A jibe (gybe) is a sailing maneuver that occurs when a vessel is steered off the wind (down wind) until the sail flips from one side of the vessel to the other.
Of all the sailing maneuvers, the jibe is the most exciting and challenging. In addition to being a functional way of transitioning the sail, a properly executed jibe is beautiful and fun to watch. That said, a poorly executed one is clumsy and can leave one swimming in the water scratching their head, wondering what went wrong.
Many sailors are uncomfortable with jibes because they react to the jibe instead of preparing and controlling it.
If the helmsman of a small craft allows the sail to jibe on its own, they find themselves in a situation where they must shift their weight quickly in order to stabilize their craft. This is especially true in adverse wind and sea conditions.
A simple solution is to initiate the jibe before it occurs on its own.
It may be helpful to think of a sailor and their sail as ballroom dance partners.
When dancing, one takes the lead and the other follows. The lead takes control and guides their partner through the moves. The result is an almost magical series of transitions where two appear to move as one.
When jibing, take the lead role! Guide the sail through the jibe by choosing the exact moment the sail will cross to the other side. This way there is ample time to prepare to shift one’s body weight prior to the sail’s transition.
Here are the steps:
1) Prepare for the jibe by taking the main sheet in your hand, un-cleating it, and letting the sail out as far as it will go.
2) Steer the craft off the wind until the bow is just a few degrees past the downwind position.
3) In one quick, fluid step, pull the sheet in and let it out on the other side as far as it will go.
In this last step, the speed at which the sail is sheeted in and let out is crucial. Stronger winds require faster motions.
Using this technique will result in a graceful choreographed maneuver.
Have some fun and dance!
For all you big boat sailors out there, you may have noticed that the technique for jibing a kayak or canoe is a little different than jibing a larger sailing vessel. On larger vessels the method for jibing involves sheeting in the sail prior to the jibe and then letting it out on the other side only after the sheeted sail has filled with wind. This is not only done to keep crew member’s heads on top of their shoulders, but it is also an important way to reduce the amount of stress subjected to the rigging. Since the boom on the Kayaksailor is located in front of the paddler and the rigging is robust, there isn’t a need to use this technique. Plus, using it often results in unwanted heeling. With the Kayaksailor, the easiest way to keep the boat stable during a jibe is to pull the sail quickly from one side to the other.
See you out on the water!