Good sail handling can be the difference between a good pass and a frustrating pass. Here our experts offer their tips and tricks.
Handling sails is an important skill for any sailor. Basically, handling the sails simply means putting on and taking off the sails, but there is more to it.
Understanding halyard tension, leech tension, reefing, rewinding, the list goes on and on. In fact, handling sails and the many skills associated with it is something that even the best sailors learn all the time.
Getting the most out of your sails is one of the benefits of efficient sail handling, but it is just as important to understand how to make sail changes in the safest way possible and with the least amount of effort. possible. This will give you more time to enjoy your navigation and less hassle when you have to take on some of the big tasks.
Our expert panel of sailors have come together to provide their best tips and tricks for handling sails, from performance enhancement to easy reefing and beyond.
Watch your luff – Graham snook
It’s easy to adjust and forget your halyards, but the wind rarely stays at a constant force throughout a sail.
When adjusting your halyards for the first time (this includes the genoa halyard), raise the tension until you see the horizontal folds in the front (sail luff) disappear, then release the tension until what they appear just before they appear.
Vertical folds mean you have too much halyard tension.
Get in the habit of checking the luffs on your sails to see if the halyards need adjustment.
Make the main sheet easier – Jonty Pearce
On a recent trip with friends, the time came when we agreed that it would be wise to take a reef on the mainsail.
The yacht was fitted with a self-supporting vang, slab reef, ram’s horns, a single clew reef line per reef point and a stack-pack with lazy jacks.
The helm indicates that it will go head to wind and stop the boat for the procedure. We were close hauled and the sea was good; my preference is not to stop the boat and wallow while being stowed by the genoa and its sheets, but to continue sailing with the genoa adjusted while depowering the mainsail by releasing the mainsheet.
Not all the crew knew this technique; I hung up and went up the windward side to the mast; the trimmer released the sheet and the downhaul, and the mainsail began to flap.
I loosened the mainsail halyard but kept enough tension on it to keep the sail from rushing down, and pulled the reef down so the ring could be slipped over the ram’s horn .
With the mainsail halyard re-tightened and the clew line line threaded, the adjuster re-cocked the sail and the vang, and off we went. Simple.
I am sure this is the procedure followed by most sailors, but I felt it was worth mentioning as it was new to many on board.
Genoa sheet number two under Leeward – Randall Reeves
When fleeing in a gust of wind, you may wish to avoid unnecessary forward travel.
So if I know a low is approaching, and once I have chosen my tack, I will often run the number two genoa sheet free / leeward and route it to through the foremost listening unit and return to the cockpit.
This means that when the time comes to roll in number two to this “storm” position, I simply move the prepared sheet to the working winch and thus avoid moving forward to reposition the sheet unit on the decks. often underwater.
Furling your sails – Rachael Sprot
Our furling sails can be quite rough – they are regularly half-furled but always under tension, they whip unceremoniously when they need to pull quickly and often the halyard tension stays in port.
Back in the days when you wore several different headsails, you naturally lowered and raised the sails every time you went out and glanced at the gear for damage.
Every month or so, it pays to lower your furling sails and inspect everything carefully.
Be careful of irritation on the halyard and at the head of the sail; Check that the top furler moves cleanly and the halyard is secure, and go over the sail seams to identify where things might wear out.
It can save you the curse of having the sail half-retracted because something got stuck at the top of the mast.
Mainsail Reef Clip – Randall Reeves
On my 45 foot sloop, Mo, the mainsail tack reef hook slips into a spring clip rather than the standard ramshorn hook, a quick customization your shipyard can do.
This ensures that the cringle stays in place while the mast crew member takes care of furling the rest of the sail.
Reefing on a Reach – Rachael Sprot
When you are sailing a span and decide you need to reef it is often difficult to de-power the sail enough to allow the sail to fall. In sheltered water you can always luff a bit, but if you are in a rough sea condition it can be difficult.
Lofer also causes an increase in apparent wind speed – the last thing you want when you’ve decided to reef.
Before changing course, there are two things you can do. The first is to raise the boom higher using the topping-lift or downhaul. This will âscandalizeâ the sail, opening the leech, which will make it much easier to depower.
The second option is to tighten the headsail tight to help raise the sail. The witnesses on the genoa may complain, but may just give you enough air to raise the mainsail and put in a reef.
Did you enjoy reading this?
A subscription to Yachting Monthly magazine costs about 40% less than the cover price.
Print and digital editions are available through Magazines Direct – where you can also find the latest offers.
YM is packed with information to help you make the most of your time on the water.
- Take your seamanship to the next level with tips, advice and skills from our experts
- In-depth and unbiased reviews of the latest yachts and equipment
- Cruise guides to help you reach these dream destinations
follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.