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When your destination is downwind on the opposite tack, then a jibe is called for. A jibe has three steps:

  1. Starting from a broad reach, initiate the jibe with the command “Prepare to jibe.” Release the preventer and turn slowly downwind.
  2. When the wind is dead astern, the jib will jibe itself. This is the signal to hold a steady course, pull the mainsail amidships, and then ease it all the way out on the new tack with the hail “Jibe Ho.”
  3. After the sails are across, continue the turn to your new course.

Tips for Jibing Safely

  • The jib is the clue to a successful jibe.
  • Once the jib comes across on its own, trim the new jib sheet and hold a steady course while bringing the mainsail across by hand.
  • Use a slow turn
  • Keep control of the mainsail so the boom will not fly across. A slow turn allows time to trim and control the main.
  • Ease the main quickly
  • As the main jibes, ease the mainsheet all the way out—just let it run.
  • Watch your course
  • In stronger breeze, as the main jibes it will load the helm and try to turn the boat quickly up into the wind. Watch your course, and correct the helm to keep the boat from rounding up.
  • In light air as the jib jibes, grab all the parts of the mainsheet and fling the main across to the new jibe.
  • Don’t be shy about jibing
  • In all but the breeziest conditions, a well executed jibe is a safe and effective way to change tacks.

Prevent an Accidental Jibe

If the jib jibes itself unexpectedly, it is a signal that the main may soon follow. To prevent an uncontrolled jibe, head up immediately. Straighten out once the jib returns to its normal position. As a precaution, always keep your head down when you see the jib cross the boat, and use a preventer to secure the boom.

Gennaker Jibes

There are a couple of ways to jibe a Gennaker. One method is to snuff the spinnaker, re-lead the spinnaker sheet to the new leeward side, and redeploy after the boat and mainsail have been jibed. The Snuffer and Gennaker go around the outside of the forestay on a jibe. The disadvantage of this jibing technique is that you must go forward to pass the Snuffer around the headstay. (Only if the Gennaker is flown from a jib halyard beneath the forestay would you take the Gennaker inside the forestay on a jibe.)

The Gennaker can also be jibed while still flying. Square down to a very broad reach, tension the windward Gennaker sheet, and haul hard as you release the working sheet. Pull and pull and pull until the sail collapses, inverts, and starts to trim back on the new jibe; then finish the turn and jibe the main. The trick is to have the turn follow the trim – trim the Gennaker most of the way through the jibe before jibing the boat.

If the turn is too fast (or trim too slow), and the boat is jibed before the sail is trimmed, then the spinnaker can blow through behind the forestay, or it can wrap on itself, or around the forestay.

Spinnaker Jibes

Short handed jibes are a challenge. The easiest technique is to snuff the sail, drop the outboard end of the pole to the deck, and pull the snuffed spinnaker around the bow with the sheets. Then jibe the main, reset the pole, and redeploy the spinnaker. You can also use a “dip pole” technique, but this requires at least one designated foredeck person as well as someone on the helm. For more, read Perfect Spinnaker Jibes

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