The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Making Life Easier—Storm Jib

Once a year we like to entertain our neighbours by hoisting our storm jib whilst we’re alongside. Not much new to be learned from it, but it does force us to get it out of the bag and give it a thorough check over for any signs of chafe or other damage.

We have a hanked on staysail for our OVNI 435 Pèlerin which can be reefed, although we’ve never used that facility, but we carry a dedicated hanked on storm jib ready to go when necessary. When that time comes the storm sail comes into its own in so many ways – high visibility orange helps us to be seen by shipping amongst white water, and the sail is designed and built to cope with the brutal treatment dealt out in wild conditions without major damage. We think it’s a vital part of our sail plan.

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David Nutt

Any suggestions for those of us who have roller furling jibs and staysails? I admit I am one of many who has never set the storm jib despite a 42,000 mile circumnavigation and a recent trip to Greenland.

Colin Speedie

Hi David

I can remember storm jibs for racing yachts back in the 70s that had luff tapes to fit headfoils, so I’d have thought that it would be possible to have one made with a tape to fit your roller extrusion – one option. I’d also suggest that it would be far more viable to change a roller staysail for a storm jib, due to its smaller size and position further inboard, something that simply shouldn’t be tried with a big roller headsail.

However, I’m sure your roller staysail and its associated gear is pretty bulletproof, so may be up to the job. Otherwise, maybe have a detachable solent stay just aft of the roller headsail, to fly a hanked on sail.

And may neither you, nor I, have to set the storm jib in anger!

Best wishes



Nice system, you are much more organised than me…

But saying that, I normally have my storm jib hanked on to the babystay/inner forestay all ready to go with a good sail cover on it, but I suppose that subjects it to a bit more wear and tear, and for tropical sailing I might try storing it below like you do. With a setup like yours I often hank it on under the staysail, just switch the halyard, unhank the staysail and you are ready to go.

I also like to have a downhaul on the sail (normally the loose tail of the halyard) this means I can drop the sail from the mast and there is no chance of losing the halyard up the mast or over the side.

I completely agree with testing it all out in flat water on a nasty very gusty day, gives you a good idea of balance, sheet leads and what kind of halyard and stay tension you might need; for example, is your running backstay system up to it; is the mast pumping too much; is the foredeck flexing; or sheet lead blocks and attachments up to it. Just make sure you have a good sheltered anchorage to leeward…

I am actually pretty comfortable with using the Roller Reefing Genoa clew instead of a storm jib If the wind is aft of the beam, it’s less committing, further forward to help keep the bow down, and very easy to adjust for the perfect amount of sail. But I do this only because my sail and furler are pretty solid. I wouldn’t try it on a much bigger boat, or one with old dodgy gear…

I could switch my storm jib onto the solent stay to do the same thing…maybe I should try that one day, guess it’s less wear on my Genoa clew.

Thanks for the great article and pictures.

Colin Speedie

Hi Ben

Thanks for some great ideas.

I take your point about having the sail hanked on, and I’ll have a look and see whether that might be viable for our boat, even though I’d prefer to only put it in place if I thought we might actually need it.

I’ve never used downhauls on a modern boat, but why not? We used to have them on the working jib and staysail on a big gaffer with a widowmaker bowsprit and they were a Godsend.

And you’ve got to try the whole kit out, as you say – there’s no point in buying a storm jib and then finding that the necessary gear isn’t up to the job – the strongest point is the weakest link. And practice makes perfect.

We also have a detachable solent stay just aft of the roller headsail for our light weight genoa, which could in theory be put to use for the storm jib downwind. We haven’t tried it out yet, but will give it a try. However, my preference is to use the inner stay, and we’ve found that it works well there, especially if you’re trying to go upwind.

Thanks for the comments


Christopher Barnes

Colin – Nice post, especially the photos of the setup. In theory at least, how does the reefing of the storm jib work (I can’t quite see it in the photos)? I’ll be ordering one shortly and curious about reef points. What is your sense, are reef points one more complexity to forgo on a sail that should be dead simple (assuming it is properly sized)? Or are they a worthwhile addition?

Colin Speedie

Hi Christopher

It’s our staysail that can be reefed, not the storm jib. We took the staysail with its reef points on the basis that we can shorten down quickly when sailing coastally, and we haven’t got far to go to get to shelter. I don’t think I’d be interested offshore, as the sail is too low in that configuration and so vulnerable to damage from water across the deck, and in any case, if it’s reached that stage then it’s time to go for the storm jib in my book. The time to reef is, as always, when you think of it.

Kind regards


David Nutt

Thanks Colin, When snotty out there I have always managed with the staysail or at times a partially rolled staysail but I have yet to see it really really angry out there. But there is still time…

Jim Almond

I like the orange color! I might have to consider a full set.

Colin Speedie

Hi Jim

It makes a big difference, especially in rough conditions when a small boat (generally being white) can be very hard to spot.

It was not unknown ( some time ago) for sail training yachts to have the head of the main and genoa to be fluo orange, or a wide stripe just below the head. It does tend to fade, though, so shouldn’t necessarily be an integral part of the sail, just a sacrificial strip that can be replaced. If you sail a lot in busy shipping areas (like the English Channel) it may help.

Best wishes



Hi Colin, Interesting how the downhaul has been dropped from modern sail plans. I guess having smoother 1×19 stainless steel forestays that are more vertical, and one part halyards with winches means the sail normally drops by itself. So most of the time a down haul just gets in the way, complicates and slows things down. So it’s only really useful in a decent blow, but they sure are nice then…

I used to have reefing headsails on my last boat. Never did work out a good way to stop the old slippery wet dacron clew working its way out of any lashing and then the rest of the bunt getting very messy and catching on everything, so often found it easier and cleaner to just change sails – I have found boomed staysails reef very well.

