Sailing with Cats, Jib Sail, Sailing beginners

Sailboat Rigging & Hoisting Instruction Part 2

Link To Part 1

How Do I Rig The Jib Sail?

Some boats are rigged with a jib and some aren’t. If your boat is equipped with a jib, pay attention as we will break this down fairly easy for you do that you can successfully rig a jib without losing your mind along with your sailboat! The jib is the sail farthest forward and large jibs are commonly called genoa’s. But because we don’t want to complicate things we will stick to calling it jib. Here is step by step instruction on how to rig a jib properly:

  1. Remove the jib from its packaging: Lay it down on the deck longwise, keeping the front pointed towards the bow. Jibs, like mainsails, have three points of connection which are located at all three corners of the jib along with an attachment on the front edge which is called the jib luff.
    forestay, jib forestay, jib attachment

    Attaching Jib To Forestay

  2. The tack will be attached first near the bow by implementing a shackle
  3. Preparation for hoisting jib!  There are a variety of ways to go about this. The objective is to attach the jib to the forestay. This can be accomplished by attaching snaps or hanks one after another at even distances on the luff side of the sail. You will not need to hoist the sail then you clip the jib with clips. Another method would be to have luff tape which slides into unique slits that are constructed on the headstay (forestay & headstay are used interchangeably so do not panic). This then turns into a 2 person job, where one person feeds this luff tape into the grooves while the other person begins to hoist the jib. Hoisting is necessary in this case. 
  4. The halyard gets attached to the highest point on the jib using  the grommets on the reinforcing patch-When completed, pull on the halyard to tighten and set your eyes all the way up the jib to make sure that it isn’t tangled. 
  5. Connect the Jib Sheets, guaranteeing that they have been passed through the correct blocks and cleats on both sides of the sailboat. 
  6. Fasten the Jib and secure it- You want the jib to steer clear from touching the water but you also need to make sure that it isn’t in your way on board the deck because the last thing you need is to slip on it and cause harm to yourself and others. If need be, just use one side of the deck & pull it taught with a jib sheet.
    Luff tape, Luff tape to forestay

    Luff  to Headstay system

    Also, avoid turning the jib into a scrunchy! That will shave years off the jib.  

Hoisting The Sails- Checklist to Raising Sails

Prior to even thinking about hoisting the sails, make sure that you are divvying all the gear you need to bring on board with the gear you want to leave behind. Once the sails are hoisted, it’s time to catch some serious winds! Once the sails begin to flap, they start to get worn out. So it’s proper to get going and fast once they are hoisted and so be prepared and have everything ready to set sail. Now let’s hoist!

hoist jib, hoist main sail, hoist sail

Hoist Jib

  1. Make sure the boat is in a good enough position/space allocated to take off into the wind- Make sure to point the bow in the correct direction before attempting to lift the mainsail. You will have a really difficult time hoisting the mainsail if the boat isn’t facing the wind so don’t get discouraged if you falter a few times. Reason being is because of the wind stuff the sails when it’s on way up, which shifts too much of the weight on the halyard. A boat that is fastened correctly and steady only at the bow will be positioned into the wind. Make sure to scan and take a plan of action for a clear path that you will adhere to when leaving the dock
  2. Make sure that all lines are rigged correctly and are loose (slack). Also, do not forget to keep your sails from cleating for now. We don’t want the lines to be secured before hoisting the sails!
  3. Make sure all your gear is on board (especially life jackets, vests, and navigation lights are working. This really should be ranked first on the checklist.
  4. Check to make sure that all your crewmembers/passengers are on board. Give everyone on the boat a job to do and make sure you are clear as to what the job is when delegating. (everything from getting ready to trim the sails, packing away fenders, or getting the rest of the crew drinks and sandwiches)! Make everyone feel special and get ready for some fun!
  5. Make sure if there are things laying around on the deck that have no business out in the open, to stow these items away for now. Keep as much as you can dry and do everything in your power to keep things from flying overboard.
  6. Re-check the mainsail and jib sail are ready to be hoisted. At this point, they should be rigged properly. A Great tip would be to check that the halyard isn’t wound and knotted up.
  7.  Make sure that your keel, dagger or centerboard is completely submerged and the rudder is down in the water. Make sure the rudder is stable/secure so if your boat capsizes, which happens more than you think, your rudder will not get loose and disconnect from the boat. Rudders on dinghies will have clips to tie-down the cables/lines if the boat goes belly up. If you are sailing on a dinghy which has a daggerboard use a shock cord (restraining line) that works to help you adjust the dagger vertically but keeps it secured to the boat in case of the boat flipping.
    Keel submerged, daggerboard, centreboard, centerboard submerged, centeboard fully submerged

