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Forespar's site is a good place to start...

Whisker Poles

I like going with the whole 9 yards - pole lift, foreguy, and afterguy... sounds more complicated, but it actually makes the use of a pole with a furling headsail simpler, and far safer... The advantage of being able to leave the pole deployed, while perhaps furling the jib for a brief course change or jibe, or to douse in a squall, can pay huge dividends when cruising...

Sailing wing & wing can be extremely pleasant, I'm always amazed how infrequently I see it being done... On this particular day running the long, arrow-straight channel on the Indian River, I was passed by 5 or 6 larger boats, all motoring DDW...

Presumably, their full enclosures prevented their diesel exhaust from wafting back into the cockpit :)

 

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A whisker pole is only needed in light air conditions, when the wind pressure isn't enough to lift the sailcloth and hold it in place. IMO, there's no reason to set a whisker pole in a squall or in small craft warning conditions. Using a pole in those conditions risks breaking the pole.

Strong winds will spread out an un-poled genoa and hold it there and keep it filled, unless you trim it badly. If you ease the jibsheet too far forward, the wind will fill the genoa and spill out of it over the leech of the sail. When it spills over the leech, it will attach itself to the back side of the sail, and create a back-pressure, backwinding the leech of the genoa. When that happens, the genoa will collapse, and then it will re-fill and re-open with a bang. When that happens, you should trim the jibsheet further aft. Then, when the wind fills the sail to overflowing, the excess wind will spill off the luff of the genoa, instead of the leech. As a result, the leech of the sail will not be backwinded, and the sail will not fill and collapse and refill with a bang repeatedly.

The only time I might consider using a whisker pole in strong winds is when racing in a sheltered area, such as on a river or a small inland lake or harbor, where the waves can't grow very big. When sailing wing and wing, you have to steer accurately, because, if you steer too far in one direction, the jib collapses, and if you steer too far in the other direction, you risk an unintentional gybe. In strong winds, choppy or rolling waves can make it nearly impossible to steer the boat with the necessary accuracy.
Well, I've had pretty good luck running with poles in a bit more breeze...

Ran this boat north from Trinidad last spring, and sailed from the Mona Passage up to the top of Exuma Sound, then virtually all of the way from Canaveral to Hatteras behind the passage of TS Andrea with this setup. Mostly breezes from 18-25, serious squalls south of the Bahamas at night, and even though we had to cobble together fore and afterguys using dock lines and spare anchor rode, it worked pretty damn well, and we made a very fast passage...



And with my own little tub, I've had success running off under staysail alone in sportier conditions, poled out with a dedicated shorter pole for that sail... Again, I think the key is stabilizing the pole with a lift, and fore and afterguy, that's worked well for me, so far...



And, as always, some excellent advice from Beth Leonard & Evans Starzinger:

http://www.bethandevans.com/pdf/Downwindsail.pdf

http://www.bethandevans.com/pdf/JibBridle.pdf
 

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Jon, these discussions are always fact specific. We were flying twin 150s in 18-25 kts of wind with one of the headsails poled out. After we broke the pole, we learned that we could fly both sails poleless and maintain about the same speed. That told us that we should have flown the headsails poleless in the first place. If we had, we could have avoided breaking the pole. By comparison, you were flying a single, smaller headsail, which put a smaller load on the pole, but we were undoubtedly making much better speed. That's why I don't generally like using a pole in strong winds. If you don't have to use it, then you will avoid the risk of breaking it.
Sure, every boat and situation is different, no doubt...

However, I'm pretty certain we wouldn't have been able to carry that headsail I pictured - keeping it filled sailing DDW wing & wing for 650 miles beyond the Mona Passage in variable/squally conditions, and after heading up 20 degrees or so to make it thru the Mayaguana Passage - without the use of the pole :)
 

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jon in your first pic...you have an "afterguy" or line runnung aft(from the pole) against a stanchion back to a block or whatever to tighten it up, or is that the sheet?

did you cause any damage from doing this?

the forces involved can be massive, I always avoid touching any part of the lifelines with rigging when possible

I know you set this up as an emergency per your post but thought others should acknowledge this issue...

nice pics btw
LOL! I've posted this pic several times before, and have been waiting for someone to notice that... Congrats, good eye, looks like you're the first :)

yeah, that's not an ideal setup, by any means - but it probably looks a bit worse than it was :) That pic was taken somewhere between the DR and the Silver Bank. Initially, the jib sheet had a fair lead thru the lifeline gate (the jib lead car was as far aft on the track as it would go). The only place to fix the afterguy was to the stern cleat. But we had to temporarily head up a bit to try to keep clear of some shipping, and in doing so eased the pole forward a bit, as you can see by the slackness of the foreguy and lazy sheet. In any event, those H-R stanchions are pretty stout, I think it would have handled a far greater load than that...

That H-R is a true ocean thoroughbred, but it was somewhat shocking how poorly it was set up for handling anything other than working sails in their normal configuration. You'd really have to get creative to figure out how to fly a spinnaker, or Code 0, for example...

Every time I sail a boat with those pretty teak rails, with no attachment points for snatch blocks or similar, I become more firmly convinced that the perforated aluminum toerail is one of the greatest inventions ever, and one of the most practical things one can have on a boat :)
 
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