Re-stepping mast, tensioning, rigging


Member III
Blogs Author
Hi All,

After quite some time, I have in hand all of the parts I need to re-step my mast with new standing rigging. I have never set a mast in a keelboat or tuned standing rigging before. I understand there are at least three approaches:

1. Hire a rigger to do it for you. Logical, but where's the fun in that?

2. Set the rigging tension to your yacht-maker's specifications.
I have a 32-200, the very closest of cousins to the 32-3. The site has no 32-200 Owner's manual, but has a 32-3 manual. I find in section 6 a narrative description of the tuning process but no tension specs in lbs etc. I could get a Loos gauge, but I don't know what I'm aiming for.

3. Go sailing and see if the mast is in column, and if not, fix it.
Okay, but first I need to get a baseline value to be able to sail the boat away.

I'm planning on having the boatyard basically do this for me, but I want to know if there are any other tips anyone can share.

For you owners who pull your boats out every winter, do you just loosen turnbuckles and then re-tighten them to witness marks from the previous season?

Thank you in advance,


Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Blogs Author
My take on it is, let the yard set it up and then, as you say, go sailing. Visual inspection under various conditions will suggest any adjustments needed. All the basic tuning guides describe the tuning procedures, and they're pretty intuitive: The mast should be in column under all conditions.

I don't rely on a gauge, because if some alleged recommended gauge setting looked wrong I'd ignore it anyhow.

A racing boat with a bendy mast and running backs and extreme forces from extra stays and poles can get complicated. Ours are simple.

One other gain from setting it up yourself: you know the forces and have seen them in action. Few casual owners of sailboats look at the column of their mast when the wind blows hard, or when bashing through swells. But we're supposed to routinely reconfirm mast column along with the condition of fittings and stays. More than one of us here has noticed with astonishment a missing toggle pin, clevis, yanked-out ring or even a leeward stay swinging free. Prevention is attention.


Member I
I replaced all my standing rigging this past spring prior to launch. A neighboring rigger built the shrouds and stays to my measurements and I installed using a lift rather than dropping the mast. I chose to do the tensioning on my own and as Christian says, a swinging leeward upper shroud will get your attention!!
After that 1st sail, I found a tutorial to set tension at approximate 15% of breaking strength of cable. 1st hand tension each shroud/stay and adjust as needed to place mast in column. This took me quite a few back and forths to loosen then tension other side and get every thing equally hand tight and I resorted to actually counting turns on turnbuckle. 2nd, to tape end of a ruler to cable 2 mm above body of turnbuckle and move to other side and with tools, tighten turnbuckle, when measurement reaches 5 mm you have achieved 15% and can say done..well after you check column of mast and do it again with more or less turns..then say done..well there are a couple of more shrouds to go but nearly done!
Now with the season at end and scheduled to be hauled, I fully expect to be tuning the rig at next launch, in the pursuit of improvement for me and the boat as I suspect I've had a season of slack headstay. Something, I've recently learned, is bad joojoo.
And one other qualifier is that the stretching measurement technique works for any cable, but actual measurement will be differing for each cable size so additional research may be needed for your rig.

G Kiba

Member III
A Loos gauge is easy to use and very handy because you can check for equal tension port and starboard. You can also use it on similar boats in the marina to get an idea of how much tension they have. However, like the internet, don't believe everything you read is correct. With repeated use, you can also use the gauge to calibrate your arm to feel a certain amount of tension qualitatively ;). Pretty fun game!

I to have never stepped a keel stepped mast. But I have been tuning my rig on my "new-to-me" boat. I think the 911 is similar to your boat. I searched for tension numbers online just to get a general idea of what others have done in the past (consider where they sail. SoCal is very different from the SF Bay). Then I took a reading on my rig to see how it compared. If you had the Loos prior to dropping the mast you could have noted the tension. I started with getting the mast in column visually. The tip of my mast was falling off to starboard what looked like 2-3". So I backed off the turnbuckles and slowly added tension evenly on both sides. Then went sailing with a friend driving to view and make adjustments based on any bending, pumping, and the amount of slack on the lee side shrouds. Hey, my boat is in Richmond (Marina Bay Yacht Harbor) for the Fall and Winter this year. Maybe I will see you on the water?


Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
I bought the Loos gauge and use it as described in the posts above. I thought it was very handy, considering that I didn't at first (Past tense? Hah!) know what I was looking for.

When I paid Big Buck$ for a yard to step the mast, they just slapped it on - not even close to vertical. And of course, when I hired a local crane to do it, the rigging was all up to me.

BTW: When I re-rigged, and got my own hands in the process, I discovered that Ericson used a variety of different sized pin holes in the different chainplates, but the rig had only one size of pin in all fittings - a discrepancy that has not yet been corrected. (e.g. "Fittings for that size wire aren't made with that size pin!")


Member III
The first year of ownership Rhumb Ration’s mast was set and tuned by the launching yard, and then we sailed her home. That fall we brought her to a different yard (long story) to be hauled, and then she traveled to a third yard to be launched in the spring. Trust me, it was a crazy year

Anyway, the launching yard had put her mast in, and it was assumed we were all set, but leaving the basin for our mooring I found that half the shrouds were not even tight!!! Glad I saw that before hoisting the sail. As the OP said the 35-3 that we have includes written guidance on tensioning, and I had a crash course in it right then and there. Now every year I go through the exercise. I don’t believe that the same values port and stbd for cable tension will ensure a straight mast every time. I tighten until it is straight, and then follow the guidelines in the manual doing equal turns. So far this has worked for me, and since we haul out each year and unstep, I would think I would have to hire a professional rigger every year if I didn’t do this myself. Not sure how I feel about witness marks, what if they put last years port shroud on the stbd next year?