10 Step Guide On How To Raise And Hoist The Mainsail


When setting the sail, one of the very first steps involves raising the mainsail. Although raising and hoisting the mainsail is generally easy, people who are just getting started with sailing end up having problems.

To make sure that you manage to hoist the sail quickly and easily, we have the steps you need to follow in this article. If you go through this guide, you should be able to raise the sail without running into complications.

What Happens When You Are Raising and Hosting the Main Sail

Before we show you how to hoist the sail, you must understand what happens when you decide to raise the sail.

The mainsail on your sailboat will be raised the mast by the main halyard. The halyard is a wireline or a rope that rises from the deck to the boat’s masthead, through a block, and then down to the shackle connecting the top corner of the mainsail.

In some instances, the halyard may rise through the mast and exit at a point close to the deck. This helps reduce windage aloft. When you pull down on the halyard, this action will raise the sail.

The Steps to Follow When Raising and Hoisting the Mainsail

1. Prepare to Raise the Mainsail

If you intend to use a bigger sailboat after wearing your sailing gloves, its bow has to be pointed nearly or directly into the wind before you start to hoist the sail. This will help reduce the wind tension as you concentrate on hoisting the sail.

Motor your sailboat off the dock and use your boat steering wheel to point it into the wind. If you are dealing with a moored or anchored sailboat, unless a strong counter-current is present, the bow should naturally face into the wind.

Note: If you intend to hoist the sail on a small sailboat that is currently on a mooring or a dock, you can raise the sail before the sailboat is underway.

2. Attach the Shackle to the Mainsail

You will need to attach the shackle to the clew available in the mainsail’s head. You can use your pliers or a shackle sailing knife to ensure that it is tight enough. If the shackle is not attached tightly enough, the vibration generated when you are sailing could easily release the shackle.

3. Loosen or Release the Mainsheet

The reason for this step is to make sure that the wind does not cause too much resistance as you raise the sail. Your goal should be to make sure that the leading sail edge is facing into the wind. This will ensure that the mainsail does not get strained by the wind blowing against all sides as you hoist the sail.

4. Make Sure the Halyard is Clear to Run Up

Check whether the halyard is clear to the run-up. Next, make sure that the shackle is tight. If you skip this step, you could end up running into issues that could force you to wait longer before grabbing your sailing sunglasses and heading out to the open waters.

5. Make Sure the Mainsail is Ready to Be Hoisted


Before starting to hoist the sail, confirm that everything is in the right place. For example, make sure that the sail slugs or the boltrope are at the sail’s luff, in the mast’s sail groove.

6. Pull the Halyard Down by Hand

You should pull down on the halyard until the luff is tight. If the halyard becomes tight before the sail is up, check to make sure that the sail slugs or bolt rope are not jamming. Also, check aloft to make sure that the free section of the main halyard is not currently wrapped around something. If you notice that a jam is the main reason you are having issues, lower the sail a little bit and proceed to clear everything up.

7. Use the Winch

If you are trying to hoist the sail on a bigger sailboat, you will have to use a sailboat winch at some point. This is generally made necessary by the weight of the often-huge mainsail.

You can have the winch on the mast, a straight pull down on your halyard from the boat’s masthead. In some instances, the halyard may be located in the cockpit. In scenarios when the winch is in the cockpit, the halyard is generally led through one or more turning blocks. If the winch is necessary, simply wrap the halyard on your winch and continue cranking to hoist the sail until the luff becomes tight.

Note: You have to be cautious to avoid breaking anything. The winch power increases your chances of breaking something if you keep hoisting while the mainsail or the halyard is jammed.

8. Cleat Off the Halyard

You should make sure that the luff is tight enough before you think of cleating the halyard. If you cleat the halyard before ensuring that the luff is tight, you could compromise your boating safety.

9. Sheet in the Main

By now, you should be ready to go. To get the boat moving, you will just need to sheet in the main. Alternatively, you can push the boom manually out to turn your boat off the wind and begin sailing.

10. Enjoy Your Sailing Trip

Now that you have hoisted and raised the mainsail, all that is left is to grab your sailing hat and enjoy a safe sailing trip. Be sure to learn how to reef a sailboat before heading out. This can help you if you happen to find yourself in stormy conditions.

Issues You Need to Be Aware Of When Hoisting and Raising the Sail

1. Jammed Sail Slugs

The sail slugs do wear. This could cause them to jam in the sail slot. Additionally, dirty slots could cause jamming. If you notice that it is becoming harder to hoist the sail, check the slugs before proceeding. This should help you avoid breaking something or straining unnecessarily.

2. Loose Shackle

If you leave the halyard attached to the shackle for extended periods of time, you should check to make sure that it has not loosened up before raising the sail. A loose shackle should not be a problem if you remove the shackle after each sailing trip and reattach it when you need to raise the sail.

3. Snagged Halyard

If the halyard is too loose, it could end up flopping around and snagging on the mast fitting.

4. Frayed Halyard

If the halyard is seriously frayed, it could end up jamming in the block available on the masthead. While the sail could still move up and down on a frayed halyard, replacing the frayed halyard before it breaks is a good idea.

5. Broken Halyard Block

If the halyard is jamming at the masthead, you may have to replace the halyard block. A broken halyard block is the main reason why halyards jam at the masthead.

Globo Surf Overview

If you have been sailing for a long time, you should be able to raise the sail without encountering issues. If you are finding it hard to hoist the sail, the steps we have outlined in this article should help you get rid of the issues. When using a winch to hoist the sail, you must be careful. If you are not very careful, you could end up breaking an important component.

More Sail Reviews:


  1. 7 Basic Steps in Raising the Mainsail of a Sailboat For a Smooth Sailing Experience, Ezinearticles.com
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!