Storm Jibs

Also see my post "Heavy weather and Storm jib rigging" that updates and extends this page to include larger heavy weather jibs that need a slightly different approach but one that also supports a storm jib.

Size & Type

A good place to start when deciding what to carry is the World Sailing Offshore Regulations for racing (OSR, 2020) para 4.26 “Storm & Heavy Weather Sails”.

Category 3 relates to races “across open water, most of which is relatively protected or close to shorelines”.

Category 2 relates to races “Races of extended duration along or not far removed from shorelines or in large unprotected bays or lakes, where a high degree of self-sufficiency is required of the boats”, Categories 1 & 0 are for more extreme oceanic sailing but have the same requirements as Cat 2 for heavy weather sails.

So a crossing to Southern Ireland from Cornwall would definitely be a Cat 2 (as is the Fastnet Race), RORC cross channel races are normally Cat 2 but with the additional requirements from Category 2  including "a life raft, AIS Transponder [sic, it's a transceiver] and RORC prescriptions".

Cat 3 requires a heavy weather jib with a maximum area  of 13.5% of the foretriangle height (IG) squared, I make that =< 15.4 sqm for the A9m.

Cat 0, 1 & 2 also require a storm jib  with a maximum area of 5% of IG squared with a maximum luff length of 65% of IG, c 5.7 sq m for the A9m, c 3.1 sq m for an A24 (less than the builders spec).

If the designer specifies smaller then that prevails. Also

The storm jib must be attached to a stay independently of a luff groove, the heavy weather jib may use the luff groove [but clearly that doesn't work with roller reefing!] but an independent method of attachment must be readily available for use if required [but prevention is better than cure especially on a tossing fore deck!]. 

This is because there is a real danger of a sail pulling out of a groove in a storm. A storm sail may also be too thick to fit into a groove. 

A heavy weather jib will be a bit of a luxury on many Achilles types, especially if the furling Genoa is about the size of a #2 Genoa as it is likely to reef pretty well down to the required size, even with a 150% genoa I resisted getting one for several years due to the cost but after being hammered by F6+ headwinds on a number of occasions I have given in and got one, but at 12.1 sqm it is quite a bit smaller than the maximum so it should be good to at least F7 and if I am feeling lazy, which happens more frequently these arthritic days, and it is blowing F4-5 I might well start off with it rigged and more mainsail showing to make short tacking easier and to avoid the hassle of setting it at sea if the wind increases. 

I'll probably post about that separately or update this when I have practical experience with it, but rigging is the same as a storm jib on a removable stay (but further forward than may be optimal for a storm jib) and both will require sperate sheeting if roller reefing is in place - the sheets will need to stay on the furling sail to help prevent is from unfurling and I for one would not want to be standing in the eyes of the boat in a rough sea to get them off and put on sail ties..

I started off with a storm jib on the basis that if the reefed genoa was overpowered or ineffective I could go to the storm jib which should at least be on the safe side, except perhaps if I had to beat off of a lea shore.

Storm Jib Design

Storm jib by e-sails.
Storm Jibs should have a high clew to:
  • Protect them from waves washing over. 
  • Get clear wind in rough seas.
  • Have the sheeting point further aft and closer to the normal jib sheeting points than would otherwise be the case.
Most use a strop below the tack to extenuate these benefits but going to high would be counter productive, increasing the boats heel.

The special regulations and common sense says they should be in a high visibility colour.

They can be purchased off the shelf from several makers, usually sized in 1 sq m or 10 sq ft steps. A 5.7 Square metre sail (described as 60 sq ft) from e-sails (the on-line brand of Kemp Sails) is currently (2021) around £300, quite a bit cheaper than most sold by chandleries. A 30 or 40 sq ft sail for an A24 is £170 / £215. 

But then, unless your boat has hanked headsails it has to have its own rigging.

Rigging a storm jib

If the other headsails use hanks then the forestay can be used, the centre of effort will be well forward so check out the balance of the boat with a close reefed mainsail, use a short strop under the tack to raise the sail clear of waves and above the dropped headsail it will replace or be replaced by. 

Hoisting a storm jib on a sleeve, that should
work OK but I don't fancy rigging that on
a bouncing foredeck.
If the headsail is on a furling system a storm jib with hanks can be hoisted one of three ways: 

  1. Having a sleeve over the forestay and rolled up headsail then attaching the sail to the sleeve. 
  2. Rather than a sleeve, wire or rope loops with “Parrel” Beads acting as rollers that should be easier to rig and hoist.
  3. On a removable stay for the storm jib (which may also serve for a heavy weather jib). 
Another option is a storm jib in two layers that wraps around the furled headsail, these have been designed that sit permanently at the bottom of the forestay. I have no experience of these but am sceptical and reviews I have seen have not been positive.

I am not keen on sleeves because:
  • It will be problematical over a large sail and the headsail sheets would get in the way.
  • I don’t like the idea of spending all that time right in the eyes of a small boat in near gale or storm conditions to hank it on.
  • It may require the jib sheets to be removed and the sail secured before hoisting which may not be easy or safe.
The problems with "Parrel" beads are the same as a sleeve but they should work better over a large sail and there would be far less friction when hoisting.

