Trapeze Rigging

Trapeze Rigging

Note: This document previously told you to attach your trapezes to the shroud through-bolt. This was an error, they go to the upper diamond-wire through-bolt.

A Laser 2 without a trapeze is like a Porsche with a four cylinder engine. People often have the misconception that a trapeze is expensive, or hard to use. A simple trapeze system can be added to a boat for less than $100, not including the harness.

As for technical difficulty, I've taken over 15 flat out sailing newbies on my Laser 2, as in never been on a sailboat before in their lives, and all but one of them have been on the wire in the first five minutes, and loved it. About half of them were scared before they tried it, but once they were out there, they realized there was nothing to be scared of. The one who never got out was just plain too chicken to try!

There are three issues to discuss regarding trapeze:

I'll add a techniques section later, for now this is about getting your boat trap rigged, and making it as effective as possible, if it is already rigged.


If your boat doesn't already have trapeze, here is what you're going to need. APS part numbers and prices as of 28 June 2005 are diagramed here. Starting from the upper mast where the shrouds bolt on:

All trapezes have loop height adjustment, which determines how high you are off the water. This system also has handle-height adjustment. This enables "straight-arm" trapezing - a much easier and more reliable way of getting on and off the wire. This technique will be discussed in the techniques section.

Building the wires

If you are starting from scratch, you really should just call APS, tell them what length wires you want, and ask them to build it. Their rigging charge is modest, and it will spare you having to learn how to crimp, and finding the tools to do so. Ask for John Maloney, and reference the above diagram. If you are doing this yourself, I recommend doing it all at West Marine. Most of them have all the parts except the tangs, and they should have a workbench with a mounted (and powerful) swage tool - easier than doing it in mid air, and saves you having to find/buy your own. Go there when you have an hour to spare and come out with completely built trapeze wires.

  1. Put a piece of heat shrink on the wire
  2. Put a swage on the wire (AKA a nickel oval sleeve with inner diameter equal to wire)
  3. Put the short end of a tang in the middle of a thimble
  4. Put the wire through the tang around the thimble (in the channel), and through the other hole in the swage
  5. Tighten the wire so there is no slack around the thimble, the swage is right up against the thimble, and there is very little end showing out of the swage.
  6. Crimp the swage (use a real swage tool, don't get creative). I crimp it 3 times, middle, then each end.
  7. Slide the heat shrink back around the swage.
  8. Heat the heat shrink with a lighter, and make sure it covers the stainless strands at the end of the swage opposite the thimble.
  9. If you forgot to put the heat shrink on the wire and you just did it now, put the second piece on now too b/c you won't get another chance.
  10. Repeat the above steps except without the tang at the other end.

Rigging the boat

  1. The fairleads go inside the shroud just before the deck angles down. They go about an inch back, your deck should have two indentations showing you approximately where they go. Drill the first hole based on the inboard divit, then use the fairlead itself to locate the second hole. Fill the holes with sealant before screwing down the fairleads.
  2. Locate the cheek block about a foot and a half back from the bow, at least a few inches behind the spinnaker tube opening if you have one. Orient it so the eye (the part the line goes through) is facing the bow. Drill, seal & secure.

Rigging the trapeze

Here is a diagram, helping you visualize the following.
  1. With the mast down, unbolt a shroud, and put the open end of a tang on the bolt. Then replace the shroud and nut. Repeat with the other trapeze.
  2. If your tangs aren't already connected to your wires, do so with two quick links.
  3. Step the mast. Untangle the trapeze wires.
  4. We'll get to the handles & height adjusters in the next section. For now, let's complete the easy stuff.
  5. Tie a bowline making a 2" long loop in one end of the shock cord.
  6. Run the other end of the shock cord through one of the new fairleads, then through the cheek block on the deck, and then through the other fairlead.
  7. Pull some extra shock cord through and tie a temporary not to give you some slack.
  8. Tie another 2" long loop in the other end. Then release the temporary knot.
  9. Ok, now you are ready for the fun part; go on to components in the next section.

Handles & loops

Here you have lots of choices, but I'm only going to get into one option. You can do anything you want, but I've tried it all, and this is the most effective, lightest, least problematic, and as it happens, cheapest (yes, sometimes "keep it simple" really is the best way to go).

