Gybing Sailboat Guide


Gybe sailing maneuver is one of the basic and most important maneuvers you’ll have to learn for successful boat control. It is also one of the most dangerous actions you can do while sailing, so it is really important from the aspect of safe sailing to learn the basic principles and get the essential information before you decide to give it a go. This article will serve you as a guide on how to perform gybe sailing maneuvers, so when the time for gybing comes, you’ll know exactly what, when, and how to do it.

What Is Gybing?

Gybing, or jibing, is a term used to describe the action during which the boat mainsail and boom will move from one side of the vessel to the other side on their own. With bigger boats or the smaller vessels during the strong winds of the storm, gybing could happen suddenly and quickly, affecting the rigging, while it can also harm anything that happens to be on the way. When the mainsheet movement has finished, it is then set for the new point of sail.

Boat With Headsail

In case your boat has a headsail, this means the jib will also move along to the other side. You’ll have to release the jib sheet to let it move to the other side, then use the other jib sheet to set the sail to the new, wanted direction.

Gybing Dangers

Again, we must say that gybing can be really dangerous if you’re not well prepared. Different to tacking, for gybing it is required to act carefully with the mainsheet. If you don’t do it properly, “crash gybe” can occur and your boom, mainsail, and the slack mainsheet will start to uncontrollably bang and beat across your vessel, potentially injuring someone on board or causing material damage.

Even during controlled gybing, it can be dangerous because, unlike tackling, it means the sails will move from far out left to far outright or vice versa. In the weak wind conditions, especially if your boat is a small one, it may not be so hard to do, but if the wind is strong or if the boat is big, there are a few things to pay special attention to:

Boom And The Mainsheet Tackle

These two parts of a sailboat tend to be quite heavy, which when multiplied by the speed it can gain produces an amazing amount of force that could cause severe injuries or even be fatal in case of a hit. Statistics show that the most overboard knocks are caused by gybes than anything else on board. Learn the best man overboard sailing rescue maneuver.

Rigging Stress

The sudden and powerful movement of the mainsail across the vessel can cause high stress and damage the rigging or the sail itself along the way. Some other parts of the vessel that could break solely because of the stress are a shroud or stay, and this could eventually lead to dismasting, in some cases.

Wrapped Sail

The sail may end up being wrapped around in front of the forest once the gybe starts. Under the friction and the wind, it can become pinned against the forestay, this way being unable to perform the clean and smooth gybe to the other side of the boat. Check out our guide on how to predict the wind.

How To Perform A Safe Gybe


Although not easy and possibly dangerous, gybe can be done in a controlled manner, if you find it easier or in the need to do it instead of tacking. Here is how to do it to keep your sailing crew safe and prevent any damage to your vessel:

Make sure everyone on board knows you’re about to gybe. If there are inexperienced crew members, make sure to position them properly so they don’t get hit by the boom or tackle. One of the crew members should be ready to react with the jib sheets.

Tighten the mainsheet to minimize the distance the boom will go. Do the same with the jib sheet to stop the sail from moving in front of the forestay.

Make sure everyone is ready and at their place. Loudly announce “Gybe ho” (or any other word you find appropriate, but this one is the most common and everyone should know it) command and turn the boat across the wind. This will cause the jib to be blown back, while the mainsail and boom will move to the other side.

As the wind backs the jib, using the second jib sheet haul it in while the first jib sheet is being released. Don’t do it suddenly, try to do it as easily and slowly as possible to keep everything under control. Trim the jib with the jib sheet, and make sure your new direction is stable.

Let the mainsheet and trim the mainsail.

How To Prevent Unwanted Gybes

Every time the boat starts to go downwind, the possibility of the sudden and accidental gybe will rise thanks to wind effect, a boat turning caused by the wave, or a steering mistake. This is easily preventable by placing the line to secure the boom and prevent it from any movement.

This is a so-called “preventer” and it can be rigged in basically any way wanted, depending on the boat. There is an option to rig permanent preventers starting from the boom on both sides, then running it to the blocks at the rail, and finishing up back at the cockpit. With this kind of preventers, it is possible to tighten them up on the lee side when necessary, and released them on the windward side, or it can be just a line tied to the boom on one and the mast cleat on the other end of it.

But beware, this doesn’t mean the danger is completely out. This way you’ll prevent the boom from moving across the boat, but it won’t stop the mainsail from backing, and if it does it will become really hard to control the vessel. This is why steering downwind with care is essential, and you should think about sailing a broad reach instead of a run to avoid unwanted gybe.

Globo Surf Overview

Learning how to gybe – and how to prevent one – should be on the top of your sailing activities. With the help of this article, you and your sailing crew will know what to do and how to do it, so it doesn’t ruin your trip by sending someone overboard or causing injuries.

More Sail Reviews:


  1. How to Gybe a Sailboat,
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!