setting up a Sunfish sail

last summer, I bought a new practice race-cut sail from APS for my Sunfish, as well as the recreational line package from APS.  due to a back-order, I didn’t get the new sail until late in the summer, so I didn’t bother trying to use it, or even install it on my spars until this spring.

a few months ago, I posted about making a custom Sunfish logo for my new sail and installing sail numbers.  since then I’ve been tweaking and adjusting some things, with a few projects left to go as well to finish it out… but here’s what I’ve done so far.

I used plastic sail clips (like shower curtain rings) to initially get the new sail installed on both the upper and lower spar.  for a few specific locations, though, I switched out the sail clips for sail ties, and tied them around the spars, with just a bit of slack, using a square knot.  I bought a package of (15) sail ties made from 1/8″ dacron line from the Sailboat Garage, and it was recommended to switch to sail ties at the following locations.

(3) ties at the clew or near the outhaul of the sail.  I used an extra sail tie right at the clew of the sail.  the outhaul line (1/8″ Excel Pro) is off the right edge of the picture.

(3) sail ties at the head off the sail, and (2) sail ties near where the halyard attaches to the upper spar.  the line at the head of the sail is 1/8″ Excel Pro and the halyard is 3/16″ Excel Pro line, both from the APS line package.  the (2) sail ties at the halyard will help prevent the sail clips from making the sail bunch up near the mast.

(2) sail ties at the gooseneck area, (1) at the cunningham location – the 1st sail grommet above the tack of the sail, and again I doubled up and used (2) sail ties at the tack on each spar, so (4) total at the tack.  ideally, that would have been a single piece of line wrapped twice at each spar, but since the sail ties I bought were pre-cut to length, I just doubled them up.  at this time, I also measured back from the front of the lower boom (starting at the end of the aluminum), and marked 1″ increments from 16″ to 23″ for setting the gooseneck for various wind conditions.  having it marked really helps take the guess-work out of adjusting the sail.  I bought my adjustable or quick-release gooseneck (a must-have) from Intensity Sails.

I also installed (3) pairs of tell-tales on my sail.  there is a lot of debate on whether the tell-tales are effective on a Sunfish, but I have found them helpful since I installed them – as I pay more attention to them and try to adjust the sail trim correctly.  the location of the tell-tales is also debatable, but I found this picture from the Sunfish Forum helpful, and more or less copied those locations.

so the picture below is my new Sunfish sail, complete with a new Sunfish logo I made and my sail numbers.  this picture was taken prior to installing the sail ties.  you can see where I installed the (3) pairs of sail tell-tales. by the way, having a sail with a window makes it so much more comfortable on my neck while sailing, so I’d highly recommend the window for any future sail purchase.

for someone starting out, I would probably recommend avoiding the plastic sail clips, and just using the sail ties for all of the grommets on the sail.  the plastic sail clips are a pain to remove once installed, and the sail ties are pretty easy to tie on once you get started on it.  I’ll probably buy this 100-ft spool of 1.8mm line from Intensity Sails and swap out my sail clips on this sail, as well as my others.  the 100-ft spool should be enough for 3 full Sunfish sails.

my next project is to install the outhaul and cunningham cleats on the lower boom to help me shape the sail – I’ve bought the aluminum cleats and line (in a kit, actually), but haven’t installed them yet, so I’ll cover that in a future post.


for good tips on halyard location, gooseneck settings, and setting up your Sunfish sailboat and sail, see the Sunfish Tuning Guide by Scot Kyle.

for more tips on sail ties, tell-tales and general setup for your Sunfish sail, check out the nice Sunfish Bending On and Tuning Guide by Windline Sails.

I mentioned the (2) guides above as well as a few others in my post about Sunfish rigging guide(s).

14 Responses to “setting up a Sunfish sail”

  1. 1 Baydog August 18, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I think your tell-tale placement is good. At that point in the luff from top to bottom usually gives you a good idea about your sail trim, IMHO. Same with a jib, I’ve found.


  2. 2 my2fish August 18, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    thanks Baydog… it seems to be working okay so far. I need to buy or rig up a wind indicator as well, for those light air days I’ve been sailing in lately.


  3. 3 John December 29, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Hello how far back did u measure before u marked th 16inch on lower boom. I know u said from the end of boom just wasn’t sure if u measured from the end to 16″ and started at that point. Also kind of new to this idea is the 16″ for lower winds and 23″ for higher winds. Thanks for any help!!


    • 4 my2fish December 29, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      John, start at the end of the lower spar/boom, right at the tack where the two spars connect. Start your tape measure at the beginning of the metal, and mark in 1″ increments along the lower spar, from 16″ to 23″ or so. Then, use some of the suggestions from the various Sunfish rigging guides to help dial in the best setting that works for YOU!


  4. 5 karen f lester June 16, 2020 at 9:18 am

    Where do I tie the halyard to the spar. Currently I have it tied to 5 spaces from the bottom. Can I tie it higher to help get the boom higher off the deck. Also, in your response can you state if you are counting from the top or the bottom of the spar


    • 6 my2fish June 16, 2020 at 9:22 am

      A good starting point is 106″-107″ measured upwards on the upper spar starting at the point where the black cap meets the upper spar on the bottom.
      Lowering that halyard location will raise the height of the boom above the deck.
      Also check your gooseneck setting – should be 16″ to 18″ or so from the tack of the sail, measured along the lower boom.


      • 7 Kevin August 16, 2020 at 11:39 am

        This is also to mention that the boom raised higher off the deck increases heeling moment and the need to hike farther or flatten the sail or ease the sheet to compensate. You will also need to “vang down” the gooseneck using the halyard tail to keep the boom from riding up in a gust and thus lose control of the rig resulting in a higher propensity for capsize.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 8 my2fish August 16, 2020 at 11:51 am

        Good points, Kevin! Thanks!


  5. 9 Mindy June 9, 2021 at 9:51 pm

    I recently bought a used Sunfish with a race cut APS sail. Do you remember the measurements of this sail? I’m guessing it is a little larger than the class sized sail but not sure. I’m looking to buy a slightly smaller sail for gusty mountain lake sailing to minimize capsizing, any recommendations? It doesn’t need to be class legal.


  1. 1 sunfish wind indicators « my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing Trackback on August 29, 2011 at 9:21 pm
  2. 2 upgrading Sunfish lines « my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing Trackback on February 15, 2012 at 10:19 pm
  3. 3 upgrading Sunfish lines | my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing Trackback on August 24, 2016 at 10:32 am
  4. 4 sunfish wind indicators | my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing Trackback on April 9, 2021 at 4:59 pm

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