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What Is a Downhaul?

By C. Daw
Updated May 17, 2024
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A downhaul is a common term used in reference to a rope, which is usually a part of the rigging on a boat, that is used to haul down or to assist in hauling down a sail. With it, a downward force is applied on the spar or sail. It is common for this rope to be attached to the spinnaker pole. The downhaul is also referred to as “foreguy” in rigging terminology, and can also be used to refer to the Cunningham on the mainsail. If a person is interested in sailing, they almost certainly have come across terms such as jib downhaul or windsurfing downhaul.

For example, in a windsurfing rig, a windsurf downhaul is the primary line that allows a person to control the sail’s shape. Because of the difference in structure in modern windsurfing sails, such as the sleeve for the mast, the downhaul is rather different when it comes to its usage in comparison to one on a regular sail boat. That is because it is tensioned in the early stages of the rigging process and it is usually not capable of being adjusted while out on the water.

Undoubtedly, a downhaul tool can make the rigging process easier than ever and allow a person to achieve a level of control that is way too difficult to achieve by hand. Moreover, sometimes even a hand held cannot help when working with a sail. There are numerous tools on the market and the complexity of their use greatly depends on the type of mast base extension that is utilized. These tools are less expensive when compared to the work they do, and the convenience they provide. In addition, the usage of such a tool is of great aid in helping a sailor fine tune his sails without straining his back.

The usage of a downhaul is a must for anyone who wishes to better their sailing experience. They are available in almost every windsurfing store. All in all, the downhaul is a good thing that allows one to have patience while out on the water, and maximizes the enjoyment of sailing by improving the boat’s overall performance.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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