Singlehand Whisker Pole Order-of-Operations


Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Whisker pole novice question on how to pole out a roller-furled jib by oneself?

And when/how do you set guy lines?

It seems like one approach is to set the pole at a fixed point (held in place by topping lift, fore and aft guys) and then unroll the the headsail. Another approach is to unroll the headsail the desired amount and then adjust the guys based on pole location. Assuming I fix the guy lines after rolling out the sail, my guess on the process would be as follows:

I suppose I want to start on a deep broad reach, with the jib rolled. Probably have a preventer rigged for the main(?)
Engage the pilot, or failing that, the wheel brake and move to the foredeck.
Another alternative would be to douse the main, but I presume I need to keep forward motion for course-holding.

1. Retrieve the stowed pole.
2. Attach the inboard end to the mast.
3. Attach the topping lift to the outboard pole end.
4. Attach a foreguy to the outboard end such that the pole can't swing back against the shrouds.
5. Bring the slack jib sheet into the outboard jaw.
6. Raise the topping lift such that the pole is perpendicular to the waterline. (At this point if there is no tension in the foreguy or jib sheet, the pole is flopping around a bit, no?)
7. Roll out the jib a bit, effectively by the lee.
8. Bring the course closer to Dead Down Wind. Trim main as necessary.
9. Roll out the jib a bit more until the headsail is at the desired deployment.
10. Then set fore and aft guy lines

Reverse the process to furl.

Comments welcome.

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
You'll need an autopilot or somebody at the helm.

Here's what I do when singlehanded. It's simple and relies on a bit of manhandling.

I furl the genoa. I change the genoa sheets to the rail leads and run them outside the stays, leaving them slack.

I get the pole ready on the foredeck--out of its bag, release line untangled, length set. Unless you have a Forespar Line Control pole, which is adjustable in place, the pole length somewhat influences foresail area. A very long pole means you can't furl the genoa fully. A very short pole means less than full extension DDW.

I attach the bridle (in my case a spare spinnaker halyard) and lift the pole so it lies across the lifelines. The pole just sits there suspended on the lifelines. I take my time, since the boat is rolling and pitching, and there's no rush. (Did I mention you need a good autopilot?)

I slide the suspended pole athwartships so as to be able to grasp the outboard fitting and insert the genoa sheet through. The genoa is still furled, the sheet has plenty of slack. The ocean is racing by, the mainsail is pulling fine, we're rolling some, maybe a lot. But there's no rush. I wait for the boat to be level, and when it is--

In one heroic motion I haul up the pole to ring height, secure its halyard in its temporary cam cleat on the mast, thrust the pole out to weather, and clip the mast end to the ring. Since the weight of the pole is carried by the bridle, and the genny is still happily furled, it's easy. If I screw it up, which happens, the pole still hangs happily on its bridle. I wait for the right moment and try again.

Once in place on the mast, the pole bangs around a little in a seaway, but soon winds up lying against the forestay. Still no rush required. (We've been on the foredeck ten minutes by now, which is why auto steering is necessary. Oh, did I say that?)

Now, trying to look as much like Errol Flynn as possible, I stroll relaxedly aft to the cockpit. What is left to do? A mere cranking of the active genoa sheet, which draws the genoa from its furl. The sheet slides through the pole end, but often the pole end declines to slide all the way to the clew of the genoa. Manipulation of sheet tension (yanking, slacking, yanking) encourages it to do so. All there is to it.

I don't always rig a foreguy. I have found that with the weather genoa block moved forward on the rail, the downward pull of the sheet makes a very secure set, and it's one less line to deal with when jibing. (In light air, I might use the lazy genoa sheet as a foreguy, just to keep the rig from slopping around). My whisker pole jaws face down on the outboard end, so the sheet will fall out when the pin is retracted by the remote control line.

I wear a harness attached to a jackline for all deck work. Nothing good happens if you can't slow everything down, and I tell myself never to rush, and if I find a need to rush it identifies an error in procedure.


Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Christian - I appreciate the complete description of your process, and the directive to slow things down and work thoughtfully.

What advantage do you gain by hauling up the topping lift/bridle and clipping on to the mast in a single motion?

Once you have the jib sheet through the outboard jaw, wouldn't it be easier to first clip the pole end on to the mast (with the outboard side resting on the lifelines) and then raise the topping lift?

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Hopefully, Olivia de Havilland was waiting in the cockpit with a refreshing rum drink for the tired-but-heroic mariner... !


Member III
Thank you for the excellent description Christian. Do you adjust pole length once deployed or leave at a fixed length so it could clear furled genoa when jibing? A Christian Williams pink pants video session would be most helpful.

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Tom, I think I mean that the pole is most unsteady when first raised off the lifelines by the lift, so the motion to connect it to the mast is best immediate (and seamlessly graceful). That's also the moment when, esp. disconnecting the pole, I am dancing around like Long John on his wooden peg. The 32-3 rolled emphatically, good deal moreso than the 381.

Jeff, I used to have to take the button-adjustable pole off to jibe, since it was always a lot longer than the J measurement. The line control Forespar model often lets me reduce the length and do a version of dip-pole.

Aye, Loren, Captain Blood!


Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Here's my related blog note on whisker pole procedures. Thanks to all who contributed.