A sailing ship and especially a square-rigged sailingship has a rather large number of ropes to handle the sails, yards and booms of the vessel. This part of the cordage is called the running rigging. All types of sail, either triangular-, square- or gaf-sails have their typical cordage to handle the sail.

Triangular sails

Jibs, staysails are triangular sails that are hoisted on a stay. The sail is attached to the stay with rings. On the head of the sail (uppermost point) the halyard is connected. With this line the sail is raised along the stay. The end of the downhaul is also connected to the head and further down to the tack (lowermost-forward point) and from this point further down. Downhauls are used to lower the sail and both the halyard and the downhaul are used to adjust the tension of the sail.
On the third corner of the staysail (clew) the sheets are connected. Sheets are made of one rope of cable in the middle connected to the clew. Dependent to which side of the ship the sail is set, either the starboard- or port-sheet will be tightened.

A second type of triangular sails is the topsail used on schooners and barquentines and above the spanker with barques. Originally the luffside of the topsail was connected with hoops (loops of rope around the mast) to the mast, but nowadays a steel cable called leader runs along the mast to which the luff of the topsail is connected with rings. The sail is hoisted with a halyard connected to the head of the sail and furled with a downhaul which runs from the head via the tack downwards.
With a sheet attached to the clew the topsail is set to top of the gaff (or monkeygaff).


Jans-sajt: www.jans-sajt.se/contents/Navigation/Rigging/Rigging4Landlubbers.htm

Square rigging1
Square rigging2

The running rigging of a square sail can be split according to two functions. The first function is to hoist and furl the sail. Contrary to what most people believe (this is probably due to Hollywood movies) sails are not hoisted and furled by quite a number of sailors dangerously moving high on a yard, large sails are far to heavy to be handled in this way.
Instead the sails are handled from the deck by a set of ropes. The principle is the same as with plissť shade which are used to reduce sunshine through a window. At the frontside of a sail ropes are running from the foot of the sail to the head. On five or six points along the forefront of the sail the rope traverse through rings.
These ropes have names dependent on their position. On each leechside of the sail clewlines are in use. These lines run from the clew to the corner of the upperyard and from there via the mast down to the deck. In the middle of the sail four, six or eight buntlines are placed running from the foot via the head to the mast and than the deck. Large sails like a course might have leechlines to improve furling. From the clews to the loweryard and from there on to the deck sheets are located.

When a squaresail has to be hoisted, the clewlines, buntlines and when applied the leechlines will be released from the pinrails on deck. The sheets are pulled, this will result in the setting of the sail between the upper- and loweryard. The sheets will be fastened on their place along the pinrail.
Furling the sail is the other way around: release the sheets, pull the clewlines and buntlines (and if there the leechlines) and the sail will be furled against the upperyard (when a ship enters a port, the sails in general will be neatly tied up by sailors on yards).

The setting of a course is slightly different, since a course has no loweryard. The clews of a course have both a sheet as well as a tack. The tack belays the course in the forward direction while the sheet fixes the course in the aft direction.

The second function of the running rigging of a square sail is setting the sail windward. The sail is connected with the upper- and loweryard. The yards can be rotated round the mast (to a certain limit) This rotation is done by pulling and releasing the starboard and portbraces These braces are connected to the end of a yard and run either direct downward aft to the deck (the lower sails) or via the mast placed aft. For the most aft mast (mizzen or jigger) those braces run to the mast before.

When a sailingship, due to the force of the wind, heels-over the yards and squaresails are out of the horizontal position. This result in less efficiency of the sails. With the topping-lifts the yards (and sails) can be set to the horizontal position again by tilting the yard.

Some yards (not on all ships) can, when the sail is furled, be lowered to just above the loweryard. This is done with strong ropes called halyards.


Wikepedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clewlines_and_buntlines
Wikepedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braces_(sailing)
Jans-sajt: www.jans-sajt.se/contents/Navigation/Rigging/Rigging4Landlubbers.htm

Gaff rigging

Compared with square sails, the running rigging of a gaff sail is rather simple. A gaff sail is set between boom and gaff. The gaff itself is hoisted by two halyards named after their connection point. The throat halyard lifts and drops the gaff near the mast, while the peak halyard handles the end of the gaff.
Near the aft end of the boom a sheet runs from the boom to the deck. The sheet allows the boom to be set either to starboard or port. Vangs connect the end of the gaff with both the starboard and port sides. The vangs stabilize the gaff.
Some ships (especially with German spankers) use a topping lift. This rope is connecting the boom, gaff and monkeygaff to the top of the aftmast and from there to the deck.


Wikepedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Throat_halyard
Wikepedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boom_(sailing)
Wikepedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaff_vang