An Introduction to Rigging, pt. 5: How to rig and de-rig a boat

Previously: Intro to rigging, spread, and span || Oar length, inboard, and blade profile || Pitch || Rigger height and work through

Rigging is one of those things where I feel like you can just look at the boat and see that “Oh, there are nuts and bolts holding the riggers on … so to de-rig all I need to do is take the nuts and bolts off, sit them somewhere where they won’t be lost, and then put them back on when the rigger is off.” You’d be surprised how many times that has not the case.

Some coaches put their coxswains in charge of rigging the boats themselves, others go through at the end and quickly make sure everything is tightened up, others just walk around with their wrenches in case anyone needs one. All are fine for you to do but all still require you to still know how to rig the boat, which wrenches to use on which bolts, etc.

How to rig a boat

Before you get started, make sure that you know the parts of the rigger and what the front stay and back stay are before you rig your boat. Knowing this can help you avoid putting all the riggers on backwards.

Something very important to remember is to not tighten the bolts too much. If you tighten the bolts too much you can crack the ribs that make up the frame of the hull. My coaches have always had the rowers tighten them to finger-tight (as tight as you can get them using just your fingers) and then the coxswains would go around and two-finger tighten them with the wrenches (as tight as you can get them with only your index and middle finger leveraging the wrench). Then they’d go around and make any final adjustments.

Don’t forget to check the top nut on the oarlock either. These need to be locked on pretty tightly (more than two-finger tight) so make sure you go over them when you’re tightening everything else.

How to de-rig a boat

When you take the nuts and bolts off, put them in the shoes or in the tracks. Do not try and hold them in your hand because you’ll probably drop them. If you drop one, obviously look for it but if you can’t find it tell your coach and/or coxswain so they can bring you a spare. The rigger needs all of the nuts and bolts so if you think your coach will be pissed that you dropped one nut and/or bolt, wait until you see him when your entire rigger has come off in the middle of practice and you tell him you knew it was missing one of the pieces.

Last thing, just as a general reminder – when you’re rigging a boat, you’re usually headed out to practice or race immediately after and when you’re de-rigging you probably just got home from a regatta or you’re heading home after practice. Regardless, there’s always somewhere you have to be and you want to get there as quickly as possible. Don’t rush the rigging process to the point where things aren’t done properly but don’t move at a glacial pace either. Rigging an eight should take no more than 10-15 minutes, TOPS. De-rigging should be even quicker.

Once you’re done rigging your seat either help the person beside you or go somewhere else. Personally I like for rowers to go away when they’re done, that way I can see who’s left and how much still needs to be done. If there’s seven people all standing around the boat or one seat or whatever it just makes it hard to maneuver around the boat to check everything. You can help speed up the process by moving out of the way when you’re done so the coxswains and/or coaches can finish up.

Next week: Tools for rigging

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