What is a Jib?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Just about anyone who enjoys the sport of sailing will be familiar with the jib. Jibs are triangular shaped sails, usually made from canvas or similar materials, which are attached in the fore and aft sections of the sailboat. Generally, a jib is found fitting in between the forestay and the main mast, although the exact construction of various types of sailboats and yachts may require that the jib be tied and secured in a slightly different fashion.

Jibs are triangular shaped sails.
Jibs are triangular shaped sails.

Another example of placement of the jib has to do with utilizing the boom on the ship. Secured to the boom, the jib will run out to the bowsprit. This position allows the jib to be fully expanded, where it can help with not only catching the wind currents for movement, but also will help aid in the steering of the vessel. Because the mounting of the jib allows it to move backward as well as side to side, the sail can easily be realigned to make the most of any air flows, and help keep the yacht or sailboat on course. In some cases, the jib will work in conjunction with the staysail, which is also a triangular shaped sail and is secured to a stay.

Make sure that the jib is perfectly dry before placing it into storage.
Make sure that the jib is perfectly dry before placing it into storage.

As is true of most types of sails today, the jib is usually made of a strong canvas or nylon blend that has a heavy resistance to wind currents. Typically, the jib is treated so that the elements of salt and exposure to the wind and sun will not cause the jib to weaken and decay in a short period of time. While the jib does have a number of weather-resistant qualities, it is important to take proper care of the material, in order to extend the life of the sail. This will involve having the sail cleaned from time to time, storing it away properly when not in use, and making sure that the sail is perfectly dry before placing it into storage.

As with all aspects of sailing, it is a good idea for the novice to familiarize himself or herself with the properties of the jib. The first step is in learning how to properly secure the sail into place, then to master the art of positioning the sail, based on the course of the boat and the direction of the wind. Along with learning how to use the jib, instruction in how to properly care for the sail and how to stow it when not in use is also important.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@allenJo - Yes but the jib alone won’t do all the work for you. You have to know how to properly set it in place and direct it. If you’re planning on using a sailboat with a jib to go racing, then I think preparation is key to get the most from your jib.

That means you want to test it out before the race and check how easy it is to adjust your sheets and any other things that can impact your performance. Do these things in advance and you should do well in the race.


I am not an expert in sailing but I’ve seen these angular jib sails and they are cool indeed. I believe that the reason that it’s triangular is of course increased aerodynamics.

The sharper the angles the easier it is to cut through the currents. It kind of reminds me of the military airplanes that have angled wings. They just cut through the air without making a sound and are able to fly at incredible speeds, undetected by radar.

Similarly I believe the jib enables the sailboat to achieve optimum speed as it slices through the air and cruises on the water. It’s truly a simply yet ingenious sail in my opinion.

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