7 Basic Steps in Raising the Mainsail of a Sailboat For a Smooth Sailing Experience

To properly raise a sailboat’s mainsail, one should be able to do the following: familiarize the parts of the sailboat; locate all the sail sheets; point the boat into the direction of the wind; release the vang sheet and other supporting parts; announce when the sail is already raised; hoist the mainsail; and; make a final check on the mainsail for creases and luffs.

It is important to master the task of raising the sailboat’s mainsail properly. Once the mainsail is properly raised, your sailboat’s speed capacity can be maximized. Below are the easy procedure of properly raising the mainsail for a smooth and fast sailing:

Familiarize the parts of the sailboat

Always make sure that you know or at least familiar with the sailboat’s rigging mechanism. Know the important parts of the mainsail to effectively locate where the shackle and clew can be found. This is to make sure that you can properly attached all the supporting parts together before releasing the mainsail.

Locate all the sail sheets

Find all the sheets of the mainsail. Ensure that the sheets are complete for every sail. Also, locate the boat rope and halyard to easily prepare the sail for hoisting and decreasing or increasing the luff.

Point the boat into the wind direction

Point the boat in a direction where the wind directly blows over the sailboat’s bow. Before releasing the sail check if the wind indicator located on the boat’s mainmast is pointing forward. By doing this, raising the sail will be easier since the boat’s movement is minimized.

Release the vang sheet and other supporting parts

Release the vang that hold’s down the boom closer to the deck. This will make raising the sail easier. Also release the cunningham which pulls the sail downward the mast.

Announce when the sail is already raised

Always let everyone know that you are raising the sail. This is to ensure safety and to avoid any accidents while raising the sail. Remind the people in the sailboat to move away from the boom while the sail is being raise.

Hoist the mainsail

Confirm if everybody is on their position before giving the signal of raising the mainsail. Use a crank to pull the haylard for larger sailboats, while a cleat can be used in pulling the halyard for smaller boats. Slowly hoist the mainsail and check the sail slugs every time it is hard to hoist the sail. Ensure that the haylard is not jammed with anything and slowly pull it downward until the luff is tightened.

Make a final check on the mainsail for creases and luffs

Keep on raising the sail until its tip reaches the mast. Check for creases and luffs and fix it to properly unroll the sail. When the mainsail is properly hoisted, the halyard can already be cleated off. You can now start the boat to sail away.

Always follow the directions carefully,especially when hoisting the mainsail. Following these simple procedures will help you get ready for a smooth sailing journey.

Common Sailboat Rigging Terminology

Learn to sail faster and easier when you understand sailboat rigging terms used today in sailing. Sailing terms might seem a bit daunting, but learn these select few and you will be on your way to confident sailing–all the way!

Standing Rigging Keeps Your Mast Straight and True

Imagine that you want to install a super tall pole in front of your home or apartment. You dig a deep hold into the ground, shove the pole down into the hole and walk away. Now, as long as no forces act on that pole, it will stand straight and tall.

But let’s say later in the afternoon, a stiff breeze comes up. What will happen to your newly “planted” pole? You can almost bet that it will lean to one side (the “downwind” side or side opposite the wind). And, with a whole lot of wind, our pole could topple over!

We could have prevented this by making that pole stay in place with four wires. To brace the pole, we will spread the wires around the base of the pole. First, drive stakes around the base of the pole, spread in a somewhat circular shape, well away from the pole.

Next, attach each of the four wires to the top of the pole. Lead each wire to one of the stakes on the ground and tension each wire in turn so that the pole stands straight and true. Now, no matter which direction the wind blew from, our super tall pole would still stand straight and tall!

Keep your sailboat mast up on the boat with this same concept. Most sailboats have 4 sets of wires that support the mast, just like the pole in our scenario. The two sets of wires that support that mast at the bow and stern are called “stays”. The headstay leads from the top of the mast to the bow. The backstay leads from the back of the mast to the stern.

The two sets of wires that support the mast on its sides are called shrouds. Small sailing dinghies might have just one shroud on each side of the mast. Larger sailboats have two or more shrouds on each side. The shrouds that lead from the top of the mast to the side of the deck are called upper or “cap” shrouds. Intermediate shrouds that lead from a point lower on the mast to the side deck are called “lower” shrouds.

Running Rigging to Hoist and Trim Sails

Hoist your sails, move the boom in and out, or pull or ease a sail and you will use running rigging. Halyards are used to raise a sail just like you raise a flag on a flagpole.

Once you raise the sail, you need some method to control the sail. Use sail “sheets”, rope or rope and block combinations help control the sail. The mainsail uses a mainsheet attached near the end of the sailboat boom. Pull in or ease off on the mainsheet to trim the mainsail for speed and power.

Other running rigging used to trim the mainsail includes the outhaul, boom vang, downhaul, Cunningham, and reefing lines.

Sails set forward of the mast, called headsails, include jibs, Genoas, and staysails. Headsails use a single line attached to the sail called a “sheet” attached to the lower aft corner of the sail. Pull in or ease off on the headsail sheet to trim the sail.

Other running rigging used to trim headsails includes furling lines and reefing lines.

Learn to sail smoother, faster, and easier when you understand basic sailing terms like these. You will soon be able to sail with confidence–wherever in the world you choose to go sailing!

Learn to Sail Like a Pro – How to Use a Sailboat Winch

Learn to sail with confidence when you know the safe, easy way to put sailboat winches to work. These mechanical devices save you time and effort and help you trim sails for power and speed. Read on to learn how to put these “sailing workhorses” to work aboard your sailboat.

Imagine that you need to trim your sail in a heavy breeze. You grab the line, pull hard, and find it almost impossible to hold because of the tension created by the wind. Enter the sailboat winch!

