On most sailboats, there are two sails, the main sail and the jib sail. Knowing when and how to use both of the sails is essential.
There may be times when you want to sail with just the mainsail, especially when going in and out of a harbor area or docking the boat. It is not recommended that you sail with just the jib sail unless you understand your boat and know what you are doing. The most efficient way to sail a sailboat is with a jib and mainsail.
When To Sail With Only The Main Sail
It is possible to sail your sailboat with only the main sail. When sailing the Ensign Keel Boat and leaving the harbor area, we always sail with just the main sail until we get past a specific breaker wall and out into open water. We also lower the jib sail before entering the harbor area.
Here are some reasons why you may want to sail only the main sail:
- Entering or exiting the harbor area – You should always have just the main sail up when entering or exiting the harbor area. Even if there is not much wind, we will still have only use the main.
- Docking the boat – It is much easier to control the docking of the sailboat with only the main sail. That is why when you see boats going into the docking area, they will only have the main sail. If you have an engine on the boat, most boats will take down all the sails and motor into the dock area.
- High winds – if you are sailing in very high winds, you should cut the jib and sail with only the main sail, especially if you are not a very experienced sailor or do not have a heavy air rating.
- Sailing a boat alone – If you are sailing your boat alone, it would be best to have just the mainsail and not have the jib. The boat I sail, an Ensign sailboat, requires two people to sail it as one will work the tiller and main sail and the other the jib.
- Casual outing – There may be times when you are on a casual outing and do not want to go very fast or far. It would be best then to sail with only the mainsail.
You can sail any sailboat with the main sail, and there may be reasons or times when you want to sail the boat the only the main sail.
When you sail with just the main sail, you must remember that the boat is no longer in balance. A sailboat is made to be sailed with both the jib and mainsail.
The wind pressure on the mainsail will tend to rotate the bow of many types of boats towards the wind or into the no sail zone or in irons. To compensate for this, you must steer with the tiller pulled slightly away from the mainsail to keep the boat on course and sailing straight.
Sailing With Only The Jib
Sailing only with the jib and not the mainsail is usually not recommended unless you know and understand your boat. There are many reasons for this, but one is simply the position, location, and design of the sailboat sails.
If you need to reduce sail for some reason, you may discover it is best to lower the mainsail and sail only with the jib. Whether you can do this effectively will depend upon what kind of sailboat you are sailing and how to experience you are in sailing.
When you are sailing with just the jib sail, the boat is no longer balanced, and for many boats, the wind pressure on the jib sail will tend to rotate the boat away from the wind. To compensate for this, you must steer with the tiller pushed slightly towards the mainsail area to keep the boat sailing straight.
Sailing under a jib alone, especially if your boat does not have a backstay, can damage the boat and cause issues for the crew or passengers. Sailing without a jib is not recommended unless you are trained, know what you are doing, and fully understand you are sailing.
If, for some reason, you find yourself in a situation where your mainsail has a problem, and you need to sail only with the jib, here are some things to remember:
- Do not sail with only a jib on a boat with no backstay.
- Do not sail with only a jib on the points of sail for the close haul, close reach, and beam reach. The only point of sail where it may work is usually the run or running point of sail when the wind is entirely behind you or maybe a broad reach. But to do this, you must be able to read the wind and know which point of sail is right.
- Pull the tiller towards the mainsail to sail only with the jib to keep the boat sailing straight.
- You cannot sail alone on a jib in winds higher than 15 knots.
- Sailing with only a jib makes it much harder to control the sailboat, so you should only do this if you are a very experienced sailor and know precisely what you are doing and why.
Sailing With Both The Main Sail And Jib Sail
The most efficient way to sail a sailboat is with the mainsail and jib sail. Both the main and the jib sails have their specific functions that help the sailboat to be able to sail optimally.
Here are the reasons why you want to sail with both the main sail and jib sail:
- Sailboats are designed to be sailed most effectively with the main sail and jib.
- The most optimal way to sail on all points of sail is with the jib and mainsail.
- If the wind is too strong and your boat is starting to heel too much, you should shorten your sail. The boat will go just as fast, but you will have more control with less sail exposure to the wind.
- In some very high winds, you may find it practical only to have half of your jib furled so that you can keep control of the boat.
A sailboat is made to have both the jib and main sail. For most sailboats, that will be the optimal way for you to sail the boat. That is why when you take a sailing course (which we recommend to everyone who wants to learn to sail), they will teach you about the different points of sails and how to sail a sailboat with both the jib and mainsail.
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Milwaukee Community Sailing Center, Top US Sailing School
Milwaukee community sailing center is located on Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee Wisconsin. The sailing center is registered as a charity whose primary focus is to teach basic, intermediate, and advanced sailing classes to adults, youth, and children. They are also a charity 501c3 organization that helps many underprivileged children learn the art of sailing.
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