The jib barber adjustment that improves upwind gait

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barber
In this photo taken aboard an Italia Yachts 998, one notices how the orange jib sheet is “forced” to move toward the deckhouse by the black barber ring. Photo Giuffrè / Sailing Newspaper

There is a maneuver that in the age of low-overlap jibs, with the shrouds attachment increasingly external to the deck, has become indispensable on sport sailboats. We are talking about the barber, which is that adjustment that, when used correctly, allows us to dramatically improve the pitch and angle of our upwind boat.

What is barbering

What does it look like and what is it for? The barber, not to be confused with the carriage that works on the fore-aft axis, is nothing more than a ring that, thanks to a line connected to a stopper or choke, applies a force perpendicular to the headsail sheet. When we cock the barber the sail sheet and clew will move toward the middle part of the boat, approaching or even passing the deckhouse. Basically, the barber by acting on the sheet goes to change the angle of incidence of the sail with respect to the wind, allowing us to tighten upwind more, with all that follows and we will see below.

When you cock the barber

The barber should be worked when sailing upwind and according to wind strength. In winds below 6-7 knots, the boat will have to be made to accelerate with barber unloaded so as not to close the sail too much at a time when the boat is still slow and there is no need to seek maximum heave angle. As the boat accelerates we will begin to point the barber with the sail luff gradually moving toward the center of the deck.

With little wind it is counterproductive to overstretch; we will risk having a sail that allows us to heave a lot but with a decidedly slow boat. If the wind, on the other hand, rises from 8-9 knots and up, at least to 16-18 knots, this will be the phase when we will put the most load on this maneuver. This is because we are in the medium wind conditions where boats can usually express their full power and don’t have major speed problems, so it is the best time to caulk the barber and try to hold as tight an upwind as possible.

It is useful to set up 3 or 4 signs on the deck with sticker to have references, to be perfected outing after outing, on where to take the barber when we cock it. Exaggerating with tension, or giving too little of it, will make the maneuver useless or counterproductive. Our trusted sailmaker will be able to help with this assessment.

Above 18 knots of wind it is necessary to assess the situation and figure out what load to give to the maneuver. With intense air, it is physiological that the mainsailer must let go of the mainsheet frequently: with the barber heavily caulked, the air coming off the jib will create tremendous and counterproductive rejection on the mainsail, as it will come to foil a portion of even more than 50 percent of the sail. It will be necessary to let go a little, by doing so we will have less rejection on the mainsail and at the same time the boat will heel less since the sail has a smaller angle to the wind, so it will also benefit the mainsailer who will be able to unload the sail less. The overall effect will be better from an aerodynamic point of view and thus better speed.

When the upwind becomes wide

What do we do with the barber if we have to sail upwind wide and don’t care about tightening the wind? We will let go of it completely, and if possible we will prepare a very outer flying foresail point to have little twist on the sail and a jib leech sufficiently closed to develop maximum power at the wide swell relative to the wind. If we kept the barber caulked, with the sheet left for wide windward, the result would be to have the sail with the head too open and depowered, inefficient.

Mauro Giuffrè


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