Running rigging and safety for solo sailing

Arranging running rigging etc to the cockpit for solo sailing, by Horacio Marteleira

This answer by Horacio Marteleira describes the arrangement he has on #073, “Jakater” PH-C which he frequently sails singlehanded. However what is described can be just as relevant to anyone who sails, whether shorthanded or with ample crew. This is because in rough weather the less need to leave the cockpit the better. Also the easier it is to reef the more likely crews will reef in good time. The question was asked by someone with a centre cockpit, whereas Jakatar is aft cockpit but this does not make a great difference. Note that Jakatar is a mk1 PH-C which makes it easier to run lines along the deck outside either side of the cockpit. The supplementary comment from Olly James regarding the setup on Abenaki will interest anyone with a mk2 PH-C


On #073 “Jakatar”, all the lines are led aft for solo sailing. The halyard, vang/kicker, staysail sheet and two reefing lines go along the deck around the pilothouse via organizers and lead to clutches bolted to the side of the cockpit walls and are trimmed by winches also mounted to the side of the cockpit wall. The photos make this clear.

For anyone with a CC, I assume you can mount your mainsail traveller aft of the wheel for easy and fast control, which is essential for solo sailing.

Also I believe using a mainsail downhaul is a must for solo sailing, as well as running a single harness lifeline along the centre of the deck between the granny bars and the mast so that you’ll never fall overboard.

The photos show the running rigging setup on #073, “Jakatar” for solo sailing. On the left of the mast are three halyards (main, staysail and assymetrical, don’t need a halyard for the genoa). Then the kicker/vang, the thinner main downhaul, and 2 leech reefing lines, 1 luff reefing line (I washed the other luff line and forgot to install it again). Plus there is the topping lift secured to the bottom of the mast which is the only line that does not go back to the cockpit.

The other photographs show the organizers, about the same on port and starboard, leading back to clutches and winches. The luff reefing lines go to a block on the toerail and then directly to a winch. The staysail sheet goes to a clutch and so do the lines of the running backstays.

The preventer lines, not rigged now but nearly always rigged when sailing, go from a shackle at the boomjack attachment point forward, through the midship cleat and back to a free winch, normally the winches on the pilot house. The preventers are for safety purposes but also brilliant for preventing the boom from jolting when sailing downwind.

Another important aspect: I use only one lifeline for the harness, which goes forward between the mast and the granny bars and ends at the staysail tack. This way, using a short tether, I can’t go overboard even if I tried. I also have a longer tether to switch to if necessary and used on a crawl in rough weather. When sailing solo, falling overboard with the silly setup of a lifeline along the side of the deck, which provides a false sense of safety, will only prolongue your agony.

Oh yes, the main must be easily depowered from the wheel. Having most of the lines run over the pilothouse to 2 winches on either side may be better than what I have, not sure. Hope I covered everything and my apologies for the dirty deck.the lines running over the pilothouse may be better, would have to try it and compare. Either way, having the lines led to the cockpit is the way to go for solo sailing.

I currently have the first two reefs rigged. The first mostly to deal with weatherhelm, the second to deal with weatherhelm and heeling. Many times I have cursed for not havig rigged the third reef for 30+ knot winds. Having 3 reefs is ideal, but I ran out of blocks and clutches, and going forward to place the 2nd and 3rd luff reef points manually while solo sailing is somewhat wishfull thinking and downright hazardous.


Olly James : On “Abenaki” I have mine running up and over coach roof into a conduit. Abenaki has the main halyard, main reefing line, main sheet and boom vang run back to the aft cockpit. It has a Reefrite furling boom and all done from an electric winch at the push of a button whilst sipping a beer. You can see that there are not so many lines, this is because Abenaki has in-boom furling. Although Abenaki is a mk1 PH-C this approach may be very relevant for anyone seeking to run these lines back to the cockpit for a mk2 PH-C as they cannot so easily run lines along the side decks.