AskDefine | Define halyard

Dictionary Definition

halyard n : a rope for raising or lowering a sail or flag [syn: halliard]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. A rope used to raise or lower a sail.

Derived terms


  • Finnish: nostin, falli
  • Italian: drizza

Extensive Definition

In sailing, a Halyard is a line (rope) that is used to hoist (pull up) a sail, a flag or a yard. The term Halyard comes from the phrase - to 'Haul yards'. Halyards, like most other parts of the running rigging, were classically made of natural fibre like manila or hemp. Today, polyester is most often used, but stainless steel or galvanized steel may be found on some older yachts, and lightweight carbon fiber on racing vessels.

Sail types

  • A triangular (Bermuda or "Marconi") sail has only one halyard which is attached at its uppermost point (the head).
  • A gaff rigged sail has two; a throat halyard to lift the end of the gaff nearer the mast, and a peak halyard to lift the outer end.
  • A square rig sail with a halyard is mounted on a lifting yard that is free to slide on a short section of the mast. The halyard is used to raise the yard when setting the sail.


Halyards can be attached a number of ways to the head of a triangular sail. The most common methods are as follows:
  1. A shackle through a headboard on the sail.
  2. A bowline through a hole in the head.
  3. A half hitch with a figure-of-eight knot, this knot is preferred over a bowline because it allows the sail to get closer to the top of the mast.
The other end of the halyard is usually attached to the mast at its foot by way of a cleat. It is convention in some places to fasten the main halyard (for the mainsail) on the starboard side of the mast and the jib halyard to the port side. This allows quicker access to the lines in a time-critical situation.

Jumping the halyard

"Jumping the halyard" is a technique used to raise a large sail quickly by employing a few crew members to work simultaneously on the halyard. The person jumping stands next to the boom and manually grabs the halyard as high as he can (sometimes this necessitates jumping) and pulling it down as fast and far as possible. While this crewperson reaches for the next heave, a second crew 'tails' or takes up the slack created by the jumper, on a winch. When the person jumping can no longer pull up the sail simply by hanging on the halyard, he must pull the line laterally from the middle and let the ''tailer' take up the new slack. Inevitably, the tailer will alone finish the hoist with the winch. Jumping the halyard is also known as 'sweating the halyard.'
halyard in Danish: Fald (skibsterminologi)
halyard in German: Fall (Tau)
halyard in French: Drisse
halyard in Italian: Drizza
halyard in Dutch: Val (zeilen)
halyard in Polish: Fał
halyard in Russian: Фал
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