Getting Out Of Irons

This is the situation where you are pointing directly towards the wind, with the sail flapping and banging over your head, and pushing you back towards the wind every time you try and start sailing again. Most irritating! How you get out of this situation depends on whether you are sailing a boat with a jib or not, but firstly, why does it happen? When you are in irons then every time you try and sail away from the wind, then the mainsail fills and pushes you back towards it again. Soon you will start going backwards!

  1. First, let the mainsail out. Let it out lots, four or 5 feet. That will stop it filling when you are pointing a bit away from the wind.
  2. If you are sailing a two handed boat with a jib then the crew pulls the jib in on the "wrong" side of the boat (called backing the jib) This just pushes the front of the boat sideways, which is exactly what you want.
  3. If you are going backwards the steering reverses (like a car or bike does if you think about it). If you push the tiller away from you then the boat, if traveling backwards, will turn so that you are on the windward side.
  4. Wait until you are on a beam reach, not close hauled.
  5. Now pull the mainsail in. the boat will turn towards the wind again, but because you are on a reach, not close hauled, you have plenty of time to get back under control before you are pointing back into the wind again.

Simply remember the routine of "push, push" - that is push the tiller and the boom away from you and wait. The boat will slowly start sailing backwards and will turn away from the wind. Then you reverse the routine with "pull, pull" on tiller and mainsheet and you''re off again. It helps if you make sure the boat does not heel as you sheet in again, and in some classes it helps to lift some centreboard.