Jib Sticks - A New View by Michael Brothwell

At this year's championships Michael McNamara used a shorter pole to leeward on reaches to act as the crews hand normally would (ie a more effective barber hauler). He said, when asked at the AGM, that it worked well. I was also at Looe, sailing Albacore 6922. 1 have borrowed a pole system from the National 12s which allows the same pole to be used goose-winging and to leeward as a more effective barber hauler. The pole is permanently fastened to the mast, and when not in use hangs from the spreaders. By pulling a piece of string, the pole moves down the mast and automatically follows the jib, whichever side it might be on.

Setting up the pole system is very straightforward. Fig. 1 (below) shows the alterations that need to be made to your existing pole. At one end, a plastic cap with a hole large enough for some thin (3mm) rope to pass through freely. I simply cut off the existing spike, and then drilled the hole. The other end is slightly more complex. You will need to flatten the pole to allow the sheave of a block to slide in with some room to spare. Fasten this block through its centre sheave with a nylock nut which must remain loose, allowing the block to swivel. Through the same bolt, a shackle can be fastened on the outside. The alterations to the actual pole are now complete.

Fastening the system to your boat comprises of three separate elements. The first is a taut (the tighter the better) piece of dyneema or wire which runs from the spreaders at the top to strong fairlead which you will have to attach to your mast below the foredeck. This will hold the pole to the mast through the becket of the swivelling block described above.
The pole automatically springs back up the mast after use by shockcord, the second element. This is fastened to the shackle on the pole, runs up through a block at spreader level, and back down the mast to the same fairlead under the foredeck. The shockcord should be tight enough to pull the pole back up the mast. You will find that a fairly thick length of bungee (about 6mm) is best.

The third element is the rope which passes through the hole in the plastic, inside the pole and out the other end round the block. The end of the string that comes out at the plastic end is attached to the clew of the jib and remains so for the duration of the race. The other end is led down the mast to a cleat. I spent a fortune on a lightweight swivelling cleat that fastened onto the mast. This was a waste of money as it caught the jib sheets when tacking. Far better to mount the cleat on the foredeck by the mast, on the centreboard capping (having first been taken through another block at the bottom of the mast) or led back to the helmsman.

When everything is assembled, you should have a system that works as follows. By pulling the string from the cleat any slack between the end of the pole and the clew of the jib is pulled in. When there is no more slack the string ceases to run through the pole, and instead pulls the pole towards the cleat. The becket of the block slides down the taut dyneema, and the pole pushes out against the clew of the jib. The more stirng that you pull through the cleat, the more horizontal that the pole becomes.

On a reach using the pole system is simple. You pull the pole down until it acts as a barber hauler (or kicker) for the jib. Fine adjustments vary according to personal preference. Goose winging first requires the jib to be held out to windward, so that the pole can follow it out. To raise the pole you simply uncleat the string and the shockcord will shoot the pole back up the mast.

At the AGM it was decided that the class should have a year to try out this system, before an educated decision can be made. I think that the pole is, on the whole, superb, but there are a few downsides which have been discovered or suggested. Barney Harris expressed concern that the windage of the pole might be too great when going upwind. A clip or some velcro to hold the pole against the mast when beating could rectify this (Barney is still going to fit the system to his boat). Something that I have noticed is the chafe that occurs on the mast, specifically by the spreaders. Some sort of thick tape or padding, either on the mast or around the top of the pole, would rectify this.

Developments which are inexpensive and which make the boat safer and more efficient must be a benefit to all. I would urge you to try out the system before next year's AGM. If you have any queries, feel free to contact me.

Michael Brothwell
(01424) 842262

 Last updated 19th November 2000