrell we have a double headsail design on our 45′ Reinke aluminum sailboat, with a 45% staysail on a furler. I am wondering what size headsail you use. It has a 75% headsail, with the intent to sail as a true cutter. I agree with your assessment that flying a single headsail is the best. What size would you recommend for our new headsail: 110% to 105% ? We will be keeping the 245 sq ft staysail for heavy weather. Thanks Jim

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Cutter-Rigged Sailboat Definition: Everything You Need to Know

by Emma Sullivan | Aug 12, 2023 | Sailboat Lifestyle

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Short answer cutter-rigged sailboat definition:

A cutter-rigged sailboat is a type of sailing vessel characterized by its rigging configuration, which includes a single mast set further aft and multiple headsails. This design offers versatility in various wind conditions, providing better control and balance while sailing.

1) What is a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat? A Comprehensive Definition

A cutter-rigged sailboat is a versatile and elegant type of sailing vessel that offers sailors a range of benefits and capabilities. With its distinctive rigging setup, the cutter sailboat has long been favored by sailors for its maneuverability, stability, and ability to handle different wind conditions. In this comprehensive definition, we will delve into the intricacies of the cutter rig and explore why it remains a popular choice among sailing enthusiasts.

At its core, a cutter-rigged sailboat features a specific arrangement of sails and mast configuration. Unlike other types of rigs like sloop or ketch, a cutter possesses two headsails – both the jib and staysail. The jib is usually larger and set forward to catch the main flow of wind, while the staysail sits between the foremost mast (known as the foremast) and the mainmast. This arrangement provides maximum control over different wind speeds and directions. While some smaller cutters may have only one mast, larger vessels often boast multiple masts, creating an impressive silhouette on the water.

One of the main advantages of a cutter rig is its versatility in handling various weather conditions . The combination of a large jib upfront with its increased surface area allows for heightened propulsion when sailing downwind or with favorable winds behind you. On the other hand, when facing challenging upwind conditions where close-hauled sailing is required, a smaller but easily controllable staysail comes into play. This dual headsail setup gives sailors better options for optimal sail configurations depending on wind angles – an invaluable feature that makes cutters ideal for long-distance cruising or racing.

Additionally, stability plays a crucial role in determining why many sailors opt for cutter-rigged sailboats . With two headsails set in front of your boat ‘s centerline but balanced proportionately around it, there’s less chance of being overpowered by strong gusts or unsteady winds compared to single-headsail rigs like sloops. This inherent stability allows for better control and reduces the risk of a sudden broach, which can be particularly crucial when sailing in harsh or unpredictable conditions.

Not only does the cutter setup provide superior handling, but it also enhances safety on the water. Since the staysail can easily be brought down or adjusted independently from the larger jib, sail changes are more manageable and less physically demanding for crew members. This flexibility is particularly vital during challenging weather conditions, as it minimizes time spent on deck in potentially dangerous situations .

Beyond its functional advantages, there’s an undeniable aesthetic appeal to cutter-rigged sailboats that captivates sailors and admirers alike. The imposing presence of multiple masts adorned with gracefully billowing sails creates an aura of classic beauty that pays homage to traditional sailing vessels of old. Whether cruising leisurely along coastlines or partaking in thrilling racing competitions, a cutter’s stylish design ensures you’ll turn heads wherever you go.

In conclusion, a cutter-rigged sailboat is a comprehensive embodiment of functionality, style, and adaptability on the water. With its distinct two-headsail setup providing excellent control across varying wind conditions, it stands out as an ideal choice for serious sailors seeking an enhanced sailing experience. From its versatility to stability and safety benefits – not to mention its timeless elegance – no wonder cutters remain cherished by seafaring enthusiasts worldwide who appreciate both tradition and innovation in their voyages.

2) Understanding the Cutter-Rigged Sailboat: Definition and Characteristics

Are you a sailing enthusiast looking to explore different types of sailboats? If so, then understanding the cutter-rigged sailboat is essential. This unique and versatile vessel has its own distinct features and characteristics that set it apart from other types of sailboats . So, let’s dive into the world of the cutter-rigged sailboat , exploring its definition and noteworthy qualities.