Both however will be cheaper at £97 - £158 for an Achilles than the best option that is the removable inner forestay. The down side of which is difficulty in tensioning it sufficiently to prevent sag and potentially cost but it is easier to rig and use, for instance the sail can be attached whilst sitting at the mast and the whole caboodle then moved forward to attach the stay before tensioning then hoisting the sail, again from the relative safety of the mast area or cockpit.

Removable Stays

Most of the rest of this section was moved, with some further explanation, from my page "About the Achilles 9m & Sancerre".

With a large foretriangle, a stay for a storm jib would probably be best be fairly well back from the forestay and parallel to it, but for a heavy weather jib it will be necessary to have it further forward. Depending on the configuration it may be possible to build in some flexibility, more of that below.

The “Rolls Royce” Solution

Is a stainless wire system rigged in parallel with the forestay, fixed near the top of the mast and with quick release attachment at the bottom, adjustment with screw or Highfield Lever and with a dedicated halyard running inside the mast. Putting that on an Achilles would be rather expensive, just a simple screw tensioner is £400, a Highfield leaver is more reasonable but will set you back c £290 (2,100 Kg break load)  to £460 (4,200 Kg) plus the stay, bottle screw for adjustment, fittings etc. 

More practical (cheaper!) solutions for an Achilles.

Here are a couple of options, both give at least some flexibility as to the location at the bottom to the extent they can be used in more than one position if that is what is needed for a storm and a heavy weather sail, anchor / chain lockers however limit the positioning options.

I have two ways of hoisting the storm jib, originally I rigged a movable Dynema inner stay from an existing fitting on the mast below the radar reflector to the U bolt at the back of the chain locker and tensioned with a block and tackle with the option of using one of the cabin roof winches if necessary for further "grunt". The stay is approximately parallel to the forestay, balanced well with the main and allowed the storm jib to be flown as a Staysail.

The problem is getting a halyard onto the sail, the spinnaker halyard works but the pull comes from further up the mast so is not in line with the luff which is not ideal. The spinnaker pole topping lift would also work but has the reverse problem pulling the sail away from the stay, not good, and it does not feed to a winch.

Sancerre's second storm jib arrangement.
The wire strop to the sail tack lifts the sail
to keep it clear of waves coming over the
bow in very severe conditions and to help
keep the sail out of the wind shadow of
approaching waves. I now put the tack 
strop directly behind the forestay which 
gives a better sheeting angle to the blocks 
installed for the heavy weather jib.
I decided the spinnaker halyard was fine on the odd occasion I used the storm jib as a stay sail and if I had to use it for real (probably in > c 30 knots of true wind) I could use the spinnaker halyard from the winch and align it better by triangulating it with the pole uphaul.

Then I had a brain wave. Like most boats of her era, before furling headsails became the norm on cruising boats, the Achilles 9m had two jib halyards to speed up headsail changes. I reinstated the unused starboard halyard using one of the cheaper (but still expensive!) low stretch Dynema ropes to use as a stay with the spinnaker halyard to hoist the sail, this line and the heavily stressed components have a breaking load of c 2 tonnes, more than the deck is likely to take so the snap shackle on the end of the Dynema is a weak link at c 1 tonnes BS, if that goes I can attach the larger shackle on the moving block or on handy Billy directly to the Dynema loop or through a shackle as a replacement weak link and have another go.

It can be attached to a U-Bolt on the deck just behind the forestay or to one just aft of the chain locker which was substantially reinforced when I installed the anchor windlass.

Unfortunately the second jib halyard comes out at the bottom of the mast and used to lead up to a winch on the mast, but the winch and its mounting plate was removed by a previous owner. All was not lost however and I tension it from below using one of my general purpose foredeck lines that goes back to a winch with the preferred option of an additional 4:1 purchase by using the handy billy in between. This stay does not work as well on the odd occasion I use the storm jib as a stay sail but I have retained the other system and can use that if necessary.

The storm jib was originally sheeted to a spinnaker winch via the toe rail with a "tweaker"  attached to the base of the mast to narrow the sheeting angle. When I purchased the heavy weather jib I installed a U-Bolt just in front of the genoa track with a block to sheet the storm and heavy weather jibs and added an adjustable barber hauler system with a 3:1 tackle from that U-Bolt via the main shroud anchor point to a low friction ring round the sheet. The tail of the tackle comes back to a cam cleat on the side of the cabin allowing the vertical sheeting angle to be adjusted from the cockpit. Unlike the original arrangement for the storm jib this is rigged before going to sea with the front block clipped to the mast until required with spare line and the dedicated sheets in a mast bag to keep the deck clear.

The regulations require “Sheeting positions on deck for each storm and heavy-weather sail”, I don’t race under the regulations and have not investigated this in detail to find out if barber haulers are allowed under the rule but am not bothered by that, in any event the storm jib should be OK without them.

See also my later post "Heavy Weather and Storm Jib Rigging" for pictures of the rigging and sheeting mentioned above.

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