The Elements of Sailing posts are excerpts from an article that I wrote for WoodenBoat Magazine Jan/Feb 2011
Before you jibe, size up in advance where the bow should be pointing for the new RWA. Announce to your crew: “Prepare to jibe!” It is best to control the jibe by hauling in the mainsheet before turning the stern through the wind. The helmsman should move the tiller away from the sail to jibe and keep looking forward as in tacking, visually tracking the turn. After the mainsheet is all the way in but before the boom comes across the stern, the helmsman should shout, “Jibe ho!” Once the turn is complete to the new downwind RWA of about 150 degrees, you can slowly ease the mainsail all the way out. Tip: The mainsail and the boat will be more stable and you will prevent accidental jibes if, when sailing downwind, you steer the boat on a broad reach (RWA 160 degrees). This will clearly keep the sail on one side of the boat and prevent the jibe.
If your boat is a sloop, like our Rhodes 18, and the jib has two sheets, you will have to shift the jibsheets from one side to the other with each new tack. The leeward jibsheet will be under tension and the windward sheet will always be “lazy” or slacked off. When the mainsail comes over during a tack and jibe, the jib will want to do the same, so to allow this, you have to let go one of its sheets and haul in the other.
If you apply these simple elements, you can sail any small boat. By controlling your boat’s direction and sheeting its sails to the wind direction, you can deftly sail your boat.
There are a lot of good avenues for becoming a better sailor. Sailing courses abound in nearly every part of the world. Many sailors have room on their boats for one more enthusiastic hand. After giving this article careful study, try networking in your area. Soon you’ll be ready to strike out on your own!