Bowman role, foredeck instruction

The following scenarios mainly refer to racing on a medium to large size keel boat. Some of the info would be of use when cruising as well. For a small keel boat, like a J24 e.g, or for a mega large yacht the procedures would be adjusted slightly.

The start

Before the start the Bowman often sits on the front pulpit (if one exists) talking or gesturing to the tactician about other boats and distance to the start line. The position at the very front of the boat gives an excellent view, which the back of the boat doesn’t have.
For the Bowman to correctly assess the distance to the line it’s beneficial to check the transit lines before the start, i.e. sighting some land mark on the extension of the start line.

Headsail (Genoa or jib)

Preparations for hoist
After getting the sail bag up on deck the Bowman will connect the tack of the sail to the appropriate fixed connection point at the base of the fore stay, and either the Bowman or Mastman will connect the sheets to the Clew using bowline knots or with soft shackles or similar.

Fixed connections at base of forestay

Bowline knots at headsail clew








If the sail is stored in a long zippered bag and the sail is not to be hoisted straight away it’s a good idea to keep it in the bag for now. That way, if decided to go with another headsail it’s quick to pack away, and it also keeps the sail from flapping about.

Lastly the Head (top) of the sail is fed into the feeder (‘dogs balls’) and further into the forestay track. The head sail halyard is connected to the Head of the sail.
Important: Look up the mast to make sure the halyard is not wrapped around the forestay.
If the boat has double fore stay tracks then you would normally hoist the sail on the port side to allow for a peel sail change later on using the starboard track.

Double forestay track system


While the mastman and pit normally does the heavy lifting in the hoist the Bowman should make sure the sail feeds ok, using his hands if there isn’t a good auto feeding arrangement. If the sail for some reason goes out of the track then alert the mastman and pull it down again to correct the feeding.

Hoisting the headsail. Bowman makes sure it feeds correctly into the track


Sometimes the sail needs a helping hand by the Bowman, getting the ‘skirt’ of the sail over the stanchions and life lines.

Dropping the sail

Headsail coming down roughly flaked on deck.

As soon as the spinnaker hoist is made, normally the headsail needs to come down immediately.

In the drop of the sail the pit person eases the halyard and the bow man, normally assisted by at least the mast man, makes sure the sail comes down without ending up in the water. Roughly flaking it on deck as it comes down and strapping it down with some bungee cords preventing it from being blown overboard.

Once the sail is down, make sure to take the Head through the feeder again and re-feed it into the (port) forestay track and the Pit person should take out the slack in the halyard. That way it’s ready to go for the next hoist.

Spinnaker and spinnaker pole (symmetrical)

Preparing the hoist

If the spinnaker is packed in a bag, then first bring it up on the deck and secure the bag to the life lines on the side it is to be hoisted on. The Spinnaker could alternatively be hoisted from the front hatch.

Port clew of spinnaker. Note the red tape indicating port side.

Now sheets (and braces if used) should be connected to the clews of the spinnaker. Make sure sheets and braces are outside stays, stanchions and pulpit. Note that port clew of the spinnaker is normally the one with a red tape and starboard the one with a green tape.

On a boat with both sheets and braces the sheet should be connected to the clew and the brace then connected to the sheet.

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