These mechanical helpers are shaped something like an hourglass. The middle part–called a drum–has gears inside. These gears, along with a winch handle (more on this later), multiply the mechanical advantage of the winch to save you a lot of back-breaking work!

The wide bottom mounts onto the deck of your sailboat. The wide top–or plate–has a hole in the middle. You insert the winch handle into this hole and turn the handle, which turns the gears and drum of the winch. Follow these five easy steps for safe sailing and sail trimming.

1. Lead the Line in Up to the Winch

Check to make sure that the line you want to take to the winch leads (points) up to the winch. You may find on some boats that the line leads down to a winch–and that can be dangerous.

You can change the lead of a line with a block. Sail sheets (control lines) pass through blocks first before they get to the winch. Blocks that help point the line in the correct direction to the winch are often called “lead blocks”, because the “lead” or “redirect” the line in the correct direction to the winch.

Position lead blocks between the sail clew and winch in such a way that the sail sheet will lead up to the winch at a slight angle. Keep the block just a bit lower than the drum of the winch. This will insure that the sail sheet always leads at an upward angle to the winch drum for safe sailing when you use your sailboat winch.

2. Wrap the Sheet Clockwise

Pull the sheet to the winch and make a full turn (circle) around the drum in a clockwise direction. Full turns on a winch are called “wraps”. Build wraps onto a winch drum by keeping each successive wrap parallel to the previous wrap, flat against the drum. Avoid stacking wraps on top of one another. This can lead to an “override” or jammed turns that will cause the wraps to freeze onto the drum. Keep the wraps next to one another for safe, smooth, easy sail trim.

3. Count the Wraps

On small boats make a single wrap around the winch drum to remove the slack from a loose sail sheet. Then wrap it one or two more times to hold the sheet in place. On larger boats, wrap the line three to four turns to hold it in place. More wraps creates more friction on the drum to keep the line from slipping. Increase the number of wraps for thinner line.

After you wrap the line two to four times, pull on the line with slight tension to hold the wraps in place. This action–called “tailing” places light tension on the wraps to keep them aligned on the drum. Some winches are self-tailing, which means they have two “clam-shell” plates on top to hold the line for you. After you complete the wraps around the drum, jam the line into the clam plates and make a full wrap.

4. Grind on the Winch

Trim your sail by turning the winch drum. This pulls in the sheet or halyard so that you can shape your sails for speed or power. Insert a winch handle into the center hole in the top plate of the winch drum. Stand up, hover over the winch and keep your back straight. Hold the sheet or line with your non-dominant hand and grind (turn the winch handle) with your dominant hand. When finished grinding (unless you use self-tailing winches), remove the winch handle. Cleat off the line. Make the cleat hitch without the final locking hitch. That way, you will be able to release the sheet fast and easy for trimming, tacking, or jibing.

5. Ease or Cast Off

Use your dominant hand to ease a sail sheet (let it out). First, remove the sheet from the cleat or remove the single wrap from inside the clam plates on a self-tailing winch. Hold the line with moderate tension to keep the wraps in place. Place the palm of your non-dominant hand against the wraps on the drum with moderate pressure. This will keep the wraps stacked without overrides as you ease the sheet. Use a smooth motion to ease the sheet an inch or two, then hold (brake”) the sheet with your palm. Ease and brake, ease and brake, in a smooth, easy motion.

You will cast off the line or sheet when you change tacks, jibe, or need to lower a sail. Wait until you have eased the line as described above. Pull straight up and out off the drum of the winch and let the turns spin off the winch. Allow the sheet or line to run through your hand. If tacking or jibing, drop the sheet and move to the sheet on the opposite side of the cockpit. Repeat the steps above to trim the opposite sheet. When finished, stow the winch handle, coil sheets or lines and get ready for the next tack or jibe.

Follow these easy sailing tips to use any sailboat winch fast and easy. Sail with confidence when you know how to sail in safety–wherever in the world your choose to cruise!

How to Sail a Boat Better – Three Tips to Remove a Jammed Line From a Sailboat Winch

You and your sailing crew are short tacking up a narrow channel with shoals to the left and moored boats to the right. You get your crew ready for the next tack, come about–and the head sail sheet jams onto the sailboat winch! What would you do next?

Jammed turns on a head sail sheet winch-called “overriding turns”-are caused by a sheet line that leads at a downward angle to the winch drum. When this happens, the wraps on the drum can bunch up so tight that they are almost impossible to remove. Use one of these fast, easy methods to remove an override:

1. Luff Up Method

a. Point up into the wind for a few seconds to luff the head sail and take tension off the sheet.

b. Remove the turns by hand.

c. Fall off the wind and build up speed for the next tack.

2. Line and Block Method

a. Tie a rolling hitch onto the jammed sheet between head sail clew and winch.

b. Mount a snatch block aft of the jammed winch.

c. Lead the line to the snatch block and to an open winch.

d. Grind on the winch to remove all tension on the jammed sheet.

e. Remove the override by hand and re-wrap the sheet onto the winch.

3. Emergency Method

a. Cut the jammed sheet forward and aft of the winch.

b. Lead the bitter end of the cut sheet through the block and around the sailboat mast.

c. Tie a rolling hitch onto the leeward sheet. You can tack with this rig until you clear all dangers.

Prevent Future Sheet Jams

Avoid future overrides by leading head sail sheets in an upward direction to the sheet winches. Use one of these easy techniques:

* Reposition each Genoa block along the track to bring it closer to and lower than the sheet winch.

* Insert an intermediate block between the existing Genoa block and the sheet winch.

Sailboat winch overrides are part of life on any small cruising or racing sailboat. Learn how to sail a boat better than ever before by planning for the unexpected with fast, easy techniques like these.