James Caven of San Diego, California, asks:
"I’ve been reading some older “how-to” sailing books and one describes a technique for taking a jib or genoa sheet out to the end of the main boom when reaching. Is this worth the trouble? Is it a commonly used method today? I assume it is to open up the sheeting angle. Is there an easier way to achieve the same result?"
Win Fowler replies:
You are correct; it is advantageous to widen sheeting angles when reaching. The main boom does this for the mainsail, but you can’t open up sheeting angles for a headsail past the rail unless you use some kind of outrigger. The racing rules of sailing forbid outriggers used specifically for that purpose, but there are two exceptions. The older exception allows you to use the main boom, as described in your book. The newer exception allows you to use a spinnaker pole. For many years, the rules prohibited racers from carrying a spinnaker pole on the same side as the main boom, but that prescription no longer exists.
The drawback to sheeting from the end of the main boom is that it raises the lead enough on a headsail with a low clew that it may cause the sail to twist too much. With the sail properly twisted, the best lead position falls somewhere near an imaginary line running from mid-luff through the clew. On most boats, it is easier to achieve this kind of lead using a spinnaker pole set to leeward (and sometimes aft through the shrouds), as the height of the pole’s outboard end is very adjustable. The distance the lead is carried outboard can also be adjusted by raising or lowering the inboard end on the mast.