Latest News: Forums Technical Preventing the main sheet from getting caught by the transom

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  • #3734

    @matoi wrote:

    Do you have any tricks in your repertiore which prevent the mainsheet from getting caught under the rear corner of the Wayfarer in a gybe?

    Yes, there are a few.

    As you may have noticed I have two large cleats on the aft bulkhead, just above the benches (see picture).

    These cleats serve a number of purposes.

    1. Obviously they are used for mooring.
    2. They are strong fixing points for the sheets of a try sail (A Genoa used as a main).
    3. If you look carefully at the picture you should notice a bungee loop going from one cleat to the other. (There are some sail ties hanging from it). This is used to keep the main sheet from swinging around the outboard motor or the corners of the transom.

    The bungee loop has two bungee hooks, one at each end, to complete the loop. I use this bungee for three things:
    1. It goes over the front end of the helm to keep it in position if I need my hands for something else (single handed sailing). I call this my “auto pilot”.
    2. It is used to store sail ties.
    3. And, in this context most important, the hooks of the bungee are sometimes connected to the aft main sheet block.

    Since the main sheet block is on a bridle rope it more or less floats in mid air. The bungee is very week and not strong enough to pull the block from its normal position. However, in a gybe the tension of the main sheet is released and the bungee will pull the block forward just enough to cause the main and the bridle to pass over the boat rather then pass behind the boats transom. Thus avoiding the sheet to get caught by the outboard or the transom corners. Pffff, a long explanation for a very simple solution.

    An alternative is a trick I learned from Ken Jensen, the famous Norwegian Wayfarer cruiser. Ken has two bullseye’s for his try sail half way between the transom and the aft bulkhead, one on the port gunwale and one on starboard gunwale. These eyes are used to tie the bridle rope too. Obviously the aft main sheet block on the boom is then positioned above these eyes. This too causes the sheet to pass over the boat rather then aft of the transom. I could do the same on my boat by tie-ing the bridle rope to the cleats on the aft bulkhead. However, this setup is not allowed while racing. I think there is a drawing, made by Ken, on the WIT web site explaining this setup in detail. (

    Finally there is the racers solution; While racing it is not allowed to have the purchase of the main sheet in front of the transom. I have seen several racing boats that have a triangular “sheet guide” made of some plywood, polyester (or epoxy) and glass fiber. The triangle is plane with the transom. The longest leg of the triangle is goes from the outermost transom corner to the first chine. (The other two legs of the triangle are formed by the hull). This triangle should guide the sheet over the transom corner back on the boat. I have no experience with it but others seem to use this method successfully. If you make a hole in this sheet guide triangle it could be used to guide or tie a mooring line too as well I suppose.
    The quick and dirty method to the latter is to put some gaffer tape from the transom corner to the first chine. But I don’t think it will hold long once it gets wet.

    I hope to have given you some options to contemplate about but perhaps others have a few solutions up their sleeve as well?



    Thank you very much for your extensive reply.

    Best regards,



    @matoi wrote:

    Do you have any tricks in your repertiore which prevent the mainsheet from getting caught under the rear corner of the Wayfarer in a gybe?

    This can be caused simply by gybing with the mainsheet too far out. The long loop of slack mainsheet can hook itself around the rear corner of the deck. It should not be necessary to modify the boat to avoid it – just sheet in more before you gybe.



    I agree, theres no need for modification of the boat. Just before the boom gybes, you give it a hard tug and that takes up the slack preventing the mainsheet catching. I look for the lift on the clew that happens just as the boom is going to cross.



    Shiver me timbers laddy!

    Unfortunately we aren’t all ‘Gentlemen o’ fortune’, stomping around our W’s with our wooden leg, waving a hook where our left hand used to be, laughing at gale force winds, refusing to reef. Most of us are less experienced and rather be safe then sorry. If ever you have the misfortune of having your main sheet caught by the engine in a near gale force wind on the North See, you will change your mind, trust me. Accidents do happen and I like to think it is a mark of seamanship to expect the unexpected.

    And now it’s time to load the gunwales!
    Yo ho, yo ho an’ a bottle o’rum!


    If you use a bridle or split mainsheet, then the bridle should run through a small, but not too light ring (a wooden ring used for hanging curtains. When the mainsail is sheeted in this rides up to the junction of the bridle. However, as soon as the mainsheet is slack, gravity takes over and the rin slips back down, tidying up the bridle and most often keping it away from the transom.

