Barber Hauler

Arthwartship Sheet Positioning

Most yachts are equipped to adjust the sheets in a fore aft direction via jib tracks. Some yachts have inhauls and barber hauls on their sheet blocks to allow for arthwartship positioning. Arthwartship is merely something that is in the beam dimension of the yacht. Inhauls and barber hauls simply move the block towards centerline or towards the sheer.

These adjustments may seem unnecessary, but in fact they are very important for headsail control on various points of sail. If your yacht is not setup to adjust these controls, it may be a good idea to figure out another way to still accomplish the end goal. 

When pointing to windward, the angle of attach of your sail is dictated by the location of your clew. If your clew is set far out on the cap rail, you will never be able to sheet the sail close hauled and sail close to the wind. Instead, you will be forced to sail at much wider angles and this will reduce your Velocity Made Good as you work to windward. 

By bringing your sheet block inboard, you also bring your yacht closer to the wind as your headsail can maintain the same angle of attach with your yacht pointing higher.  

When reaching, the opposite is true. If your sheet positions are far inboard, your sail will have to be eased considerably to reach. This will cause the leech to open up and twist horribly. You will have a sail presented to the wind, but all the wind will spill out the twist and provide very little drive. By moving the sheet block outboard, you can alleviate this problem by setting your block far forward (to control the leech) and outboard. Now you're able to pull in on the sheet, close the leech, and reach with power. 

On racing yachts, the sheet block is usually a ring suspended by four lines. One runs forward, one aft, one inboard, and one outboard. The fore and aft lines control the fore and aft position of the block, just like a car on a track. The inboard line is the inhaul which pulls the block inboard to allow better pointing to windward, while the outboard line is the barber haul, which pulls the block outboard for reaching. 

It is not always practical to convert your yacht with a perfectly functional jib track to this system, which is why snatch blocks may be your new best friend. If you have a perforated aluminum toe rail, you can easily clip the snatch block to the rail and lead the sheet from the sheet block into the snatch block. You have now effectively moved the sheeting position outboard and successfully created a barber haul for reaching and running. 

Adding a padeye inboard would allow you to place a snatch block further inboard, thus creating a close hauled sheeting point for beating. 

Life gets easier if you have a cutter, as your staysail will typically have a track that is further inboard than your jib. When beating close hauled, you will have to lower the staysail to reduce interference with the jib as you point higher. Since the staysail is not flying, you can also hook a snatch block onto the staysails jib track and give you a fully adjustable further inboard track to sheet your jib to. This will allow you to point your cutter like if it were a sloop, yet retain all the ocean going advantages of a cutter whine offshore. 

Barber Hauler Setup

The process of setting up a barber haul is very simple, all you need is a snatch block!

On a beam to broad reach, the headsail is eased, causing it to twist and loose efficiency. 

The first step is to ease the headsail until there is slack in the line but not so much that the sail begins to flog. This will reduce the tension on the sheet, allowing you to place it into the snapshackle by hand. Then sheet the sail back in and trim to the apparent wind.

Now the headsail is able to hold a better sail shape, resulting in higher efficiency and more speed through the water. 

With the better sail shape, you can reach your downwind mark in less time and more comfort!

Barber Haul Effectiveness


While on a broad reach, the staysail is eased and the clew hooks back towards the staysail tracks on the deck. At the same time, the leech twists and spills the air out of the top of the sail. This all leads to decreased efficiency in the sail and less speed through the water.

By simply rigging a barber hauler, all of these problems can be corrected.  


The barber hauler pulls the clew out towards the rail, and removes twist from the leech of the sail. Now the sail can be properly set to use the air on a broad reach in the most efficient way possible. 

When the winds are light, this added efficiency means you can continue moving at a reasonable pace instead of seeing the iron genoa! In our case, we were moving at 2.5kn under main and staysail. This may seem way too slow for most, which is what motivated us to rig the barber hauler. Once the barber hauler was set up, we began moving at 3.5kn. Still slow by most standards, but we were still moving under just sail with out the use of a motor.  

When it is blowing harder, we don't set up the barber hauler because we are moving fast enough and we don't feel the need to improve the sails efficiency.  

Barber Hauler

When sailing downwind, you will ease your headsail sheets to let them catch more wind. The sail will tend to twist when eased too far, losing efficiency and costing you speed through the water. This is where the Barber Hauler comes into play, controling twist while keeping the headsail eased.

Barber haulers are simply sheet leads that are set closer to the beam of the hull than your regular jib sheet tracks. This allows you to sheet the sail to the toe rail rather than far inboard.

If you are sailing downwind in light to moderate airs, attaching a snatch block to the toe rail close to where the clew of the sail is will do wonders. This gives the sail a strong downward pull which will eliminate twist from the sail while putting less tension on the foot of the sail. The end result is a very full sail with minimal twist that will fill with air and send you rocketing downwind.

The reason snatch blocks are ideal for this set up is they can easily be removed from the sheet should you change to an upwind course. Removing the barber hauler is as simple as opening the snatch block and removing the sheet. If winds are very light, this can be done with the sheet under load (as long as you can safely hold the sheet under tension). If the winds are stronger, it is idea to jibe onto the opposite tack and remove the barber hauler now that the sheet has become the lazy sheet.

Next time you are sailing downwind, consider using a barber hauler to control headsail twist and enjoy the added speed through the water while on your run.