    Keel completely submerged

  8. Be sure you are wearing the right gear for the occasion and a good amount of sunscreen and bring reserves on board with you!

Again, be certain that you have enough clearance from the dock to open waters, away from other vessels nearby. It can be quite dunce-worthy to smash into a nearby boat from hoisting too soon near the dock.  A great habit would be to walk your boat to an open space around the dock or to launch the boat from an area that is not riddled with other boats when you are first starting out.

How do I Raise The Sails & Which Sails Do I Hoist First?

So your boat is fully rigged and you’ve drawn out the boat to an open area. Time to hoist the sails.

It is common practice to hoist the mainsail before the jib sail or any other sail (assuming you have a secondary sail) However there are times where it may be appropriate to hoist the jib sail first. When:

  1. The dock is positioned in such a way where it is impossible to direct the boats bow towards the wind, the jib may be hoisted before the mainsail is raised. Then you will want to navigate downwind where you have enough space to maneuver the bow in such a way as to catch the wind gusts and get going with the hoisting the mainsail. This technique is no walk in the park! Make sure you get someone with knowledge to help you with this technique at first, as in someone with experience. 
  2. If you are dinghy sailing, there are certain types of dingies that rely on the tension of the jib halyard to hold the mast firm and secure. In this case, the jib sail gets hoisted first because the mast must always be secured to the boat before any movement begins!

These are the exceptions and typically you will set sail with hoisting the mainsail before you tinker with the jib which usually is hoisted when the real fun begins and you are catching a little speed.

How do I Hoist The Mainsail?

Hoist mainsail

Hoisting mainsail

Once the mainsail is rigged and ready to go (mainsail luff fed through the mast by way of slides or a rope) and you have enough room to avoid a collision it is time to hoist the mainsail!

What usually happens is that the luff portion usually gets twisted in a pinch or gets caught, so be careful and mindful and do not rush. For dinghy sailing, especially one person dinghies, you will be feeding the luff alone and at the same time hoisting. With keelboats, try to designate someone to stand by the mast for feeding the luff into the channel. Then you can be the one to gingerly and carefully pull the halyard up.


Can I Use a Winch (Manual/Automatic) to Hoist Mainsail?

Typically, larger boats over 20 Ft long may come with winches to aid in pulling up the halyards. These winches are small drums that leverage power in order to help the sailor pull! Winches may come either manual or automatic and definitely is beneficial and practical when hoisting a mainsail. To make this work:

 you want to first put a few wraps of line (halyard cable) “wrapping” it around the drum. You want to give yourself the necessary amount of wrap to avoid slippage of the line, but don’t go crazy with it. While the weight gets heavier and as the sail ascends up, go ahead and add a few more wraps. continue this process until the sail is hoisted.

How to Hoist With a Winch?

Hoisting with a winch

Winch (manual) Hoisting with Crew

When utilizing a winch, remember that it is always easiest on your forearms to a hoist any sail on larger boats by pulling the halyard closest to the mast, so get as closest to the mast as possible, as if you were underneath it. Pulling on the halyard is also referred to as “jumping” it.

 Delegate one in your group to stand right by where the halyard exits the masts and stand in the cockpit. As the group member pulls on the halyard, take the slack which is on the halyard by pulling on the line that is wrapped around the winch. (You will have the winch in hand) . This creates a fantastic mechanical advantage and is optimal for hoisting.  As the sail gets close to the top, jumping will no longer apply. You will have to rotate (“grind” in sailor jargon) by turning on the winch handle, which is the metal lever jutting out the top of the winch. You do this turning until the sail is hoisted all the way up. pulling back the halyard line in a direction away from the mast as if you were pulling on a bow and arrow string also gives you leverage mechanically.


