Summer is here! Our typical summer wind patterns are filling in, with their associated positive and negative sides. To the positive, the sailing has been phenomenal! If you haven’t gotten out on the water, GO!
Here is a big negative. In the past month we have needed to replace several clear plastic dodger window panels! The cause is simple. Not controlling jib sheets during tacking, crew overboard practice, reefing, and furling operations. High winds and luffing jibs cause sheets to flail wildly. When this happens, bad things result. I personally have seen a broken nose, black eyes, split lips, lost eye glasses, and a number of broken dodger windows. Here’s how to avoid all of these problems.
*Note from Matt: Don’t forget the missing dorade covers that disappear off the decks for the same reason! It’s also been the cause of bent/broken deck hatches in the past – the lazy sheet can get caught under the lip of a hatch and ends up getting lifted with all of the force of the wind in the jib on the next tack.
While tacking, take the jib sheet out of the winch cleat, but do not release the wraps immediately. Start the tack and wait until the jib begins to back-wind slightly before releasing it. Trim immediately on the opposite side and the sheet will not have a chance to flail.
When reefing or furling in high winds, DO NOT try to furl while on a close haul or close reach. Instead, bear away to a deep broad reach. Ease the main and allow it to blanket the jib. The process of rolling the jib up will now be easier and won’t involve any flailing sheets.
*Note from Matt: This should be S.O.P.! Practice it every time you furl a sail. You know that point on a run when you are steering down wind and it’s hard to keep the jib full of wind because you turned downwind just a little too far? That’s the main blocking the wind – and it’s the perfect time to furl the jib. There’s almost no wind in it, it’s not flogging, it should roll up easily and neatly with minimal effort!
If you are doing crew overboard practice, furl the jib first (while on a broad reach,) and practice on main alone. No flailing jib sheets!
As an added benefit, luffing jibs and flailing sheets are very noisy. Loud noises on a sailboat result in uncomfortable and/or fearful crew. Control those sheets and your crew is going to have a much better time.