Peel sail change – step by step

Procedure for a peel head sail change, which would apply for a larger type of yacht (30-50 feet) but obviously can be modified for other types as well. By “peel” we mean hoisting a second head sail side by side with an existing one and then once the new sail is in operation we drop the old one. By doing this the impact to boat speed will be minimised.

What this article is also trying to emphasize is the importance of crew weight and working in a smart efficient way to avoid disturbances to the balance of the boat, keeping the crew on the rail as much as possible. It should be possible to change the head sail with only a maximum of two people being away from the rail at any one time.

Assumptions made for the step-by-step instructions below:

  • The boat is on a starboard tack
  • change from no 3 headsail (Genoa) up to a no 2
  • The no 3 is in port track
  • We’ll be hoisting the no 2 on the inside of the no 3.
  • This is a peel only change, ie we will not be tacking
  • There is a spare “change sheet” available on the boat.

The cast:-

  • Tactician
  • All other crew
  • Pit
  • Bowman
  • Mast
  • Trimmer
  • Main

 Headsail (on port tack on this picture)

Here we go:

 —— Preparing the new sail ———

 1  Tactician:
Calls for change to no 2 headsail!
 2  Pit: Goes down below to get the no 2
 3  Main Trimmer: Small ease on traveller or mainsheet while boat is disturbed
 4  All other crew: Hike harder while pit person is off the rail
 5  Pit: Passes the no 2 sail with the tack end first to windward side crew on rail
 6  All other crew: Pass sail forward to Bowman on windward side still hiking
 7  Pit: Gives small ease on active (in use) halyard so that the jammer can be freed easily later without a winch
 8  Pit: Takes (the change sheet) end of port sheet and throws it forward to port shroud and puts one wrap on port cabin top winch
 9  Pit: Eases starboard Genoa car back to 2 position ( will need crew on rail to push car back along track)
 10  Pit: Opens jammer of the new halyard and goes back to rail with halyard in hand and one wrap on winch and hikes hard
 11  Bowman: Now leaves rail, remembering to stay low to avoid unnecessarily disturbing the flow of wind.
 12  Bowman: Takes new halyard with him as he goes forward (make sure halyard is free from spreaders)
 13  All other crew: Hike hard while Bowman is off the rail
 14  Bowman: Unzips head end of bag only
 15  Bowman: Attaches tack to starboard sheet shackle
 16  Bowman: Attaches halyard to head and feeds bolt rope into balls and track
 17  Bowman: Bursts bag (not unzip) and moves back, dragging head end of bag with him
 18  Bowman: Passes bag to crew on rail who run zip while on hiking and then pass it along and down hatch.
 19  Bowman: Un-ties starboard sheet from the no 3 and calls to mast person
 20  Mastman: Re-runs the sheet outside of mainsheet and shrouds and pass back to Bowman (over the spinnaker pole)
 21  Bowman: Attaches starboard sheet to the no 2
 22  Bowman: Finds end of working sheet (change sheet) where pit tossed it and brings it along deck, through car, back over car and along deck, around the back of the main sheet and shroud, attach it to the no 2.
 23  Bowman: Calls to tactician that all is ready

—– Hoist and drop  ——–

 24  Tactician: Gives final go!
 25  Bowman: Moves forward to feed sail
 26  Mastman: Leaves the rail keeping low. Grabbing the new halyard at the mast.
 27  Mastman: Hoists
 28  Pit: Tails halyard while on rail, (grind on later when settled)
 29  Mastman: Calls “Made!”
 30  Mastman: Crouches by the mast and waits
 31  Trimmer: Leaves rail
 32  Trimmer: Lets car back to the no 2 position (mark on car leads to put in cleat at rough 2 position. Car may not come back at this stage, no problem)
 33  Trimmer: Takes pressure on change sheet to 2 as a best possible trim
 34  Pit: Leaves rail and gets in position in the pit
 35  Pit: Calls: “ready to drop 3?”
 36  Bowman: Replies: “ready from bow!”
 37  Mastman: Goes to leeward side and takes foot or sheet of the no 3 in hand
 38  Pit: Starts the drop, easing the halyard in a controlled fashion.
 39  Mastman &
Flake the no 3 as best they can.
 40  Pit: Winches new halyard to correct luff tension
 41  Pit: Returns to rail and hikes hard
 42  Bowman: Attends to 3 on deck (* see below)
 43  Mastman:  Unties port sheet from 3 and (keeping sheet in the car makes sure it now passes outside mainsheet and shroud and ties to number 2 calls made to trimmer

——-  Ready to tack at this point OR ——– 

 44  Trimmer: Check car position
 45  Trimmer: Takes load on new sheet (which never left the primary winch) and dumps tail end (change sheet) off the port cabin top winch.
 46  Mastman: Frees change sheet from the no 2
 47  Mastman: Returns to the rail and hikes hard
 48  Trimmer: Tail end can be dragged back


* no 3 on deck ( if a long leg ahead then 3 can be brought to windward side and passed along the crew on the rail). they can flake and bag it on the rail) if it’s a short leg before a reach then leave it strapped on foredeck until the boat is flat and then attend to it.

3 thoughts on “Peel sail change – step by step

  1. Great write up.
    Never considered the change sheet before, we always used the windward sheet instead, but this limit your ability to tack. Thanks for the tip

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