Simple jib whisker pole setup?

I’m adding a jib whisker pole and want a simple set up. The second-hand pole extends to 12 feet (big enough?)and I’ve thought about using a simple ring fitting on the mast rather than one on a track, with a topping lift at the other end. The boat is on a large mountain lake (Flathead, Montana) so no ocean sailing (yet), but mountain winds can kick up. Opinions?

I think 12 feet is a little short, but that pole should prove easy to handle and stow.

On Z, the luff perpendicular of the jib topsail and the genoa are in the 5 - 6 metre range (roughly 15 - 19 feet).

When Roger Olson was president of Sam L Morse Co, he chose a 14.4 foot (4.26 metre) non-telescoping pole. That length is of course a compromise. Longer would be better for sail power especially in light conditions when using the overlapping genoa, but the difficulty of handling and stowing the pole rises.

We bought Z from Sam L Morse in the changeover from Roger to Sumio Oya. We chose to add the factory option of whisker pole plus handling gear (mast mounted track, topping lift, and so on).

We’ve only used the whisker pole in a seaway. I’ve never sailed on a lake!

In a seaway, we appreciate a couple of features of the running rigging associated with our installation and the mast mounted track. We judge that the dis-benefits (added mass, complex handling procedure) were outweighed by the benefits.

On Z, the running rigging for the pole include (a) the topping lift; (b) a fore and an aft guy; and, because of the mast-mounted track, (c) uphaul/downhaul for the car on the mast-mounted track.

Z has roller-furling on the headstay and so we roller-furl the jib topsail or the genoa. We deploy the pole first, either with the headsail on the other side of the boat (and then tack to put the headsail on the side with the pole) or with the headsail furled, and then unfurl it with the sheet in the jaws of the pole.

We usually sail Z with the forestay in place (we do have an over-centre lever - usually called a Highfield lever - that allows us to move the forestay to one side - but we have never tried to tack the whisker pole).To gybe, we roller-furl the headsail, un-deploy the pole, and then re-deploy the pole on the other side. Not a problem on long legs. Not what I’d do in a short race around the buoys.

Except in very calm conditions, we have always added fore and aft guys to the whisker pole. The benefits include: (1) the guys and the topping lift give excellent control over the positioning of the pole; (2) when a squall threatens, the sail can be roller-furled leaving the pole firmly in place until sea conditions allow for the appropriate foredeck work; and (3) should I lose control in a gybe, I can let the headsail blow out through the jaws of the pole while we focus on getting the boom under control.

The alternative to using guys is to use both sheets (the working jib sheet and the lazy jib sheet) to hold the pole tip down in puffs and gusts. I’ve done that making the lazy sheet around a bitt and the working sheet around the mid-ships deck cleat.

When setting up the pole, I aim to have the pole more-or-less horizontal (tip perhaps a little higher) at about the same height as the clew of the headsail and roughly forming a straight line with the boom (which is of course on the other side of the boat).

Each of Z’s guys are about 10 metres long, with a snap shackle on the working end to clip onto the pole tip. I make the fore guy to a bitt and run it through the bow hawse-hole and outside everything back to the pole tip. I make the aft guy to the mid-ships cleat, through the mid-ships hawse-hole, and outside everything fr’d to the pole tip. I’ve marks on the guys to show where they should enter the hawse-holes.

Tension in the fore guy is crucial to stop the pole being lifted. The alternative is to use the lazy jib sheet (as mentioned earlier).

In a squall that lasts enough to generate significant windwave, I do everything possible to stow the pole. One of our sister ships in 2008 had her pole deployed and a roll put the pole into the sea, causing a major and fatal deformity to the mast.

Thank you, Bil. Can you provide me with some details of your mast track and car? How long? How far off the deck does it start? What size? I’ve been told by someone at Forespar that I could install three feet of Schaefer T-track, track end stops, and a ring type mast car and that this would be stronger than a mast pad-eye.

Zygote’s track is much longer than 3 feet. I think 3 feet of track would work if (1) you were stowing your pole on the deck; and (2) the track was only for working - meaning that the mid-point of the track is more-or-less at the height of the clew of your headsail (jib topsail or overlapping genoa or even a yankee).

What Z has is so much track so the car can run to the top of the track, with the pole hanging below it. That’s to allow the whisker pole to be stowed in position on the forward face of the mast. The pole is about 14 ft long, so the track is at least 14’ 4" long. Z’s track starts about 4 ft above the deck (higher than a purist would go! A purist would start the track just 1 foot above the deck. Z’s track is higher so we can stow our Cherub dinghy on the foredeck, between mast and bitts, and still use the whisker pole). Z’s track is a standard 1.25 inch.

I quite like Z’s installation. Not even one else does. Some purists reckon you should not stow a whisker pole on the mast, because of extra gear, extra weight, and the worry of losing both whisker pole and mast if you lose the stick (and the only spar left to jury rig as a mast would be the boom!).

A couple of BCCs have whisker poles stowed on deck. And only short sections of track, or another way of mounting the pole to the mast.

Sam L Morse Co charged $1,3xx for the mast-mounted track option in 1999. My guess is much more today.

I think Forespar’s advice is good. Wait for a calm day, and unfurl/fly your jib top and/or genoa, bringing the clew of each as close to the mast as possible. That’ll be your mid-point for your 3 ft of T-track.

Once again, thank you Bil.