When using a whisker pole is it advisable to use a topping lift and a downhaul to make sure the pole doesn't bounce around, and that the sail stays full and secure?
Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. It really depends upon the boat you're sailing and the point of sail that you're on at the time, but yes is the short answer to your question. A whisker pole is used essentially to assist in optimizing the trim of a headsail for sailing downwind. If having a topping lift and a downhaul makes this easier and more effective for performance, then both are beneficial. However, if you're sailing in a class of boat that uses a whisker pole, but there are class rules that don't permit a topping lift, then no, it's not advisable. That may sound strange, but there are such cases.
With whisker poles, you might find that in moderate air there is no need for a downhaul and you can leave it off, but in light or heavy air you do need it, so it's a conditional situation. (In heavy air whisker poles tend to sky upward if they're not restrained by a downhaul. In light air, sails set on whisker poles will bounce around due to the state of the waves if the pole is not fitted with a tight downhaul, and that can disturb the flow of air over the sail.
I hope this answer is useful to you.