First, let’s start with the definition. A cutter rig is a specific type of sailing rig configuration typically found on smaller to medium-sized boats. Unlike other rigs such as sloops or ketches, which have only one headsail (the foresail), the cutter rig features multiple headsails.

The most prominent feature of a cutter rig is its dual headsails – a jib and staysail. The jib is the larger headsail located forward of the mast, while the staysail is positioned between the mast and forestay (the primary vertical support for the mast).

Why two headsails? Well, this setup provides incredible versatility and adaptability in various wind conditions. By utilizing both sails in combination or individually, a sailor can easily adjust their sail plan to maximize performance based on wind strength and direction.

Let’s talk about some remarkable characteristics that make the cutter rig stand out:

1. Upwind Performance: The presence of two headsails provides increased control when sailing upwind, allowing for better pointing ability into the wind. The staysail helps balance out the forces acting on the boat, reducing weather helm (the tendency of a boat to turn towards the wind) compared to other rig configurations .

2. Offshore Capabilities: Cutter rigs are renowned for their seaworthiness. With their ability to handle heavy weather conditions offshore, many serious cruisers prefer this rig type for long-distance voyages or bluewater sailing adventures .

3. Redundancy and Safety: Having two separate headsails not only enhances performance but also acts as a backup in case of damage or failure. If one headsail gets damaged, the sailor can simply drop it and continue sailing with the remaining sail. This redundancy is particularly useful during extended cruising or when sailing far from shore.

4. Versatility in Sailing Conditions: Cutter-rigged sailboats excel in a wide range of wind conditions, from light airs to strong winds. The ability to switch between different combinations of sails allows sailors to optimize their performance regardless of the prevailing weather conditions on their journey.

5. Ease of Handling: Despite having multiple sails, cutter rigs can be easily managed by a small crew or even single-handedly. The sail area is distributed across the two headsails, making them more manageable compared to larger single headsails found on sloops or ketches.

So there you have it – an introduction to understanding the cutter-rigged sailboat and its defining characteristics. From increased upwind performance to offshore capabilities and versatility in various weather conditions, this rig configuration offers a unique sailing experience that avid sailors find both thrilling and practical.

If you’re looking for a vessel that combines adaptability, safety, and ease of handling without compromising performance, then exploring the world of cutter-rigged sailboats might be your next exciting venture!

3) Step-by-Step Guide to Defining a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat

Welcome to our step-by-step guide on defining a cutter-rigged sailboat. If you’re new to the world of sailing or simply curious about this particular rigging style, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re envisioning sweeping journeys across the open seas or peaceful cruises along the coastline, understanding the intricacies of a cutter-rigged sailboat will equip you well for your adventures.

Step 1: Understanding the Basics Before delving into the specifics, let’s start with some fundamental knowledge. A cutter rig consists of multiple sails and is one of the most versatile options for sailboats . It typically features three sails: a foresail (the headsail), a mainsail, and a smaller third sail known as a staysail.

Step 2: Exploration and Considerations Now that we have grasped the general concept, it’s time to dive deeper into what makes a cutter rig unique. One key characteristic lies in its ability to handle various wind conditions exceptionally well due to its versatility. This adaptability ensures safety and efficiency even when facing unpredictable weather patterns during your sailing journeys.

Moreover, consider how different materials can affect performance while designing your ideal cutter-rigged boat. Sails made from modern materials such as polyester or nylon are durable and lightweight, enabling more efficient manipulation of wind power.

Step 3: Factors Influencing Cutter Rig Choices Defining your sailboat requires weighing several factors impacting your desired experience . First and foremost, think about your preferred cruising grounds – whether it’s serene lakes or challenging ocean waters – as this significantly influences sail arrangement decisions.

Furthermore, consider elements like mast height and placement; these variables directly impact how effectively the boat harnesses wind power for optimum performance. An experienced naval architect or yacht designer will be an invaluable resource when making these choices.

Step 4: Essential Equipment Next up is selecting essential equipment that complements your intended sailing lifestyle. When defining a cutter rig, it is crucial to invest in robust and reliable hardware to guarantee smooth sailing . Pay close attention to components such as winches, blocks, and furling systems, which all contribute to ease of handling and overall safety.