Here is the story with the handles. Older trapezes had various types of metal handles. Nobody makes boats this way any more - metal handles swing around a lot, hit you in the face, and get caught in the rigging. Now everybody (except catamarans, they haven't caught up yet) uses what we call "trapeze doughnuts". They look strange at first, and people think they will be uncomfortable before they learn how to use them. They work by putting a disc at the bottom of a section of wire or line, but the handle is the line, not the disc. You grab the line like a fishing rod, and your hand hits the disc, which stops your hand from sliding down. This system is almost weightless, it doesn't get caught on anything, and is significantly cheaper - there is no down side.

As for where to get the trapeze doughnuts, there are a few options. You can make them yourself, or order them from APS's trapeze systems page. If you want to pay, the two to look at are the "SeaSure Trapeze Doughnut" (cheapest, perfectly effective, just not pretty), or the large "RWO Trapeze Doughnuts". If you get the RWO's pry out the center grey insert so the line will fit through. If you want to make your own, go to the supermarket and buy a standard cutting board from the kitchen section - you want one made of Delrin, these are the ones that feel waxy and very stiff. Find, borrow, or buy a 2" hole cutter, and cut two 2" discs out of the board. File/grind the sharp edges down. There you go. You may have to enlarge the center hole, but not too much you want the line to be difficult, but not impossible, to get through the hole on the second pass (it will go through twice). This is paret of the adjuster mechanism. Note that if you have to buy a hole cutter, this will not end up being cheaper unless you plan on making a bunch of them for friends or whatever.

To attach the handles and cleat to the wire, do the following (note that this system depends on the line diameter being coordinated with the size of the thimbles, doughnuts and trapeze cleats): Take 4 feet of 3/16" low-stretch line (I recommend Marlow Excel Pro). Put a single hitch in one end. Run the other end through the eye in the wire, then through a doughnut, then through the top eye of the trapeze cleat, then back through the doughnut, and back out the eye in the wire. Both ends should be sticking out in the same direction. Finish the final end with another hitch.

To attach the trapeze loop, take another 5 feet of 3/16" low-stretch line. Attach it to the bottom of the cleat with a buntline hitch (see diagram). Go through the block in the trapeze loop, then back up, and through the cleat going over the roller and out through the teeth of the cleat. Tie two eight knots in this end, about a fist-width apart. One stops it from going through. The other gives you somethign to grab onto to pull yourself up. Note that the diagram shows a bowline at the end, that will work too, and be easier to pull on.

See the rigging diagram to get the visual on how this all goes together, and a little more detail on how to tie it all up, etc.


Dinghy sailors use a trapeze technique called "straight-arming." This is very different from how catamaran sailors use their trapeze, and there are good reasons for it.

These are the steps for getting "out on the wire":

You need to have the handle height adjusted so that you can reach it with a slight bend in your elbow while sitting on the deck. The loop needs to be about in the middle of it's range. You want the loop to be at a height were you have to push your hips forward just a bit to reach the hook. This way, you'll already have weight on it as soon as it's hooked, and you can let go. If there's too much slack, you can pull the line to the side to take it up, and then ease yourself down with that.

The reason we do it this way is so that you can get out on the wire much sooner. A side effect is that there is much less to get tangled on when you are out there. Cat sailors have a lot of time to hook up and go out - several seconds, because cats are wide, and they heal slowly. A Laser 2 will heal as soon as it is powered up, so if you are waiting for your crew to hook up before he goes out, you are just sitting there with the main eased, going slow, until he is ready. There will be plenty of times when the skipper needs the crew out now, not in a couple of seconds. It also works out that it takes longer to hook up while in the boat anyway because your body is in the way of the trapeze.

To come in from the wire:

Again, you are much less likely to get tangled this way than if you come in while you are still hooked up. Also, of course, you are still sailing full speed throughout all of this, instead of forcing the skipper to dump the main while you are in the boat, getting unhooked and untangled. And finally, you can prepare all this a couple seconds before you need to come in, and already be disconnected - and trap from your arm for the last few seconds until the skipper actually calls for you to come in (e.g. to tack quickly).

To Do

(pleae ignore this, this is just for my reference):