An Ounce of Preventer is Worth a Pound of Jibe

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Benjamin Franklin

Sailing downwind is bliss for many cruisers. The wind is at your back and the seas are often following. Heeling is reduced or absent altogether and the sailing is just generally quieter. You've also got options for which sails to hoist and how to set them. If your boat is so equipped and the air light, you may opt for a spinnaker. Or maybe you prefer wing-and-wing with the headsail on one side of the boat and the main on the other.

Wing-and-wing on a downwind run
We have a nice and colorful symmetrical spinnaker that we occasionally fly on Island Bound, but more often we'll go wing-and-wing when we're cruising downwind. While the methods for wing-and-wing sailing vary from boat to boat and with crew to crew, I thought I'd show our most common method in hopes that it may give some ideas to other cruisers out there.

Spin pole used to hold out the genoa
We typically use a whisker/spinnaker pole to hold the clew of the genoa away from the boat. This is often to leeward if we're not sailing directly downwind. The pole isn't always necessary but it definitely helps with flopping sails in light air and lessens the effect of an accidental jibe. Lessening the effects of an accidental jibe brings me to the real topic of this post: rigging a boom preventer on the mainsail. In a wing-and-wing set, our mainsail is typically set to the windward side of the boat if there is one. We then use a bowline knot to tie a temporary line to the boom bail and run the line forward on the boat to a snatch block in our toerail. From the snatch block, the line is lead back to a secondary winch on the cockpit coaming. This "preventer" prevents the mainsail and boom from wildly sweeping across the cockpit during an accidental jibe. It also helps with sail flopping if we're sailing in light air with moderate swells on the water. You can purchase pre-made boom preventers, boom brakes and any number of other contraptions to add control during an accidental jibe, but we've always found our simple homemade systems works great and is easy to control and set up.

Island Bound sailing with a boom preventer (red line)


  1. Mechanically-rigged preventers are essential to safety when racing in choppy waters in light wind. Human preventers, people sitting on the boom, is too risky, IMO.

  2. Anonymous16 October

    Great post on how to prevent the main sail and boom from wildly sweeping during an accidental jibe, thanks for sharing.


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