Step 5: Expert Advice Consulting with seasoned sailors or professionals within the sailing community can significantly enhance your understanding and decision-making process. Engaging in forums or seeking advice from experienced yacht brokers can provide valuable insights into different cutter rigs available on the market today.

This additional expertise ensures that you choose a cutter-rigged sailboat tailored specifically to your needs and desires while balancing practicality and performance.

Step 6: Balance Between Style and Functionality Ensuring your sailboat reflects your personal aesthetic preferences is also an essential aspect of defining a cutter rig . From sleek lines to elegant finishes, embrace the opportunity to infuse your unique style into the boat’s design without compromising its functionality.

Step 7: Maintenance and Upkeep Lastly, once you’ve defined your dream cutter-rigged sailboat , it’s important to consider maintenance requirements. Regular cleaning, inspection of equipment for wear and tear, as well as staying up-to-date with technological advancements will guarantee longevity and reliability throughout your sailing adventures .

Whether it’s chasing sunsets or conquering challenging waters, following this step-by-step guide will assist you in defining a cutter-rigged sailboat that fulfills all your nautical aspirations. With careful consideration of each component alongside expert input, you’ll be primed for unforgettable voyages while captivating fellow sailors with both the elegance and efficiency of your chosen rigging style.

4) Frequently Asked Questions about the Definition of a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat

Frequently Asked Questions about the Definition of a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat

When it comes to sailboats, there are numerous rigging options available, each with its own unique set of characteristics. One such design that has captivated the sailing community for generations is the cutter rig . Known for its versatility and performance capabilities, cutter-rigged sailboats have become a popular choice among experienced sailors. If you’re curious to learn more about this type of sailboat rig, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions to demystify the definition of a cutter-rigged sailboat.

Q: What exactly is a cutter-rigged sailboat? A: A cutter rig refers to a specific arrangement of sails on a boat , consisting of two or more headsails and a mainsail. Unlike other rig configurations like sloops or ketches, where only one headsail is present in front of the mast, cutters feature multiple headsails set on separate forestays. The most common setup includes a staysail forward of the mast and a larger headsail (typically referred to as the genoa) on the foretriangle.

Q: Why would someone choose a cutter rig over other rig types ? A: One significant advantage of the cutter rig lies in its versatility and adaptability to various weather conditions . With two or more headsails onboard, sailors have greater control over their boat ‘s power and balance. The option to reef or furl both headsails independently allows for efficient sail area reduction during high winds while maintaining excellent maneuverability when under power alone. This makes cutters particularly appealing for long-distance cruising or offshore passages.

Q: Are there any disadvantages to choosing a cutter rig? A: Like any design choice, there are trade-offs associated with opting for a cutter-rigged sailboat. While offering enhanced flexibility compared to other rigs, cutters require additional hardware such as multiple forestays and halyards which may increase maintenance requirements. Additionally, the complex sail plan can require more crew effort and expertise to handle effectively, especially during maneuvers and sail changes. However, with proper training and experience, these challenges can be overcome.

Q: Can a cutter-rigged sailboat perform well in racing? A: While cutter rigs are not commonly found on the race circuit as they once were, that doesn’t mean they lack performance capabilities. Due to their ability to carry multiple headsails of varying sizes, cutters excel in heavy weather conditions where wind strength is typically higher. In races that encompass offshore or longer passages, cutters can often showcase their advantage over more limited-rigged vessels like sloops or Bermuda rigs.

Q: Are there any famous examples of cutter-rigged sailboats ? A: Yes! Some iconic examples of cutter-rigged sailboats include the historic Joshua Slocum’s Spray, which he sailed solo around the world in the late 19th century, and Eric Tabarly’s splendid Pen Duick series racing yachts. These vessels demonstrated the capabilities and enduring appeal of this rig type .

In conclusion, a cutter rig offers sailors an adaptable and versatile solution for their sailing needs. With its ability to handle various weather conditions while maintaining maneuverability and control under power alone, it’s no wonder why this rig configuration has stood the test of time. Although it requires some additional maintenance considerations and sailing proficiency compared to other options such as sloops or ketches, those who value performance and flexibility will find a cutter-rigged sailboat a worthy choice for both cruising adventures and competitive racing endeavors.

