How To Raise And Hoist The Mainsail

How To Raise And Hoist The Mainsail | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

February 19, 2020

Sailing is one of the best adventures that you can have. You do not need an expert to guide you on this adventure, you can do it on your own. You just need to learn the basic things and terms in sailing, and off you are to a voyage of fun and adventure. This article will guide you on the the raising and hoisting of the main sail for a fun filled sailing adventure.

Raising as well as hoisting the mainsail is one of the steps you have to take when setting sail. Normally, this is not a difficult task, but for those people who are quite new in sailing, it might present some few challenges. If you are a beginner in this, you don’t have to worry because you will soon know how to do it perfectly well.

Just remember that for you to have a smooth sail, you should raise and proceed to hoist the mainsail the right way. If things are not in the right condition, there might be a problem. That is why sailors need to be careful on this. Here are steps you can follow to undertake this task quickly, smoothly, and easily without any problems.

Table of contents for this article

1. Preparation

If the sailboat is a larger one, you should ensure that its bow is pointing in the direction of the wing prior to hoisting. The significance of this is that it will help you to minimize the tension of the wind. Proceed to take the sailboat away from the dock and steer the sailboat in the direction of the wind. Unless there is a strong counter-current, the bow should obviously point towards the direction of the wind. The use of a small sailboat on a dock or on a mooring, requires that you do the same prior to the sailboat being underway.

2. Fixing

The next step is the fixing of the shackle to the mainsails head clew. It has to be tight enough for you to have a smooth sail. A shackle or even a pair of pliers can do a good job when tightening the shackle. If for any reason you fail to tighten it well enough, it might be released because of the vibration resulting from sailing. It is important that you ensure that it is tight enough in order to avoid poor outcomes.

3. Loosening the Mainsheet

Loosening or the release of the mainsheet is very important. The wind can cause a lot of resistance when raising the sail. Therefore, the main aim of loosening or releasing the mainsheet is to ensure that the wind doesn’t cause a lot of resistance. It’s pivotal that one ensures the leading sail edge should face the wind. The point of this is to make sure that the mainsail is not strained as the wind blows against either side.

4. Checking if the Halyard Can Run Up

Confirm if the Halyard is ready to run up. Also, check how tight the shackle is. Be very sure in this step because if you fail to verify correctly, you are highly likely to encounter challenges that might delay you from heading into the deep waters.

5. Be Ready For Hoisting

Before you begin the hoisting of the sail, it’s advisable for you to double-check if everything is set. Remember, there are multiple factors that affect the quality of the hoisting process; hence, be careful that nothing affects it.

6. Pulling the Halyard Down

Pulling of the Halyard down and checking how tight the luff is, is a very critical stage. There are a few things you should check out during this process. Firstly, if the halyard is tightened prior to the sail being up, it’s good to ensure the optimal functioning of the rope and the sail lugs. Additionally, examine the halyard free part to make sure it doesn’t have anything covering it up. Check if there is something jamming your process. If there is, the best thing to do is to lower the sail and make sure that everything is functioning at its best.

7. Using the Winch

At some point, utilize a sailboat winch. This is particularly so when you are dealing with a larger boat. In such a situation, you will need a winch because of the mass of the huge mainsail. If you will find it necessary to use the winch, the halyard should be wrapped and continue turning over to hoist the sail up to the point when the luff gets tight. You have to note, however, that you should be very careful during this step not to break anything. Be sure that the mainsail and the halyard are not jammed. In case these parts are jammed, you might end up breaking things. This can be compounded by winch power.

8. Cleating the Halyard

The next step is to cleat the halyard. Check to make certain the luff is not loose before cleating the halyard. Remember, the luff has to be tight enough to avoid any complications. Therefore, the luff should be tightened before cleating the halyard.

9. You Are Now Ready To Go

At this point, you are ready to get going and discover the waters. You should sheet the boat in order to start moving. You can also opt to manually set the boom in motion. Do bear in mind that when you are on the water, your safety matters a lot, and this is a factor which should not be underestimated.

10. It’s Time to Enjoy Your Sailing Adventure

All you need to do is to put on your sunglasses and enjoy your adventure.

Potential Issues

It’s important that you take note of the following issues because they can cause serious problems if you fail to provide proper attention to them.

1. Loose Shackle

The shackle should not be loose. You should always ensure that when you are raising and hoisting the mainsail, the shackle is tight enough. If by any chance you happen to leave the shackle attached to the halyard for a long period of time, it’s advisable to make sure that it is tight prior to sailing. If you remove a shackle after a sail and you attach it prior to raising the sail for another sailing trip, that is not a problem. What you need to always be aware of is that it’s tight enough for quality functioning.

2. Frayed Halyard

A frayed or worn out halyard is not good for a sail. The halyard should be in a good condition for you to have a successful sailing trip. In the case you want to use a frayed halyard, there is a likelihood that it might end up jamming, which is definitely not good when you want to sail. While a frayed halyard can still work, it’s wise to do an inspection to ascertain whether you should use it or replace it. If it’s seriously damaged, just replace it.

3. Jammed Sail Slugs

When the sail is becoming problematic to raise, check if the problem is with the sail slugs. There is a possibility of the sail slugs not being at their best and, as a result, they may jam and cause some serious problems. The sail slot may be dirty and make the sail slugs not function at their best. You have to check and ascertain whether you need to lubricate the sail track or replace the sail slugs. This will help to minimize cases of jammed sail slugs.

4. Snagged Halyard

The halyard should not be too loose. If it’s very loose, it will make it difficult for you to do the raising and hoisting of the mainsail. Check this to be certain that it’s at its best.

5. Broken Halyard Block

In the case the halyard is having problems at the masthead, this should signal to you that something is not right and, therefore, action should be taken immediately. This might deem it necessary to have the halyard block replaced. In cases where the halyard jams, it could be because the halyard block is broken. Hence, the best thing to do is to replace it in order to avoid possible inconveniences.


This is a very important exercise before you start sailing. You should clearly follow the steps involved in the raising and hoisting of the mainsail. It shouldn’t be a big problem for you to succeed in this task if you follow the steps correctly. Again, remember to take note of the aspects that you should be aware of to avoid any complications. As you take your next sailing trip, learn about the raising and hoisting of mainsail well, and you will, definitely, be in a position to enjoy your sailing experience.

How To Raise And Hoist The Mainsail

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How To Raise And Hoist The Mainsail

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