    Like all simple ideas it is much more simple to do than to describe



    Sorry I don’t get it!

    Why is trying to avoid a problem being suggested as a backwards refusal to consider alternatives?

    Matoi’s question was about how to avoid a problem. If he modifies his boat but then sails another that isn’t modified, how will he deal with the situation?

    I agree that you can modify your boat to help but surely other non-expense methods can be considered rather than ridiculed. Sorry Swiebertje but this is the first reply I’ve seen on this forum that is short-sighted. The forum is just that – a forum for discussion about ideas.



    I think Swiebertje’s solution is very interesting. Though I won’t use it for normal cruising, downwind offshore I think it would give me peace of mind as I too have had the outboard entangled out of sight of land (once is enough in any wind and sea). I have previously used the bungee to hold the tiller for (very) short periods. In any case why would I sail in anyone elses Wayfarer?
    Thank you Swiebertje (my only reservations are those big cleats waiting to snag the mainsheet!)


    It might be that W marks without the gunwhale overhang don’t experience this trouble as often. But having a World, I put some effort into resolving it. Here are a couple of remarks:

    I have seen the bungee solution on one occasion in a W, and have seen it fail it’s task.

    I tried to solve the issue by installing a fully centered mainsheet system:

    …and found it works perfectly for gybing, but creates significantly greater mainsheet tension when beating (inspite of increased purchase to 5:1) and so in strong wind makes you tired sooner. With a standard W mainsail, leech gets overtensioned too, curling somewhat to windward.

    I tried the bridle in the centre of the boat:

    …but have second thoughts about it since it can make moving from back of the boat upfront (or the other way) tricky.

    I have come across this solution on the web:

    …but feel it’s perversely overengineered ( no wonder it’s a German boat đŸ˜ˆ ). So there goes a less perverse version of the same thing:

    …but hey, I want to be able to row the boat. There’s no point in having a W if you can’t row it!

    So the quest goes on…. đŸ˜€

    Here are some silly and yet untried ideas:

    a. Install a soft plastic stick (like those used for nylon camping tents construction) from one side of the transom to the other, forming a horizontal semicircle behind the boat (or even better a semiellipsis?, it might be possible to install it by pushing the ends into the rubber D-section fend-off perhaps). The mainsheet might be fooled into thinking that we have a round stern now, and thus give up looking for the corner to catch).

    b. Install a bridle as suggested – a little forward of the transom, perhaps at the level of the bulkhead. Then install some kind of short slightly bendy flag poles on either side of the boat, a little behind the bridle attachments. These should stop the mainsheet from sliding along the gunwhale to the rear corner, but will surely look crazy and possibly cause some even worse and at this moment unpredictable troubles.

    And to end this useless post with another interesting picture:

    It’s the stern of a Bristol channel pilot cutter (probably the most seaworthy sailing vessel of all times). Through the above headaches I have developed a deep appreciation for boats (pardon me, it is a ship in this case isn’t it?) with a round stern. But can you spot the metal spring? And you thought that bendy flag poles were a strange idea…

    Best wishes



    @BluTak wrote:

    my only reservations are those big cleats waiting to snag the mainsheet

    The main never gets near the cleats, that is why it is such a perfect location IMHO. The main is usually at the floor just aft of the CB case and also crosses over the aft buoyancy tank, well aft of the cleats. I can’t think of any maneuver that would bring the main close to those cleats.


    Just wanted to share with anyone interested in this topic – I’ve just finished my summer holiday sailing with the bridle attached to eyes that hold those blocks and springs for spinaker sheet (at gunwhale, about 70cm forward of transom). Mainsheet purchase there 2:1, gybing rope with ring added at center.
    Sailed in light and strong wind conditions, upwind and downwind, lots of gybing to test this.

    Mainsheet tension when beating remains civilised (never even needed to turn on the ratchet function on the center swivel block), as far as I can tell – sailshape is not ruined as with complete-centre system, and mainsheet never got caught under rear corner in gybes.
    There is one thing though: when raising or lowering the sail, mainsheet can get under the tiller. But in my expereience it’s just a matter of getting used to pay a little attention. It seems it doesen’t happen while sailing.

    All in all I like it very much.

    Best wishes to all!

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