5) Exploring the Key Features of a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat: A Detailed Definition

In the world of sailing, there are a plethora of sailboat designs and rigging setups to choose from. Each configuration offers unique advantages and characteristics that cater to different sailing styles and conditions. One popular choice amongst avid sailors is the cutter-rigged sailboat.

What exactly is a cutter-rigged sailboat , you may ask? Well, let’s delve into this fascinating topic and explore the key features that make this rigging setup stand out.

At its core, a cutter-rigged sailboat is defined by its multiple headsails and specific mast placement. Unlike traditional sloop-rigged sailboats with just one headsail (the jib), cutters carry two headsails – the jib on the forestay and a smaller staysail on an inner stay called the second forestay. This additional headsail provides enhanced maneuverability, especially in heavier wind conditions or when sailing close to the wind.

The positioning of these sails allows for better balance and control. The jib acts as the primary driving force while the smaller staysail helps fine-tune and adjust sail trim for optimal performance in varying wind speeds. This configuration gives sailors greater flexibility and control over their vessel, making it easier to adapt to changing weather conditions or maneuver through tight spaces like crowded harbors or narrow channels.

One major advantage of a cutter rig is its versatility in handling different points of sail . Whether you’re beating upwind, reaching across open waters, or running downwind with strong winds at your back, a well-designed cutter rig can excel in all these scenarios. The ability to set various combinations of sails enables sailors to maximize their boat’s aerodynamic efficiency regardless of which way the wind blows.

In addition to its superb adaptability on different points of sail , another standout feature of a cutter rig is its reliability in heavy weather conditions. With two separate headsails instead of relying solely on one large genoa like many sloop rigs, a cutter rig offers increased sail area options without sacrificing safety. By reefing down and using the smaller staysail as the primary driving force, sailors can maintain control even in strong winds, reducing the risk of overpowering the boat.

Moreover, the presence of two forestays not only reinforces mast stability but also opens up possibilities for adding additional headsails or storm sails if needed. This further enhances a cutter-rigged sailboat’s versatility and adaptability to different sailing conditions, offering peace of mind to sailors heading out into more challenging waters.

It’s important to keep in mind that while cutter rigs come with numerous advantages, they may require slightly more effort and skill to manage compared to simpler rigging setups. The need for multiple sheets and halyards means more lines cluttering the deck, potentially leading to increased complexity when setting up or adjusting sails . However, with practice and experience, managing a cutter rig becomes second nature.

In conclusion, exploring the key features of a cutter-rigged sailboat reveals a versatile and reliable sailing configuration that appeals to seasoned sailors seeking enhanced maneuverability and adaptability on various points of sail. With its unique combination of two headsails and specific mast placement, this rigging setup offers both performance and safety in a wide range of conditions. So if you’re considering upgrading your current sloop rig or looking for a new sailboat altogether, don’t overlook the allure of a well-designed cutter rig – it just might be the perfect choice for your next sailing adventure!

6) Expert Insights: How to Define and Identify a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat

Title: Expert Insights: Mastering the Art of Defining and Identifying Cutter-Rigged Sailboats

Introduction: Ahoy, sailing enthusiasts ! Welcome to another exciting installment of our Expert Insights series. Today, we embark on a voyage delving into the intricacies of defining and identifying cutter-rigged sailboats. Whether you are a seasoned sailor or an aspiring seafarer, this comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge necessary to navigate the dazzling world of cutter rigs. So hoist your sails, batten down the hatches, and let’s set course for enlightenment!

What is a Cutter-Rigged Sailboat? Imagine an elegant vessel gracefully slicing through the water; that’s a cutter-rigged sailboat in all its glory. A cutter rig is characterized by having multiple foresails—a mainsail located closest to the mast, supplemented by two foresails mounted ahead called the jib and staysail. This configuration differentiates it from sloop rigs, where only one headsail (the jib) embellishes the mast.

1) The Power Behind Cutter Rigs: The secret to their popularity lies in versatility and performance. Cutter-rigged sailboats excel at various points of sail due to their flexible sail plan. While close-hauled (sailing as close to wind direction as possible), you can harness immense power by using both foresails simultaneously—balancing speed and maneuverability.

2) Benefits Beyond Mighty Winds: Cutter rigs not only capture more wind but also distribute it efficiently across multiple sails—enabling enhanced control during gusty conditions. These additional foresails provide options when experiencing changes in weather or sea states while cruising offshore or navigating congested harbors.

