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Pros and Cons of a Self-Tacking Jib

Pros and Cons of a Self-Tacking Jib
When setting up your rig, you may wonder what some of the benefits and drawbacks of a self-tacking jib? We are asked this question all the time. Each rig set up has it's benefits, but it all depends on how you plan to use your boat. Here we will cover the pros and cons of the self-tacking jib system. 
 

Benefits

Less Demanding: Having a boat with a self-tacking jib has many benefits that allow sailors to have a less demanding sailing experience. For instance, the self-tacking jib does not require you to release and pull in a new jib sheet each time you tack.
 
Cleaner Cockpit: Having only one sheet allows you to keep the cockpit clear from any tripping hazards. This makes the cockpit a cleaner place to entertain under sail and allows for the skipper to tack without having to move people around the cockpit to free up a winch.
 
Single-Hand with Ease: The self-tacking jib allows for easier single-handed sailing and an overall more relaxing experience. In addition, having a smaller non-overlapping headsail puts less wear and tear on your sail, therefore extending the life of the sail.
 

Drawbacks

Slower in Light Air: Having said this, there are also drawbacks to having a self-tacking jib. When sailing downwind in light air, the self-tacking jib can be very slow. This is why a lot of these boats with self-tacking jib set ups have a gennaker on a furler as well. 
 
Non Traditional: A traditionalist might not like the self-tacking jib, as they like being involved in every tack or gybe and having a “job” to do.
 
Cannot Fine-Tune Sail: Another negative with the self-tacking jib is the lack of ability to fine tune the trim and to have sail 100% properly trimmed. With the jib car on a track that slides from side to side you cannot adjust your lead fore and aft, making the sheet and halyard the only options for control.
 
 

So what is the best set up for you?

Well that depends on a few different factors. Some questions to ask yourself: 
  • How often do you plan to single-hand your boat? 
  • Do you plan on entertaining friends while sailing and want to keep the cockpit clean? 
  • Are you planning to participate to race the boat or go cruising?
  • If you like to handle the jib with every tack as part of the fun of sailing then a self tacking setup is not for you. 
There are pros and cons to both a traditional jib set up and a self-tacking setup, you just need to find the one that fits your sailing needs and ability the best.
 
Article by Jack McGuire
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