How to Furl & Unfurl a Genoa – Sailing Basics Video Series

Furling and unfurling the genoa on your sailboat can be difficult in higher winds! Check out this video to see some ways to make this process go more smoothly on your boat. Here are the steps to keep in mind:


  1. Raise mainsail and get on point of sail
  2. Assign crew roles
  3. Release lazy jib sheets
  4. Ease out furling line, maintaining a little pressure
  5. Pull on loaded jib sheet
  6. When genoa is unfurled, cleat off or close rope clutch
  7. Trim genoa



  1. Go to a broad reach or ease out out loaded jib sheet
  2. Pull on furling line (DON’T use a winch!)
  3. Keep small amount of tension on loaded jib sheet
  4. Avoid “candy caning”
  5. Secure furling line
  6. Tighten jib sheets

We already took notes!

We have included all of the things we said in the video here, so you can just copy and paste what you need for your notes.

Guys, it is nice to have a furling genoa. Gone are the days where you had a whole bunch of different sail bags for different sails for different conditions. Now, everything is on this furler and we can basically furl and unfurl as much sail as we want.

Just today, we had a passage down to this beautiful anchorage and when we started off, we had about 14 knots of wind. That steadily built up to about 22 knots. It was so nice from the safety of the cockpit to be able to just furl a little bit and refurl a little bit of that genoa. We don’t have to send someone all the way up to the bow to do those sail changes. So we are huge fans of the furling genoas.

Today, we’re going to talk you guys through a couple a simple tricks and techniques, just things to help you furl and unfurl the genoa in your sailboat.

Now, once you’re ready to unfurl, we find it’s best to have your mainsail up and get to your point of sail. It’s good to be between a close haul and a beam reach. You actually want to be off the wind so that the wind helps you unfurl that genoa. If you have a couple of people on board, ideally, assign one person to be on your jib sheets and one person to be on the furling line. It just makes things a little bit easier.

The person on the jib sheet, the first thing they want to do is release the lazy jib sheet and prep the loaded side. To prep it, just wound one wrap around that winch. You don’t want to do more than that as it has a tendency to override. The person on the furling line can go ahead and open up the rope clutch or take it off the winch or the cleat, however it’s locked down.

The person on the loaded jib sheet is going to start pulling and the person on the furling line is just keeping a little bit of tension on that line so that the line wraps up nicely around the furler. Really important that they keep just a little bit of tension on that because if you just let the furling line go, it’s going to get overrides and get wound up at the bottom of your furler.

Once you’ve got the full sail out, the person on the furling line can lock off the rope clutch or get it cleated off. The person on the loaded jib sheet can go ahead, fill up the drum, take that line over the feeder through the jaws, put a winch handle in and start cranking down, looking at the tail sails to make sure that you get good sail trim on the genoa.

There’s a couple of different approaches to furling your genoa. One of the ways is in lighter winds, you can often just ease out on your loaded jib sheet, and what that does is that depowers your genoa. Just let it out until it starts to luff and flap, and often that’s enough so the person on the furling line can pull in and just furl it.

In stronger winds though, or when you’re running, it’s actually a good idea to go to a broad reach. What that does is that puts your genoa in the wind shadow of your mainsail. It makes it a lot easier to reef your genoa or to furl it if you’ve got high winds. You want to go ahead and furl your genoa. The person on the loaded jib sheet is just going to be easing that out and the person on the furling line is going to be pulling in.

Really, really important here that whenever you’re dealing with the furling line and you’re furling a genoa, don’t ever put that line around a winch. You always want to pull that line in by hand. The reason is that right underneath the furler extrusion, which is the tube that the genoa is on, is our forestay. That is the cable that holds up the front of the mast.

If you happen to have an override and that furling line was around a winch and you’re cranking and cranking, you can actually break your forestay and your mast will come crashing down. Not very common but it’s just one of those things to think about. So be careful, always furl you genoa by hand.

Once the sail is halfway furled, really important that the person on the loaded jib sheet keep just a little bit of tension on that line and on the sail, and what this does is it helps your genoa just coil up nicely around the furler. You’ll sometimes see in anchorages or at docks, what we call “candy caning” where you can see the colored sunbrella on sails and then you can see the white of the sail inside. You never want to have candy caning. The reason that we have the colored sunbrella on the outside of our sail is to protect the sail from sun damage. So you want to make sure you keep a little bit of tension on your jib sheet so that that genoa furls up nicely.

Once the genoa is furled, go ahead close the row clutch on the furling line or cleat it off. The last step, just to wrap everything up, re-tension your jib sheets. These make great handholds when you go forward to anchor or whenever you want to go up to the bow.

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About the Video Series

New to sailing? We created this comprehensive basic sailing video series just for you! We know how difficult it is to find solid answers to your questions related to sailing fundamentals. As professional sailing instructors, we get it, and since we cover these topics regularly with our students, we knew we could help you too. We created these Learn How to Sail:Sailing Basics Videos, to be your ultimate sailing 101 video series. In them we cover monohull sailing for beginners from anchoring to steps to recovering a man overboard, all the way up to perfect sail trim!


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