Please select your home edition
Upffront 2020 Foredeck Club LEADERBOARD

Continuous versus Discontinuous Standing Rigging

by Phil Anniss 26 Nov 2020 17:00 GMT
Continuous vs Discontinuous Standing Rigging © Future Fibres

Regardless of material choice (wire, rod or composite), there are two main types of lateral rigging configurations, referred to as Discontinuous or Continuous rigging.

In this article we outline the differences between them, their relative pros and cons, and finally the impact of different standing rigging materials.

What is Discontinuous and Continuous Rigging?

Continuous vs Discontinuous Standing Rigging - photo © Selden Mast

Discontinuous standing rigging is where there is a physical junction/termination of the individual shrouds at each spreader tip. For example, at spreader 1 the V1, V2 and D2 are all individual cables which are seated in the tip-cup.

Continuous rigging is where the shrouds run from deck level up to the mast and pass through the spreaders, rather than being terminated. On a mast with wire shrouds continuous rigging is quite common. On small boats with a one spreader rig it is completely logical for the single cap shroud to run from deck chainplate to the top of the mast. On a two spreader rig it is also common practice for the D2 to run down to deck level which means there are two wires making up the V1.

Continuous vs Discontinuous Standing Rigging - photo © Selden Mast

However, with bigger 3-spreader masts, you normally see a transition to a discontinuous setup, or some sort of hybrid. The wire cap shroud may still be full length, but rather than having the D2 and D3 shrouds running down to deck level, they are terminated at the spreader tip.

As masts get bigger There are a number of reasons why discontinuous rigging becomes more practical.

The greater the number of spreaders the bigger the load differences between the different rigging elements. On a five-spreader rig for example, the V5/D6 is only supporting the load of the topmast, whereas the V1 is carrying the load from the whole rig. In addition, vertical loads are generally higher than diagonal loads.

Continuous vs Discontinuous Standing Rigging - photo © Selden Mast

Therefore, discontinuous rigging allows the break strength and stiffness of each individual vertical/diagonal stay to be optimised, thus reducing weight.

Spreader tip loads are significant and it is very important that spreaders are kept perpendicular to the mast. Therefore, securely clamping a continuous shroud to the spreader tip is essential to prevent vertical movement of the spreader. As loads increase, it gets harder to securely clamp a wire to the spreader tip and a physical junction becomes easier to manage.

Finally, the practical handling of shorter lengths of discontinuous rigging, off the boat, is far easier than long continuous wires.

The primary downside of discontinuous rigging is the increased weight and cost associated with multiple cable terminations/junctions at each spreader tip.

Materials versus Configuration

Wire - We see a split between small rigs (continuous) and big rigs (discontinuous) for the reasons outlined above.

Nitronic 50 rod offers significant performance benefits over wire and dominated the race scene through the 1970s to 1990s. A number of factors meant that discontinuous rigging was the logical configuration:

Its rigidity meant that Nitronic rod was very difficult to coil and practical handling limitations forced it away from continuous.

The relatively small, compact and lightweight rod terminations limited the weight penalty and allowed cable sizes to be optimised over the standing rigging package.

PBO (Polybenzoxazole - for those that are interested!) was the first, super lightweight, composite fibre rigging material which started to take over from rod, in the grand prix racing scene, during the 1990s. PBO is a very slippery fibre and difficult to terminate. Cables are built using a winding process where an individual fibre tow is continuously wound around two end terminals, creating a fibre loop to the required strength/stiffness (the more rounds of the fibre, the stronger the cable). As each cable is custom made, this allowed mast designers to fully optimise cable specifications to their individual load requirements.

PBO standing rigging is coilable - photo © Future Fibres

PBO is coilable and continuous rigging is practically possible. However, the terminations are extremely light and the ability to customise cable specs over the rig outweighed the weight/windage of the spreader junctions. Therefore discontinuous became the norm, in all cases except one and two spreader rigs.


There are two general types of carbon rigging: solid carbon rods or bundles of small carbon rods.

