Used on small dinghys and skiffs to help keep the boat balanced. The trapeze consists of a wire with one end attached to the mast fairly high up and long enough to reach the deck. The bottom end of the wire has a ring on it. One of the crew members wears a harness with a hook on it. When sailing they hook into the ring on the wire and stand off the side of the boat, hanging horizontal like a giant lever, their feet on the rail and their body perpendicular to the hull. Examples of boats with a trapeze are 470s, 49ers, and One Design 14s.

Trapeze is probably the most widely recognised of all the aerial circus acts. The skills used in the art form a basis for almost all other aerial circus acts. The basic apparatus consists of a hollow metal bar suspended in the air by two ropes or wires, attached at each end of the bar. The term trapeze comes from the Latin term trapezium, which describes the quadrilateral shape the bar and ropes produce when hanging.

The art of trapeze can be broken down into three main groups – static, swinging and flying trapeze.

Static Trapeze

The trapeze bar and ropes are stationary - no swinging motion is used. A performance of static trapeze usually consists of a flowing display of strength and agility with tricks being performed both under and around the bar, and above, incorporating the ropes.

Static trapeze acts may have one, two or three or more aerialists performing at once. A doubles act (using two performers) uses a bar which has the ropes attached slightly in from the ends of the bar, creating two end pieces. A triples act (three performers) uses a wider bar, suspended by four ropes which divide the bar into what then appear to be three trapeze bars joined together.

Swinging Trapeze

A swinging pendulum motion of the bar is used in swinging trapeze. The performer uses the momentum and swing of the trapeze to perform tricks above and below the bar, including drops into ankle or toe hangs below the bar.

Flying Trapeze

This is the most famous of all the trapeze acts. The flying trapeze was invented in 1859 by French acrobat Jules Leotard, who famously also created the lycra garment named after him. The flying trapeze is performed on a fly rig – a frame which consists of a pedestal board at one end from which the flyer takes off from, a fly bar, a catch bar and a safety net. The catcher hangs from the catch bar while the flyer takes off from the pedestal board, swings out on the fly bar and after releasing from the bar to perform a somersault or other trick, is caught by the catcher. Flying trapeze relies on split second timing in order for the swing of the fly bar and catch bar to be coordinated so that the flyer and catcher can ‘meet’ in order for a successful catch.

A flying trapeze performance is a bated breath, gasp out loud experience for audiences. However nothing compares to the feeling itself of flying through the air, the moment of weightlessness and the exhileration as your wrists are grasped in a perfectly timed catch. In the three years that I have been flying, the ethereal feeling of freedom that flying trapeze brings has never faded.


The Secret Circus:

Tra*peze" (?), n. [Cf. F. trapeze.]

1. Geom.

A trapezium. See Trapezium, 1.


A swinging horizontal bar, suspended at each end by a rope; -- used by gymnasts.


© Webster 1913.

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