Self-tacking Jib

I trained on vessels that were traditional in that the single headsail, oft referred to as the jib, was sheeted on either side back to winches. The load was changed to the leeward sheet after each tack as the tension on the new windward sheet was released. This arrangement usually required three sailors to successfully tack the boat…..one at the helm and one on each sheet. I have seen the work accomplished by two and, on one occasion, an instructor demonstrated an ability to manage the tasks on his own.

I had sailed on one club sailboat with a self-tacking jib. I didn’t really care for it. It seemed not as challenging nor as demanding as a traditional arrangement.

Skiron happened to have a Genoa that is managed with two sheets returning to winches on either side of the boat and also a self-tacking jib. This set up intrigued me to some extent. I learned that the sail plan actually made some sense given that the vessel was a cruising sailboat. Further, the measurements of the length of the foot of the mainsail to the length of the foredeck were such that the main was driving the vessel and a smaller headsail, as is usually the case with a self-tacking jib, would be sufficient. The presence of this solent arrangement did not dissuade me from purchasing the vessel.

As I have gained experience with Skiron, I found that I truly prefer the self-tacking jib over the traditional arrangement. I have learned that the arrangement is ideal for single-handled sailing…sailing by myself. The vessel points reasonably well and it’s easy to maintain speed through the tacks upwind.

An example of a port to starboard tack. You can see the car slide across the rail and out of view as the sail moves across the foredeck.
The furled Genoa and jib sheets.
Jib sheet (top) filled with light winds.
Self-tacking jib in front of the main.
Jib sheet clew board. The block is attached higher or lower as desired. Moving the attachment higher is the same as moving a jib sheet fairlead forward. It powers up the sail. Moving the attachment downward is the same as moving a jibsheet fairlead backward. It powers down the sail.
Jib sheet car.
Self-tacking jib curved rail and car.
The single jib sheet returns to the block on the right edge and, when the sail is out, the starboard minor winch is used to secure and trim the sail.

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