Errors You Can Easily Make While Hoisting

We’ve discussed how to hoist, but what are some inevitable mishaps you are bound to make as well as their solutions, in order to make your sailing experience as smooth as can be.

  1. You aren’t perfect and sometimes you will forget something as simple as attaching the halyard to the mainsail or jib head- Do not panic, this is is a lot more common than you think. If you are riding on a dinghy, the easiest and fastest way to fix this is to simply & deliberately, tip the boat over to get to the halyard. For keelboats or bigger boats, this can be a little bit trickier. The easiest method is to lift yourself or someone on your crew up the mast to get to the attachment. So find someone who isn’t afraid of heights!

    Crewmember hoisted to fix halyard at the top

  2. Whoops! You forgot to uncleat the mainsheet! Also the mainsheet doesn’t have enough looseness (slack) – This happens very frequently and you want to avoid this at all costs because as mentioned earlier, if the sail doesn’t have enough slack, the sail can fill half way up which may become a kinetic nightmare, especially for the sailor in charge of hoisting! The best remedy would be to free the Cunningham and boom vang lines to ease into hoisting. When the halyard gets extremely hard to pull, look up to see if it is stuck on something else or the lead was not properly done.
  3. Oh No! The luff rope is jammed and the halyard won’t budge at all! This has happened to us many times. When the luff jams, stop pulling on the halyard until the feeder (person at the mast) undoes the obstruction or possible jam. Then you can regroup and attempt to slide the sail up the mast with ease. If you are in charge of hoisting the halyard, be keen and keep an eye on the spot where the sail feeds in the mast so that you can spot the issue if it arises once more.  


Pull sail all the way up!

Sail Shape. How High Do I pull up the Sail?

Do you pull the sail up 3/4 th’s of the way up the mast? Maybe 5/6th’s of the way up? Nawh!

Pull the sail all the way up the mast. Tension is another story but typically you need to pull the sail until you feel a tightness (“taught” sail jargon) and only minimally shows any vertical tension lines while luffing the sail. If you are sailing on an extremely windy day then you are going to want more tension. Keep an eye on the tension in the luff. If the sail doesn’t reach the tippy top you will notice wrinkles in the luffing area of the sail and typically a distinctive gap near the lower side of the mast. Inversely, if the sail is pulled way too tight, you will notice vertical marks in the sail , so make sure to loosen until you don’t see any marks in the sail. 


How Do I Cleat Hitch A Halyard?

Once your main has been hoisted correctly, you will then need to secure it with a fitting, because the last thing you want is for the halyard line to slip. Here are some common fittings you can use:

T-cleat demo

T-cleat: Also known as horn cleat; this fitting usually holds a rope below a big load. You will typically see this kind of fitting on smaller keelboats and dinghy boats. These are as basic as you get. They don’t utilize any moving gadget parts so they rarely fracture or become defective. To use these fittings, start from the base and make one full rotation around the horn. What you are doing is providing friction as you secure it to make sure the line does not come apart. Solid! After going around the base once, you can then use a figure 8, then a twist (which creates a “Hitch” on the last go-around. You will know you did it correctly if the end of the rope is underneath



Rope Clutch taught and lines secure

Rope Clutch or Jammers: These have more a mechanical component to them. Jammers come with a lever handle that squeezes or squishes the rope extremely tight, removing any chance of slippage. These really lock the ropes in and are made to handle very large amounts of weight. You will see these on bigger boats (25 ft and up) because the sail load will be much bigger. These are made for heavy-duty rigs. Most clutches and jammers allow for pulling in line even when the line is locked in. However, easing out the line can be a challenge. The idea is to make sure the jammer is opened while hoisting

the main in order to rapidly start easing the halyard if the main gets squeezed at the feeding point. While the sail is in the right place and the luff is smooth with just the right amount of tension, all you would then do is to pull the jammer’s lever down, which functions to snap in the halyard into the right spot.


Link To Part 1

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