Solid carbon rods are a lightweight version of Nitronic rods and the practical limitations of handling long lengths of solid carbon means that discontinuous is the only option.

Solid carbon rods can be used for discontinuous standing rigging - photo © Future Fibres

However Future Fibres ECsix / ECthree is made up of hundreds of 1mm carbon rods bundled together which give it enough flexibility to be coiled. The game changer with this product is that the number of rods in the cable can be reduced over its length which means you can optimize the load carrying capabilities of the cable - e.g. a larger V1 section which is gradually reduced down as you go up the rig.

ECsix / ECthree is made up of hundreds of 1mm carbon rods bundled together which give it enough flexibility to be coiled - photo © Future Fibres

By filling the bundle with resin at the spreader junctions, it becomes a solid, low profile and very stable junction at the spreader tips. This junction also allows the smaller diagonals to be merged with the main vertical. The combination of coilability and the ease of changing the cable specification over its length means that virtually all ECsix rigs, from single spreader through to six spreader superyachts, are continuous.


Continuous standing rigging offers the ultimate performance solution however its application is dependent on material properties and the number of spreaders / size of the rig. Practical handling plays a big part in the decision process and there are trade-offs to be made between increased weight and windage of spreader tip junctions with optimising sizes for each rigging cable.

If you have any question about your standing rigging or would like to investigate options for upgrading or retrofitting to improve your sailing performance, please do not hesitate to contact us at or use the Composite Rigging Enquiry form.

Continuous vs Discontinuous Standing Rigging - photo © Future Fibres

Related Articles

Ronstan SHOCK Blocks
Simple efficient low friction rings The name of the Ronstan SHOCK Block is derived from SHeaveless blOCK and reflects the growing trend for replacing ball bearing blocks, with "low friction rings", in a whole range of sailing system applications. Posted on 22 Jan
Ronstan Cam Cleats
Lighter, stronger and kinder to ropes Simple, reliable and extremely versatile, Cam Cleats are a staple on boats of all sizes, either as the primary rope holding solution on dinghies, or as part of a purchase system on larger boats and yachts. Posted on 15 Jan
Harken Small Boat Furler range
From 14ft dinghy to 30ft sportsboat there's a model for you Harken have a dedicated range of furlers for dinghies and keelboats up to 30ft (3mm, 5mm and 6mm diameter forestays). These are what would term "structural furlers", in that they are an integral part of the main forestay. Posted on 1 Jan
Harken Radial versus Performa Winches
Phil Anniss from talks about the differences Harken have an extensive range of winches which are split into two primary ranges: Radial and Performa. In this blog we help you understand the key differences between these ranges and guide you to the right choice for you and your boat's needs. Posted on 23 Dec 2020
New product launch - Karver V3 Furlers
A major redesign of the entire KF continuous line furler range Karver have just released details of a major redesign of their entire KF continuous line furler range. Almost 20 years of end user feedback and manufacturing experience have been brought together in this extensive upgrade. Posted on 18 Dec 2020
Improve your Race Starts
Velocitek V2 ProStart is the distillation of more than a decade of experience The new Velocitek V2 ProStart is the distillation of more than a decade of experience and customer feedback building stand-alone, GPS-based, distance-to-line starting aids. It's all about time and distance. Posted on 10 Dec 2020
How Long is my Furling Line?
Guide to estimating when you can't measure It's a simple question but if you are buying a new furler or need to organise a replacement furling line and do not have access to measure it....... how long should it be!? Posted on 3 Dec 2020
Celebrating curves with the LOOP Flexi Stick-on
These padeyes can stick to a curved surface, and take a lot of weight You would probably agree that there are very few flat surfaces on a sailing yacht, whereas most hardware bases are flat. Using modern materials and construction methods, the innovative LOOP Flexi Stick-on padeye offers some interesting possibilities. Posted on 19 Nov 2020
Straight Talking
Mast and standing rigging terminology from is all about performance sailing hardware and rigging systems. The heart, and driving force, of any sailing yacht is its mast and standing rigging which support the sails. In this article we outline the key terminology. Posted on 12 Nov 2020