We put a single full length batten in the top of my staysail. It worked great, controlling the shape and flutter, and enabling the top to be depowered if needed.

Colin Speedie

Hi Ben

I think it’s also a question of scale re downhauls – our sails are generally of more manageable sizes. Also the mass changeover to roller reefing. But I’d agree with you that they could still be really useful with hanked on sails.

Your point re roller reefing is a good one – one of the reasons that we have a roller Yankee rather than a genoa is that due to its triangular shape, and the fact that the sheet lead stays relatively constant, it rolls up far better, and so is much less prone to ‘pockets’ of sail coming loose in windy conditions.

And we, too, have a batten in the top of the staysail – as you say, a big advantage – thanks for raising that.

Best wishes


Dave Reid

Couldn’t agree more about testing the rig – Was out the other day and got hit by 35-40kts on the nose. Could really have done with setting the storm jib and would have been able to sail out of a pretty messy situation – Mussel impounds, comercial shipping setrting sail with tugs and 2-3 metre swells all in an enclosed channel. Flashed the outboard up, just hoping it didn’t get swamped, and managed to hold position for an hour with the anchor on standby until the wind dropped and I could make some headway.

Stein Varjord

Hi Colin
Old post, but good points here that I agree with completely.
Especially the point that the storm jib is more than just the sail. It must all work no matter what trashing it gets. I think a roller furling staysail made from fairly heavy cloth will most likely do a completely satisfactory job almost always, but the problem is that “almost” isn’t enough for what can be the last line of defense. In really bad weather, small troubles become serious. A storm hanked on storm jib is the simplest and most fail proof system.

Having the storm jib hanked on even when not in use is mentioned. That’s also considered smart with trysails. Some old racing boats before the time of headstay foils, had two stays next to each other to be able to hoist and trim the new sail before lowering the old one, as with a foil with more than one track. I’ve just seen this and never tried it, but it seems interesting. Has anybody here tried it in real life? Is it functional? Would it be good for having the storm jib ready to hoist when bad weather is suspected?


I came upon the below web site, offering a storm jib that fits over a furled head sail. There is a video showing its deployment.

I have no personal experience with this, nor the company, so I offer this at its face value. There is a link to a US distributor; again I have no connection with it.

John Harries

Hi Peter,

For some reason your link did not show, but I’m guessing that you are referring to the Gale Sail: or one like it.

They are an interesting idea and certainly better than nothing. That said, I far prefer a storm jib on a separate internal head stay, as Colin details in the post above for a whole bunch of reasons including concern about the sleeve and the difficulty or actually setting it on a tossing bow. Also, a boat tends to be a lot better balanced with a storm staysail than a storm jib.

John Harries

Hi Peter,

One more thought. I think the Gale Sail might be a good solution for those, like us, that have a roller furling staysail on an internal foil head stay. I can’t say for sure without using one, but it might be easier and safer than removing the staysail to set a conventional storm jib.


A second link to that site is :

which is the US distributor for the French company.

Philip Wilkie


Not sure where to put this, so I picked this old thread. I have my mast off, which among many other things, creates a good opportunity to install a storm trisail track. The routing is pretty easy, but despite much searching I cannot find any information on a recommended track or sizing for this purpose.

Any clues please?

John Harries

Hi Philip,

A tip. If looking for something like this, use the search box (top right). That’s what I did to find this!

Philip Wilkie

That’s it! Exactly what I wanted.

I’d ask some of the local riggers, but I’m oddball enough already without telling them I want to install something quite as crazy as a trisail.


Ralph Rogers

Hi. You mention that the storm jib needs a wide sheeting angle, how wide? Why? Seems backwards for good pointing. My tracks are on top of the rail. When I put it up on the forestry and set the sheets to bisect the storm jib, or as close as the rails will let me, (is this a correct setup?), it seems too far out for a close haul in a big wind. If I bring the sheets inside the shrouds and roughly to the cabin top, it’s quite flat, but there is no track there. If this is the correct way, how do I know where to put a short track, or is a non adjustable single point all that is needed? Attached there the sheet rubs along the cabin back to the winches, which are well back to be in reach of the helm as I singlehand. In this case do I run the sheet to a track, or whatever, on the cabin top, then back to a car on the track to miss the cabin top, then back to the winch? I just can’t picture this.

John Harries

Hi Ralph,

I guess I don’t really agree with Colin that a storm jib needs a wide sheeting base, or at least when going to windward.

Also, on sheeting angles, it is not correct to just bisect the clue angle. Rather the ratio between the leach and foot lengths must also be taken into account. The result is that the sheet block needs to be forward of where a simple bisection would indicate.

Also sheet angle changes with point of sail, so yes, a track is the ideal answer with any headsail.

The other thing you can do to move the ideal sheeting position aft is increase the length of the tack strop to raise the sail a bit.

As to visualizing this, the best answer is to pick a calm day and hoist the sail, and then try various configurations.

I understand your frustration. What you are running into is the generally terrible deck layouts that most production boats have. For example, unless your boat is very narrow, only having tracks on top of the rail results in too wide a sheet lead for all your headsails, not just the storm jib, so probably the best answer is a new track inboard on the side deck right next to the cabin side.

More here:

Ralph Rogers

Hey, thanks for the help. It gives me a few things to look at for a starting point.
It is frustrating. It’s a fundamental and important thing for such little information out there. Guess I’ll wait for strong winds and go play and see where to lay a track, and research how feasible that is.