3) Identify with Ease: Distinguishing a cutter rig at first glance may seem perplexing, especially if you’re new to sailing terminology . However, one crucial telltale sign is evident—the presence of two headsails. The jib, commonly the largest fore-and-aft sail, unfurls ahead of the mast while the staysail—often smaller—is typically set on a forestay between the bow and mast.

4) Rigging Setup: Cutter-rigged sailboats possess a unique rigging setup to accommodate multiple foresails harmoniously. In addition to the mainmast, they typically feature an inner forestay reaching from the masthead to a point near or on the deck. This inner stay provides support for setting and controlling the staysail separately from the larger jib.

5) Sail Controls & Tactics: Understanding how to effectively control your cutter rig is key to mastering its potential. Utilize various lines and winches to haul in or release each sail independently, allowing for precise adjustments depending on wind conditions. For optimal performance, consider employing windward sheeting angles, fine-tuning sail twist, and applying proper reefing techniques when necessary.

Conclusion: Congratulations! You’ve successfully navigated through our expert insights on defining and identifying cutter-rigged sailboats with finesse. Armed with this newfound knowledge, you can confidently embark on your next sailing adventure or engage in enthusiastic conversations with fellow sailors about their awe-inspiring rigs . Remember, cutter rigs offer a combination of power, versatility, and charm that captivates both spectators and seasoned mariners alike. Fair winds and smooth seas await as you join the ranks of those who harness the magic of these remarkable vessels!

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tacking cutter rig sailboat

Standout superyacht competing at the Superyacht Cup Palma 2024

The Superyacht Cup is back for its 28th edition in Palma from June 19  - 22. As Europe's longest-running regatta, this four-day event will see some of the world's most prestigious sailing yachts battling it out on the Mallorcan circuit.

Initiating the Mediterranean racing season, the event will welcome a diverse fleet of high-performance sailing yachts to the picturesque Bay of Palma. Rose , the defending champion and the first Wally to claim victory in last year's Cup, will return to defend her title. Meanwhile, joining the debutants include the brand new Calabash and many other race veterans making a comeback, like the iconic J class, Rainbow . The renowned Hoek Designs will also make their mark on the course with the duo Atlanta and Vijonera .

BOAT takes a closer look at this year's competitors, beginning with Maximus, the largest of the lineup…

Length: 59m Builder: Vitters Year: 2023

The ketch-rigged cruiser Maximus makes her debut this year and will be the largest yacht to attend since the 63-metre Athos in 2018. Renowned for high-performance designs, this third-largest Vitters build has German Frers to thank for design and naval architecture. Since delivery, Maximus has spent time in the Caribbean and competed in the St Barths Bucket . For upwind racing, the 80-tonne lifting keel draws 8 metres, reducing to 5 metres for manoeuvres. The twin carbon rudders aid in precision steering, keeping sailors on the best course.

Borkumriff IV

Length: 50.6m Builder: Royal Huisman Year: 2002

Borkumriff IV will be attending the Cup without eyes on a trophy. The 50.6-metre two-masted schooner was built in collaboration with the Dutch yard Royal Huisman , to a design by Dykstra Naval Architects and John G Alden. The modern classic features Rondal aluminium plate masts over 50 meters tall and has Rondal carbon fibre booms and gaffs. Between the two deckhouses that outline her profile, there are two open cockpits; the aft one is for steering and sail management.

Length: 43.6m Builder: Vitters Year: 2017

Svea is the most recent addition to the J Class ranks and took her class win at the Cup in 2022. The 43.6-metre sailing yacht was initially penned by Swedish designer Tore Holm in 1937, and her resurrection began when Vitters and Hoek Design Naval Architecture acquired the original drawings. Integrating traditional long keel design with the modern build, Svea’s aluminium hull displaces just 182 tonnes and optimises weight with 80 per cent of the interior cabinetry utilising veneered foam cores. The 53.75-metre carbon fibre main mast will also help performance, with all eyes on her as she fights for another title.

