Whisker Poles for Efficient Sailing

Revised by BoatUS editors in April 2012

Tired of constantly having your headsail flop around on downwind legs? Using a telescoping whisker pole to stabilize your headsail allows it to work more efficiently: it improves downwind drive, increases your downwind speed, and eliminates setting and tending a spinnaker—plus the headsail will set to prime position without constant helm correction and sheeting. 

Allow a margin of extra strength when buying a whisker pole. Skimping on size could cause the pole to fail due to sudden compression overload and bending, so choose a pole that falls within both the length and diameter ranges for your boat size. Boats with relatively heavy displacement or bowsprits should use the next larger pole. Some use the rule of flying a genoa on a whisker pole that the pole length should be 100% of the foot of the sail. Follow manufacturer recommendations.

Once you get the right pole for your needs, remember that they need regular maintenance to stay in proper working condition. Many advise that you use fresh water for washing and flushing all deck hardware. Using the wrong lubricants may clog spring housings and ball bearings and can destroy twist-lock components. Again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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