Online Book: Sail Handling Made Easy, Chapter 28 of 29

Downwind Sailing—Poling Out

Running downwind with the pole out

Running downwind with the pole out

Having looked at ways to improve boat speed, comfort and safety when reaching in the last chapter of this online book, it’s time to look at what can be done once the wind comes right aft—beyond 150° apparent wind angle (measured from the bow).

If we do nothing, the headsail gets blanketed by the main and starts collapsing and filling with a bang every ten or twenty seconds, which is not only hard to live with, but will do the sail no good at all in the long run. Also, boat speed will drop drastically and the boat will start to wallow uncomfortably into the bargain.

As these are the sort of conditions that you can expect on a downwind trade winds passage, it’s time to do something!

Lowering the pole onto the foredeck to be rigged.

Lowering the pole onto the foredeck to be rigged.

I’d argue that, if you work on your skills for poling the headsail out, that it’s the best way to go (particularly when the wind is up).

[We will look at the benefits and drawbacks of tacking downwind or sailing with just headsails(s) in a separate chapter.]

The method that we use is slightly more complicated than some others in that we use an additional sheet, but it has real benefits over more basic methods and has worked perfectly for us over many thousands of miles.

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Meet the Author


Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

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