Length: 39m Builder: Vitters Year: 2009

Having cruised extensively in recent years, the Bill Tripp -designed performance sloop Cervo (ex G2 ) is reclaiming her place among the racing elite. Another Vitters build, Cervo’s carbon composite construction keeps responsiveness up under sail. The 2018 refit at Pendennis created an open flush deck offering more cockpit space for the racing crew. Nauta Design reimagined the interiors of this pedigree superyacht, which also features atypical equal-sized staterooms. Her sailing power comes from the 48-metre carbon fibre mast by Southern Spars paired with a refined sail wardrobe from Doyle and a new in-boom furling mainsail.

Length: 39m Builder: Holland Jachtbouw Year: 2012

After a decade-long hiatus from racing, the 39-metre J Class yacht Rainbow is making her return at the Cup. A modern replica based on the legendary 1934 America’s Cup winner, Rainbow , was penned by Dykstra Studios design. She was the first J fitted with hybrid propulsion and power systems. Since delivery in 2012, she has undergone an extensive refit in 2022, which includes a new deck layout and rig, new sails and winches and an engineering overhaul. Now representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron under her new round-the-world racing owner, Rainbow will be up alongside her seasoned J Class rivals Svea and Velsheda.

Length: 38.8m Builder: Classen Shipyard Year: 2015

The flagship of the Hoek-designed ‘Truly Classic’ range, the 38.8-metre Atalante  built by Classen has enjoyed a long period of cruising and is now poised and ready to race again. Her classic lines, traditionally shaped twin deckhouses, and teak capping rails pay homage to the classics. Commissioned by an experienced sailor, she boasts plenty of race-ready features, such as a well-thought-out deck layout, 3Di North sails, carbon rigging and cable steering bolstered by a fully instrumented steering console set. She will compete for the first time against her sistership, hull number two Vijonara.

Length: 38.8m Builder: Pendennis Year: 2018

The 38.8-metre cutter-rigged sloop Vijonara was the second hull to emerge from Hoek Design’s ‘Truly Classic’ series. Built at Pendennis for owners with vast sailing knowledge, she boasts a bowsprit that houses a suite of downwind sails such as Code Sail and A-Symmetric Spinnaker. Vijonara came close to a win at this year’s St Barths Bucket, finishing second in her class. As a Cup debutant, she will join other Hoek designs, such as Atalante , the first hull in the series, and Cervo .

Length: 25.1m Builder: Nautor Swan Year: 2013

Dark Horse (ex Chessie ) is making her first splash at the Cup. As a regatta regular Swan 80, she brings racing pedigree to Palma and will face competition with the slightly smaller Umiko, another yacht courtesy of the Finnish builder. The German Frers-designed yacht includes racing features such as a lightweight carbon hull and deck, high-modulus carbon spars, and a top-spec racing rig optimised for speed.

Length: 24m Builder: Wally Year: 2006

The 24-metre Wallycento Rose is back to defend her winning Cup title after becoming the first Wally yacht to claim victory. Rose was designed in collaboration with Wally and Mills Design for naval architecture and exterior design, while interiors were thanks to Pininfarina. Delivered in 2006, this flush-deck carbon sailing yacht boasts a 45-metre rig and a 3DL self-tacking jib for racing performance. The crew of 24 and an upwind sail plan of 640 square metres also helped facilitate her win last year.

Length: 24m Builder: Nautor Swan Year: 2000

Another of Nautor Swan's 80 series competing Umiko i s making a welcome return to Palma after the last three years of participating. The ultra-fast yacht, which is one of the race's smaller entries, is a German Frers design. Since her launch in 2000, she has undergone various refits to keep her race-ready, including upgrades such as carbon rigging and new North 3Di sails.

Length: 38.5m Builder: Camper & Nicholsons Year: 1933

Last but by no means least is one of the regatta longest serving contenders, the 38.5-metre Velsheda. An icon among the J Class fleet, although not originally constructed for the America’s Cup like her contemporaries, she has made her mark on the regatta scene. Built by Camper & Nicholsons in 1933 from steel for W.L. Stephenson, the chairman of British retailer Woolworths, she was christened Velsheda after his three daughters Velma, Sheila and Daphne. In 1996, the yacht was purchased by Dutch fashion entrepreneur Ronald de Waal, who gave Southampton Yacht Services the job to rebuild her and restore her to racing status.

