What is a Cutter Sailboat?

The cutter sailboat rig is quite unusual on a sailboat, especially on the new ones.

This type of rigging is very similar to the double-head masthead sloop, but on the cutter, both sails can be used at the same time. The cutter rigging isn’t as efficient as a sloop sailing windward and needs more experience to be sailed downwind.

There are two variants of cutter sailboat rigging:


In this type, the bow sail is attached to a bowsprit. This solution increases the surface of the bow sail (also called Yankee) without increasing the height of the mast and for this reason this type of cutter rigging is used on heavy displacement sailboats.

No bowsprit

In this type, the bow sail isn’t attached to a bowsprit. This solution is used also on ketches to increase the sails surface.

Sailing a cutter rigged sailboat

This is more complicated than with a sloop because you’ve got two headsails and an extra pair of sheets to deal with when you are sailing.

One of the advantages of the cutter rigging is that you have more sails so you are able to reef easier than on a sloop-rigged boat, here are recommended steps written by a cutter-rigged boat:

  • put first reef in the mainsail
  • put a few rolls in the bow sail
  • put second reef in the mainsail
  • furl the bow sail completely
  • put third reef in the mainsail.

Those steps will let you with a reefed mainsail and the little jib, if the wind will become stronger you will furl the mainsail and you will use the small jib as a storm sail

Sailing downwind with a cutter rigged boat

Going downwind with a cutter-rigged boat is not very easy but with some tips, you will be able to do it in a very easy way!

  1. Don’t think that you are on a sloop: you can’t trim your jib and genoa as you are sailing downwind with a sloop because you have two of them
  2. If you want to improve your performances use a spinnaker, never a gennaker, this one wouldn’t catch wind because it would be covered by the three sails
  3. Don’t go 180 degrees downwind, use a 160 degrees pace: this will help your sail to catch more wind and go faster.