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Old 11-14-2001
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Club-Footed Jib

Can you give me some information about rigging a club-footed, self-tending jib?

Tom Wood responds:
Club-footed jibs are handy if you do a lot of shorthanded tacking because they act just like a mainsail on a boom
—you don't have to release and grind in the opposite sheet on each tack. On most small sloops, the conversion to a club-footed jib is comprised of five parts.

  1. A boom, usually a lightweight, round aluminum tube or a section of dinghy mast with a gooseneck that allows movement in all three planes—that is, the end of the boom needs to be able to move port-starboard, up-down, and to rotate. There are gooseneck assemblies available that ride on the headstay and some that mount to the foredeck just aft of the stemhead fitting.
  2. A traveler, sheet horse, or two-point sheet system on the foredeck to allow a single sheet to control the position of the end of the boom. This system will operate exactly like a mainsheet system, with or without a traveler, when it is in operation.
  3. A sheet led to a cleat in the cockpit. Remember getting from the foredeck to the cockpit on some boats requires quite a few blocks to lead around obstructions on the deck.
  4. A topping lift for the end of the boom to hold it up when not in use. The boom topping lift is usually led off the forward face of the mast up around the spreaders and needs to be both detachable and adjustable.
  5. A sail cover and possibly some modifications to the jib. Remember, the jib can now have zero overlap with the mast, so you're limited to a 95 percent jib—yours may need to have a bit trimmed off the foot and leech. The sail can either be laced to the boom, have slides for a track on the boom, or be loose-footed with an outhaul to adjust shape.

While club-footed jibs are handy for short-tacking in narrow channels, basically I have very little fondness for them. The boom is always in the way, bashing the shins when you're scrubbing the deck and cracking kneecaps when attempting to dock or anchor. The reduced sail area affects performance and it's more difficult to get good sail shape on most points of sail than with a two-sheet system. Club-footed jibs make setting up a wind scoop in the forehatch an interesting project (the reason for the adjustable topping lift) and they require another sailcover to buy, remove, and maintain.

It is possible to build a self-tending jib without a boom, but to do the job right requires a traveler on the foredeck bent in a horizontal arc. I have even seen roller-furling self-tending jibs without a boom, the best of which was on a Dehler which was a joy to sail. But this system looks very unconventional with two travelers on the foredeck and the sheet led high up the mast.

In the end, it's a personal choice, and like all boat compromises a club-footed jib has advantages and disadvantages. If you decide to build one, call SailNet's Custom Spar Shop at 1-800-234-3220, ext. 1298. They can build you a package of hardware, spars, gooseneck, sailcover, and sail modifications—everything you need at one price.

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