Sailboat Rigging 101 with Brion Toss

Brion Toss ascending the mast of s/v Osprey

This past Sunday, Melissa and I had the opportunity to attend a sailboat rigging and tuning seminar presented by Brion Toss. For those of you unfamiliar with sailboats, the rigging refers to the wires and hardware used to keep the mast aligned and tensioned. This allows the sails to work at their peak efficiency and is a veritable art. Brion Toss  (  is perhaps the best known rigger in the world; certainly in our part of it, and is the author of numerous books and DVDs on rigging, rope work, sailmaking and other disciplines of the dedicated seaman.

Osprey is a beautiful Annapolis 44 owned by Steve and Elsie Hulsizer for the last 29 years. Brion spoke about the basic objectives of rig tuning and showed us how to use a tension gauge and other tools of the rigger, including this fetching gear keeper  modeled by one of our class mates.

Tools work better when they aren't at the bottom of the ocean. Brion's rule is if you drop it, you buy it.

Fortunately for us, Osprey’s rig was nicely out of tune which allowed Brion to show the class some basic adjustments. It also gave us an opportunity to calibrate our eyes. For example Osprey’s mast is designed to bend  a few inches to allow the sails to be shaped for various wind conditions and points of sail. After we had all looked up the mast to see the bend and then guess at how much bend was actually  present, Brion then showed us how to confirm our guesses with an actual measurement on the ground.

The class tested our ability to detect the bend in Osprey's mast

Brion had more tips than he could possibly impart in three short hours. One item of interest to me was his tips on adjusting the roller furling to minimize friction and wear.

Michael studying Osprey's roller furler after Brion's adjustment

Michael studying Osprey's roller furler after Brion's adjustment

It was a great class that gave Melissa and me some confidence that we could perform this important task and we came away with a great appreciation for  Brion’s expertise and skill as an instructor. I also appreciated Brion’s safety conscious attitude and will definitely use some of his techniques for ascending the mast the next time I go aloft. Below is a short clip of Brion coming down after adjusting the intermediary stays at the spreaders.

4 thoughts on “Sailboat Rigging 101 with Brion Toss

  1. Neat!! Rigging is the next major project Tate and I will undertake, probably next spring. So cool to have someone come right where you were..and the best in the world? Even better.

    I hope the weather is starting to get warmer! Every in the photos has jackets on. lol

    • Good luck on your rigging project. Are you going to undertake this on your own or have a pro work with you? I think a lot of riggers are happy to teach you the basics as they go along.

      And although it was a little cool that morning, it was a beautiful day. Even in summer, a jacket can be handy on the water here.

      • No Professional so far, only Tate and his book knowledge. We’ll see how it goes.

        We are going to haul her up out of the water next spring to do the rig project.

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