Wednesday, January20, 2021
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Mainsheet Systems

Many systems are possible for mainsheets. I tried several before settling on a very unique one. 17 systems are listed below including most of the standard ones.


papoose closeup

This system is end boom mounted and can be operated either from the end boom position or from the cabin top or both. When racing, we generally use the end boom position unless we are gybing and in that case we use both for a 2.5:1 effective system. When day sailing, I use the cabin top system. If I just want to dump some wind and have a guest trimmer, I can reach the cabin top cleat from the tiller and do it myself. A very versatile system. The second thing shown in this drawing is that the traveler control line is a continuous loop rather than a separate port and starboard control line. This is a huge improvement and highly recommended unless it presents a trip hazard based on your traveler location. It needs to be noted (see scketch on right above) that the upper fiddle block is hung on the single block hung on the boom. This block needs a little help and is pulled forward by a line to the boom otherwise it will capsize when pulling in the sheet from the cabin top winch. The last aft block, mounted on the bulkhead, is an auto hetch ratchet (Ratchamatic).

It is important to align your mainsheet correctly through the blocks. The picture above shows two ways to reeve the mainsheet in this course fine system. One is much easier to use as there is less friction and the blocks stay in alignment. HERE is an article that goes into more detail.

4:1 Fiddle

This 4:1 tackle is the most common system on boats under 28 ft (8.5 m).

8:1 Beachcat

This 8:1 purchase handles high mainsheet loads on Beachcats up to 20 ft (6 m)

6:1/24:1 Gross/Fine

This 6:1/24:1 cascading system is used on boats with end-boom sheeting and mains as large as 275 ft2 (25.5 m2) and end-boom sheeting.

4:1/16:1 Gross/Fine

This powerful gross-trim/fine-tune cascading system allows crew to use the 4:1 gross-trim for most trimming and the 16:1 fine-tune for precise adjustments.

7:1/28:1 Gross/Fine

This gross trim/fine tune system is found on racing multihulls where it is desirable to split the gross trim from the fine tune. Placing the fine tune in the boom provides a very clean system that the trimmer can get a hold of and put his weight into it. The powerful cascading fine tune portion is used to haul the boom in that last little bit.

4:1 with Dedicated Winch

This system moves the traveler over the companionway to clean up the cockpit. A favorite on cruising boats.

5:1 with Dedicated Winch

This system is popular on cruising boats with cabintop travelers. The sheet leads forward to the gooseneck and then down and back to a winch on the aft edge of the cabintop.

2:1 with Dedicated Winches

This simple double-ended system lets the mainsheet run freely through the blocks which allows the traveler car to move easily. The trimmer makes sail adjustments from the high side.

Admiral's Cup 2:1 with Dedicated Winch

In this system, the traveler is independent of the mainsheet so it rolls freely. The sheet leads forward along the boom before it turns down and aft to winches. Used on race boats like the FarrŪ 40.

3:1 with Dedicated Winch

Many large boats use this simple 3:1 system. A block on deck turns the sheet to a winch.

ADMIRAL'S CUP 4:1 with Dedicated Winch

In this system, the traveler is independent of the mainsheet so it rolls freely. The sheet leads forward along the boom before it turns down and aft to winches. Used on larger cruising boats and cruising catamarans.

2:1/4:1 Swivel Base

This system is often found on boats like J/24s where a center-mounted swivel base is desired.


This 3:1/6:1 two-speed system is used on boats end-boom sheeting and mainsails up to 240 ft2 (22.3 m2) and end-boom sheeting.

3:1/6:1 Swivel Base

This 3:1/6:1 system allows the mainsheet trimmer to be positioned anywhere on the boat. A great setup for sportboats.

4:1/8:1 Swivel Base

Similar to the 3:1/6:1 swivel base system, but uses a 4:1/8:1 tackle for more power.

6:1/24:1 Cascaded

This 6:1/24:1 system is used on boats with mains as large as 275 ft2 (25.5 m2) and end-boom sheeting.

Most of the above illustrations are from:
Other systems are here:

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