How to set up and reef a bermudan rig.

bermudan rigs

bermudan sail



hook the outhaul into the clewtighten and cleat the outhaulhook the kicker to the masttie stopper knot in end of sheetadjust sheet bridle




Our most efficient sailing rig  is a simple Bermudan. It is easy to set up, efficient and quick to reef.






The head (top corner) of the sail is tied to the eye at the top of the mast.






The thin cord is fastened off at the top eye, and then threaded in a spiral down and around the mast, going through each eye in turn.






 When you reach the bottom of the sail the thin cord is tied off on the final eye. A separate cord is tied through the bottom eye (tack) and round the mast to make a loop that holds the sail to the mast. A second line also ties into the tack and goes through the hole in the mast ring and goes through the cleat. This line is the downhaul and is used to hold the front edge of the sail (luff) taut.

The sail is usually stored by rolling around the mast, which keeps it crease free and in good condition. The mast is free standing and fits into the mast tube through the mast thwart. The sail is unfurled and the eyelet in the free corner (the clew) is attached to the hook on the boom (the outhaul).


The boom jaws are pushed onto the mast above the mast ring and the outhaul line is pulled and cleated off. This stretches the sail out along the boom. It is best to have a bit of slack in the foot of the sail to allow it to blow into a curve. The amount or depth of curve is called the draft. Generally the draft should be about 10% of the chord (width). In good conditions it is best to set it with about 8 inches of curve away from the boom to get the most power from the sail. In stronger winds the outhaul can be tightened to flatten the sail. This de-powers it and makes it more managable.

The kicking strap is hooked into the eye at the bottom of the mast, the line tightened and cleated off. This prevents the mast from turning and unfurling the sail.

The kicker also holds the boom down and prevents the top of the sail twisting off  and spilling some of the wind. It does this by tensioning the trailing edge of the sail (leech). In strong winds the kicker should be tightened to keep the leech tight to reduce sail twist.

Tightening the kicker also bends the mast back somewhat, takes a bit of the shape out of the sail and de-powers it.


The sheet is threaded through the pulley blocks on the boom and a stopper knot tied in the end of the sheet. This knot is important as it keeps the rig attached to the canoe if it is removed  in a capsize and prevents it from sinking and being lost.

The pulley block nearest the mast is on a rope strop. This can be slid along the boom so that the sheet comes to hand.


The other end of the sheet has a rope bridle. Each end threads through a hole in the rear thwart or deck edge. These are then tied off with a stopper knot. The length of each leg of the bridle should be adjusted so that the boom just touches it in the centre of the canoe when the sheet is pulled in tight. This reduces the force needed on the sheet to hold the sail close hauled.

There is a downhaul line at the bottom corner of the sail (tack) attached to the mast. This is used to control the tension on the leading edge of the sail (the luff). in light winds this is normally quite slack. As the winds get stronger and more kicker tension is applied the sail stretches and creases form along the luff behind the mast. These should be just removed by tensioning the downhaul line to stretch the luff. Do not over do the luff tension or you get a crease running up the sail behind the mast which upsets the shape of the sail and the flow of the wind over it.


sail fully outreef taken with a few turns of the mastsmallest size of reefed sailReefing is a skill that should be practiced so that you can manage it easily and quickly. It is best done with the canoe heading into the wind and the quicker it can be achieved the better. If it takes too long the canoe will tend to end up sideways onto the wind with the sail flogging which could lead to an upset. We have practiced this a lot and we can do it one handed in about 10 seconds with the other hand on the tiller keeping the canoe heading into the wind.

Firstly uncleat and slacken the outhaul.

Slacken and unhook the kicker.

Turn the mast so as to roll up the sail.

The more turns you do the smaller the sail becomes.

Reconnect and tighten the kicker.

Tighten and cleat the outhaul.

Generally 2 or 3 turns of the mast will give a sufficient first reef, but further reefs can be taken by repeating these steps. Because it is quick and easy to put in a reef a novice sailor will be able to reduce sail early as the wind increases to keep everything safe and under control. Experienced sailors will be able to keep on sailing even in challenging conditions by putting in heavy reefs. We have manged to sail upwind in Force 7 conditions on Lake Bala with a 54 sq ft sail reefed down to about 12 sq ft, when everyone else had to leave the water. This is extreme but it can be done


If you leave your rigged sailing canoe on a jetty or beach then it is best to reef to it's smallest size before leaving it. If it is windy it is better to leave it with the rig completely furled, lifted out and stowed on the deck.


The rig is best stored with the sail left on the mast, rolled tight, and put in the sail bag. This keeps the sailcloth crease free and in good condition