Standing rigging is the part of the rigging which keep the spars of a sailingship secured in position. A mast experiences two kind of pressure: a longitudinal force (along the center-line of the ship) due to downward wind on the sails and the pitching of the ship into the hollow of the sea and a lateral force (perpendicular to the ships center-line) due to sideway wind and the rolling of the ship. To counter the longitudinal force the mast (or mast section) is supported from three points. One cable runs in front from the masttop and is secured either on deck, on the bowsprit or on another mast, this cable is called: stay. Two cables run from the masttop to either side starboard and port, these cables are called backstay.
The lateral force is countered by shrouds on either side of the mast.
The bowsprit is supported by bowspritstays


The stay support a mast(section) in the forward direction. A stay runs from a masttop either to the bowsprit; the center of the deck before the mast(section) or to the mast placed before.
The stays are named after the mastsection which is supported or, in case of stays of the foremast, after the jib hoisted onto the stay.

The naming is as follows (not all stays have to be applied on all ships)
Foremast from top to deck:

  1. Fore royalstay
  2. Flying-jib stay
  3. Outer-jib stay
  4. Middle-jib stay
  5. Inner-jib stay
  6. Fore topmast stay
  7. Fore-stay

The fore-stay is connected between the top of the (lower)mast and the deck just behind the bowsprit, all other fore-and jib-stays are connected to the bowsprit.

For the main-, mizzen- and jigger-mast the following naming is used from top to deck:

  1. Royal stay
  2. Topgallant stay
  3. Topmast stay
  4. (Main, mizzen or jigger) stay

The (lower)main, mizzen and jigger stays are connected to the deck just after or before the fore-, main- and mizzenmast respectively. The other stays are connected to these masts.
The names of stays are preceded by the corresponding mastname and when connected to the same mastsection by lower and upper.


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A pair of backstays supports a mast(section). Usually two backstays are made of one rope or cable, which in the middle is fasted on the masttop. The two ends are attached symmetrically to both the starboard and port sides with either rigging-screws or with deadeyes and lanyards. They are positioned aft of the supported mastsection to met the pressure of the downward wind on the sails. Each mastsection has at least one pair of backstays, but often two or even three pairs are applied.
The backstays are named after the mastsection they support.

From top to deck:

  1. Royal backstay
  2. Topgallant backstay
  3. Topmast backstay
  4. Top backstay

The names of backstays are preceded by the corresponding mastname.


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Shrouds backstays

Shrouds have two functions:

First they are a set of ropes supporting a mastsection in the lateral direction. The shrouds are symmetrical applied and connected to the mast below the masttop and both on starboard- as well as on port side just before the backstays. The shrouds supporting the topmast and topgallantmast however are ended on crosstrees at the masttop and the load is carried into the mast below by futtock shrouds.

The second functions is enabling seaman to climb into the masts. For that purpose the shrouds are equipped with thin ropes called ratlines traversing horizontal along the shrouds. To reach to top of the mast a Jacob's ladder might be used above the uppermost shrouds.

The naming follows the same convention as with backstays from top to deck:

  1. Royal shrouds (or a Jacob's ladder is applied)
  2. Topgallant shrouds
  3. Topmast shrouds
  4. (Fore; main; mizzen or jigger) shrouds

The names of shrouds are preceded by the corresponding mastname.


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Also the bowsprit is stabilized by stays, but via the bowsprit and the forestays also the foremast and successive masts are supported. Therefor the stays of the bowsprit (and jibboom) are the strongest stays of a sailingvessel. These stays are often constructed of chain or made of a steel rod.

The most important stay is the bobstay, positioned from the front of the bowsprit (as a jibboom is applied) or from approximately two-third of the bowsprit to the bow of the ship just above the waterline. The second stay (or number of stays) is the martingale. This stay runs from the top (and in case of more martingales from various points) of the bowsprit or jibboom via the dolphinstriker again to the bow of the ship.

The lateral pressure at the bowsprit is met by the symmetrically on either side placed bowsprit shrouds, which are fasted on the sides of the ship and one or more guys which are named after their position: flying jib-guy and (inner) martingale-guy.