RYA Recognised Teaching Establishments are highly regulated. Sail Cruising Schools are subject to 3 separate pre-arranged inspections and 2 possible unannounced inspections by the RYA or MCA. Of the 3 pre-arranged inspections the annual inspection of the yacht has a check list which currently runs to 164 items.

One area in which there is surprisingly very little regulation is the choice of headsail system for a cruising yacht. It is up to each RYA Cruising School to choose between a furling, luff groove or hank on headsail system. For my own single yacht sailing school I have attempted to combine all 3 systems with a 5 piece headsail wardrope (excluding the spinnaker).

In the previous article I examined the use of my No1 genoa and No.3 furling jib and concluded that the use of both furling and non furling headsails within a 5 day RYA Course has advantages for the novice and experienced sailor alike.

In this article I drag the remaining 3 headsails from their locker and examine their uses. These are not used during every RYA Course but are kept on board for specific purposes or for post yachtmaster training.


his has a sail area of about 120% compared to my No.1 non furling 150% genoa.

I use it to demonstrate the use of my twin groove Rotostay headsail foil as an alternative to the spinnaker for long downwind passages. My No.1 genoa is hoisted with the spinnaker halyard in the leeward groove of the foil and my No.2 genoa is hoisted with the genoa halyard on the windward groove while on the same tack. With a single sheet in each headsail the lazy sheet on the No2 genoa is led through the outboard end of the spinnaker pole which has been set to windward. The pole is braced in position with an after guy in addition to the usual uphaul and downhaul. A second sheet is bent on the No1 genoa and led through the outboard end of the main boom.

When the boat is turned downwind the end result is captured in the photo right.

No.4 HEADSAIL This is a dedicated storm jib which is part of the RYA/MCA regulations.

On Westbound Adventurer the storm jib can be set in the following ways:

  1. As a furling jib and reduced in size from the cockpit. (See photo 1 and ignore the tiny orange sail.)
  2. As an unstayed jib because of the wire luff aft of the bolt rope. (See photos 2 and 3.)
  3. Loosely attached around a headsail foil or furled genoa because of the dedicated eyelets in the luff.

There is a big difference however between having a storm jib with the capability of being set in 3 ways and having a crew capable of achieving it.

In an ideal world we see the storm clouds on the horizon or feel the rising strength of the following wind. We react to this in textbook fashion by handing the present headsail and set the storm jib before conditions on the foredeck make this impractical.

In the real world we get caught out and end up doing a dangerous dance on the foredeck.

The following tips might help make method 2 a little easier, or should I say a little less difficult!

  • Have your dedicated storm jib in a special purpose bag so that tack and head can be attached before removing the bag from the sail and have a dedicated pair of sheets bent on inside this bag. (See photo 4.)
  • Capture the sheets of the existing furled headsail on the foredeck below the furling drum. (See photo 5.)
  • Turn the boat downwind and attach the halyard to the head of the storm jib from as far aft on the foredeck as the bagged storm jib will allow.
  • A fast and well co-ordinated hoist is required as the bag is removed from the storm jib.
  • Tension the halyard and sheet in as the boat is brought back into the wind.

The third method of setting the storm jib has the luff attached to your damaged headsail foil or to your furled genoa via the dedicated eyelets in the luff. The question is what kind of attachment will be least likely to snag on a hoist or drop? Sail ties? Heavy duty cable ties? Rolling beads? I don’t have much faith in this method but if anyone has found an efficient solution please let me know!


This is by far the smallest outfit in my sailing school headsail wardrobe. It was actually designed as a riding sail and is used as such when at anchor in moderate to strong winds. It is a hank on sail which is attached to the backstay and its effectiveness as a riding sail is examined in the article, �Anchoring Extras�. If it is not used at anchor during an RYA Course I bring it out and hank it on to the baby stay to demonstrate the great advantage of this system which is ease of hoist and drop.

I have obtained small luff groove converters for this hank on sail so that it could be set on the luff groove of the headsail foil (see photo No.6) but I’m sure this will never be put into practice in anger as my storm jib can be reduced in size from the cockpit! I have considered setting it on the baby stay just aft of the clew of the storm jib purely to increase visibility as my present storm jib is white. If you are thinking of investing in a storm jib, my advice is specify storm orange!

This completes an examination of my Sailing School headsails but if you are thinking of disposing of an old headsail don’t bin it until you have read the next article!