Use Your Jib Telltales

Sailing To Win - Brett Bowden
3 min readDec 22, 2022
Use Your Jib Telltales

Use your jib telltales — these give clues to your boat’s sail trim in different conditions. Nothing is more reliable or true than these yarns or fabric strips as a guide to good sail trim.


What the telltales tell us.

Both telltales flowing, known as full flow is good when underpowered. When your windward telltales are dancing, this is good in overpowered conditions.

Stalled leeward telltales is bad and means the sail is out too far and as a result you are not fast. Either trim in to get both streaming or the driver should steer down if you are overstanding a mark.

Telltales are a great guide for the helmsperson to steer by and the trimmer uses them to help trim the jib more effectively. The trimmer uses the tell tales at the upper luff to ensure that the jib car is placed correctly fore and aft giving the right amount of twist and or power for the conditions.

With a perfect twist, all luff telltales up and down the sail will break evenly.

The jib leech tell tales show how tightly the sail is trimmed, too tight and the tell tale stalls. Ease the sail out until the tell tale flows 90–100 percent of the time.

Sailboat races are won through fast sail trim and precision steering. Using the tell tales effectively can help you do both.


Tell tale Placement.

Place the port and starboard telltales offset slightly, with the starboard side about 25 to 40 millimeters higher than the port. On most jib materials, use green for the starboard side and red for the port side. On black or darker-colored headsails, white telltales work best.

Use a row of three to five short telltales for the steering telltales. These provide more information about where the flow is attached to the front of the jib. For the other luff telltales, a single set per location is adequate. They should be placed 10 to 20 percent back from the luff.

Leech telltales tell us how the wind is exiting the jib and they are key indicators of leech stall. Leech stall is caused when the jib is trimmed too tightly. Ideally, they should be placed 15 to 30 percent down from the head.




Sailing To Win - Brett Bowden

Brett Bowden is an author, entrepreneur, business broker, and yachtsman.