View Full Version : Whisker Pole
On our 33 ft boat we very successfully use a fairly lightweight Alloy whisker pole to goosewing the genoa. This is a much lighter tube although longer than the equivalent spinnaker pole. We rig and fly it without any additional guys or uphauls, rather like a dinghy. This simplicity and lightness means we do use it a lot.
Our friends with a 39 ft boat are considering the same, the question is how long should it be? and is the no frills set up still practical on a larger boat?
I am not sure that the same procedure should be used on a 39 foot boat. The loads involved in flying a large genoa downwind if the wind begins to build are large. Trying to demount the pole might be quite dangerous. Even on a 33 footer I think there are safer ways of doing this.
The best way is to set up an extra sheet on the side that you want to pole out on. Then set up a pole with topping lift, and fore and aft guys so that it completely stable and with the 'spare' sheet through the end, then go back to the cockpit and gybe the genoa across with a winch on the sheet. The whole evolution is safe and you don't need to have people dancing about on the foredeck with one end of the pole on a flogging sheet.
For long downwind runs put a snatch block on the end of the pole to reduce chafe.
The reason that you use a spare sheet is that if the genoa is wound away a bit, you can still sail upwind on the normal sheets if you have a MOB with the pole in place and again without having to leave the cockpit.
As you would only use the whisker pole when going dead downwind (more or less),in light conditions the pole can be of quite a light construction. The loadings are light compared to a spinnaker pole on a fine reach in a brisk breeze and you don't need all the usual control lines that johnphilip suggests (IMHO).
You could probably work out the length from a rough scale diagram of the boat with a triangle formed by the foot of the sail, the length of the sheeet from the clew to the turning block and the distance beween the turning block and the tack at the bow
My 41' yacht has a whisker pole, more or less the same length as the spinnikar pole and as you say much lighter. I use it in quite strong winds with the furling genoa fully unrolled with no problems.
I grab the loose sheet and put it into the hook and then just push it out and stick it on the mast. High loads exist if the genoa sheet is too tight. If the wind has picked up and its time to remove, just ease the sheet and the loads fall off to make it easy to handle.
I can concour with your position that its easy to use. Just pick up and hook on, all by hand, no lines involved. In light winds I do use "pole up" to stop its weight from closing the leach.
Interestingly the RYA has introduced running down wind sail control and safety as a specific topic that sea schools need to include in their teaching programmes. There is an emphasis on gybe preventers and poling out the genoa as the seaman like way of sailing downwind. This is in response apparently to uncontrolled gybe incidents being quite common. This was stated at my Instructors Update this year.
A whisker pole should be set up to windward using the uphaul and down haul, just like the spinnaker pole with a spinnaker sheet running through the end fitting and across the foredeck to the clew of the genoa.
When all set up you bear away onto a run and gybe the genoa across using the spinnaker sheet.
At any time you can gybe back again if necessary without going to the fore deck and you can even sheet the genoa in under the pole with its own genoa sheet should you need to gybe completely and come on to a reach on the opposite tack.
Setting up the pole like this avoids the insane balancing act on the foredeck in which you hold the pole in one hand the genoa sheet in the other while you hang to the the boat with .... ? ... you don't have a third hand do you ?
The length of a whisker pole depends on the size of the genoa. It might be the same as the spinnaker pole... typically equal to J or sail with a big overlap might require a pole up to about 1.25 times J
It seems to me that a whisker pole can be long like a spin pole which will hold the jib out at near rightangles to c/l with attendat large loads and dangers. Or it can be quite short ie just long enough to keep the jib filled and stable with reasonable down wind steering. A short pole has very small loads and is generally easy and safe to manage. Any length in between has advantages and disadvantages. Indeed for short distances on a smaller boat a crew man's foot can do nearly as well. (sitting on the side pushing the jib sheet out.
I prefer to use a topping lift so that there is no risk of losing the pole over board when setting up.
I have had success using a light additional sheet going to a block on the gunwhale well forward of usual sheeting point. This can assist in holding the jib stable goose winged and can also setr a really good sheeting angle for reaching. good luck olewill
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