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  1. How do you tack a cutter?

    Cutter fans like the ability to use the staysail as a storm sail by simply dropping (or furling) the Jib. In tacking a cutter, the Jib typically has two sheets and is tacked like a headsail on a sloop. Today, the staysail is typically mounted on a boom and is self-tending like a mainsail.

  2. Cutter Rigged Sailboats [GUIDE] Advantages, Sailing, Options & Features

    A cutter rigged sailboat is also more expensive for boat builders. The deck must be strong enough to handle the inner forestay's loads. ... Tacking a Sailboat Cutter . If you need to short tack up a narrow channel, and both your sails are loose-footed, you can roll up one of the headsails and just use one headsail to tack. Many staysails have ...

  3. Tacking a cutter rigged sailboat

    In a nut shell: -Start to tack, ease the genny sheet just enough slowly as you tack to allow the genny to bulge through the gap between the staysail stay and headsail stay. The clew should be held taught enough to not curl behind the staysail stay. The sail material/luff then goes through the gap.

  4. Is The Cutter Rig Sailboat the Best Choice for Offshore Cruising?

    The cutter rig sailboat has two jibs, the foremost one usually a high-cut yankee set on the forestay and the other a staysail set on an inner forestay. It's a flexible, easy to handle rig, which is why I - along with a lot of other cruising sailors - am such a fan of it. ... Tacking a Cutter Rig Sailboat. This is slightly more complicated than ...

  5. Cutter rig sailing tips?

    As for tacking and gybing the head sail, we have found that a little patience and timing allows the sail to be blown through the slot. ... The cutter rig is sort of a "belt and suspenders" set up so the mast is very strongly stayed. That is particularly comforting with the bowsprit and its vulnerable bobstay. Reactions: Beyond some weather.

  6. Tacking a Cutter

    Posts: 8,942. Images: 54. My cutter rig tacks easily. The only exception is when the wind is light (5-6 kts or so) and the staysail is furled, so the genoa has to pass over cloth vs. the slick metal RF staysail stay, with little force from the wind to help it. The gennie is 110%, with a fairly high-cut foot.

  7. Cutter Rig—Optimizing and/or Converting

    Cutter Rig—Optimizing and/or Converting. In the last two chapters I covered why a true cutter is a great rig for short-handed offshore voyaging and how to decide if the cutter rig is right for you. Now I'm going to cover what it takes to successfully convert a sloop or even a ketch to get most, or maybe even all, of the benefits that we ...

  8. Headsail Tacking Dilemma on Cutter!

    When tacking my cutter rigged sailboat, the headsail has an inconvenient and worrying habit of hanging up on the inner forestay and setting behind the inner forestay, rather than flowing in front of it and setting in the normal fashion. This requires me to leave the helm, and manually manouevre the sail to complete the tack.When the wind is stiff, it sometimes tacks without my 'help', however ...

  9. What's in a Rig? The Cutter Rig

    The Cutter Rig. By: Pat Reynolds Sailboat Rigs, Sailboats. What's in a Rig Series #2. A variation on the last installment of What's in a Rig (the sloop) is the Cutter Rig. Although it has gone through some changes through the course of history, the modern cutter rig is generally a set-up with two headsails. The forward sail is called the ...

  10. 12 Reasons The Cutter Is A Great Offshore Voyaging Rig

    So, to me, a true cutter is a boat that is rigged in such a way that the jib and staysail can and will be used at the same time pretty much any time the apparent wind is forward of the beam. And that in turn requires a high-cut jib-topsail (yankee) and a low-cut staysail, both with little or no overlap of the mast. This is not a cutter.

  11. Self tacking Staysail

    Self tacking Staysail. Herb Benavent. May 17, 2016. Staysails are the smaller jib on a cutter. They are mounted to the inner forestay, which is the stay inboard of the headstay and attaches only partway up the mast. When tacking a cutter, you have the jib and staysail to sheet on each tack. This can become quite a chore when short tacking ...

  12. Cutter Rig—Should You Buy or Convert?

    When does the cutter rig make sense, both when buying a new boat and considering a conversion? We have a simple decision-tree to make things simple. ... Even on out 25 ton boat, tacking the staysail is a very quick and easy business . Usually we get it almost all the way in by snubbing the winch, and then a couple of turns on the handle and we ...

