How do you use a whisker pole?
Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. A whisker pole is conventionally attached to the clew of a headsail at one end and the mast at the other end. Some whisker poles are designed as telescoping spars so that you can adjust them to ensure that you're presenting as much of the surface area of the sail as possible to the wind, which is the purpose of using a whisker pole.
Essentially you attach the clew end first, and then the pole end, and then tension the sheet to keep the pole attached to the clew.
Some whisker poles have a fitting at the outboard end that simply protrudes through the clew ring, and some have fittings that capture the clew ring within a piston-and-jaw arrangement. And most whisker poles attach to the mast by way of a similar end fitting using a piston.
The key to using a whisker pole properly is to make the appropriate adjustments in trim to keep it working at its optimum. You'll occasionally need to ease the sheet and then trim it back in, depending upon the angle and the strength of the wind, and the desired heading of the boat. Of course this can occasionally be difficult if the wind is puffy, so like any other sail on your boat, getting the most out of it requires a lot of vigilance on the part of the trimmer.
The other thing to remember about using whisker poles is that they're usually not set up to jibe automatically, so you need to remove the pole before you jibe the headsail. Here's hoping that this information is useful to you.