  13. CRUISING SAILBOAT RIGS: Sloops, Cutters, and Solent Rigs

    Cruising sailors once upon a time preferred such rigs, at least on larger cruising boats, because each separate sail requiring handling was smaller and thus more manageable. These days, however, by far the most popular rig for both racing and cruising sailboats is the simple sloop rig. This has a single mast supporting a single Marconi mainsail ...

  14. Cutter rig set up

    The answer is - (example) on the typical 37-38 ft. sailboat @ ~13ft. beam and with a 130% LP (18ft. foot) theres no way in hell that you're gong to get any 'pull' directly in line between the clew and the tack on that 7.5ft. distance between the boats centerline and the 'rail'.

  15. Tacking with a cutter rig

    Loonsong has the "cutter" rig plus a 110 genoa. I think tacking a bigger genoa would indeed be impractical, as the 110 is a challenge. For 75% of my sailing I wish I could detach the inner forestay and make tacking the genny easier. However, Loonsong came to me with dual roller furlers, which I also really like, so I live with the tacking issue.

  16. Virtues of a Cutter Rig, by Lin and Larry Pardey

    Preview: Our Favorite Sailing Rig: The Cutter, by Lin and Larry Pardey. Email this Post to a Friend. F or any sailing boat under 45 feet, nothing beats a properly-designed cutter rig, especially if you sail shorthanded. By properly designed I mean, having a staysail that is large enough to be used as the only headsail in winds above 20 knots.

  17. Sailboat Cutters: The Ultimate Guide

    The Cutter Rig: The cutter rig distinguishes itself by featuring two headsails. An inner forestay equipped with a smaller headsail (known as a staysail) in addition to the genoa or jib. This rig offers increased sail area and flexibility in sail combinations, enabling sailors to adjust to varying wind conditions more effectively.

  18. New to cutter rigging, question.

    The cutter rig is not known for being close-winded. In light air and working upwind making multiple tacks, the cutter rig is less desirable. The inner forestay increases windage and the staysail cannot be efficient, working in the narrow slot, backwinded by the larger yankee. The inner forestay makes tacking the bigger sail a real chore.

  19. Why CUTTER rigged sailboats are the BEST! [Q&A]

    In this weeks Q&A we answer the following questions:00:41 - What are our thoughts on sailing the Central American coast?02:02 - Would we buy a Catamaran04:56...

  20. tacking problems on a cutter

    Deliberately backwinding the sail during the tack will help "blow it by" obstructions like the inner headstay or a babystay. By that I mean don't release the sheet on the tack till the sail fills on the new side. Another technique used by some (with furlers) is to partially furl the sail before tacking. OK offshore perhaps but a pain on a nice ...

  21. Offshore Log: The Reefing Staysail

    Although commonly referred to as a cutter rig, it's more properly called a double-headsail rig on most boats. A cutter rig implies, among other things, that you normally sail with two headsails: a jib and a staysail. In most cases, boats with a double-headsail rig use one headsail at a time: the big reefing headsail on the headstay, or the ...

  22. Cutter-Rigged Sailboat Definition: Everything You Need to Know

    A cutter-rigged sailboat is a versatile and elegant type of sailing vessel that offers sailors a range of benefits and capabilities. With its distinctive rigging setup, the cutter sailboat has long been favored by sailors for its maneuverability, stability, and ability to handle different wind conditions. In this comprehensive definition, we ...

  23. Bluewater Cruising: Cutter Rig versus Solent Rig

    Unlike the cutter rig, it is not intended for both headsails on a solent rig to be flown at the same time. That said, it is possible to use twin headsails (which help to steady the boat) to sail dead-downwind, with one sail poled out to starboard and the other to port. This is one of the major advantages of the solent rig.

  24. Yachts racing at the 2024 Superyacht Cup Palma

    BOAT lists the yachts lining up in this 28th edition, including Maximus, Rainbow and Calabash. ... The 38.8-metre cutter-rigged sloop Vijonara was the second hull to emerge from Hoek Design's 'Truly Classic' series. ... this flush-deck carbon sailing yacht boasts a 45-metre rig and a 3DL self-tacking jib for racing performance. The crew ...