Pulling on the downhaul to trim the sail can be most annoying part of rigging the sail. The two main factors that make this part of windsurfing unpleasant are the strain on the back and the trouble pulling the downhaul rope easily.

Back strain

For the back we need to consider technique. Ideally the lower back is kept straight and leant back at an angle slightly over 90° with respect to the mast. Also we want to pull increasing the force we apply gradually rather than in a burst.

Now to the techniques with getting a proper grip on the rope.

Coil around the fist

The most simple of all but it provides de natural disadvantage that the rope cuts into the hand. This technique may work well for the outhaul since there we need less power. The downhaul however offers more resistance and so using nothing but our hands will only let us pull as far as our pain threshold.

Rope-bite grip

This is the fastest method to set up. All we need to do is pass the rope through the channel and let the teeth do the gripping. The downsides to this approach is that firstly the rope will start to wear with repeated use. The other disadvantage is that the appliance itself is not very big (only big enough for one hand) and so yo use both our hands we need to put one over the other making it a little uncomfortable.
Rope-bite Grip


This takes a second longer to set up, simple passing the rope through the holes and trapping the loose end under the middle section. This device is better than the rope-bite grip in the sense that it will not cause wear on the rope. A slight discomfort is caused due to the handle being a little thin but otherwise this method is great.

Downhaul Tenser Handle Bar


This is the most practical solution as we will always have our harness with us when rigging our sail. A simple bowline knot is used and the noose passed over the hook. The only two minor disadvantages with this is that the bowline knot needs a considerable length of rope and that the test of the harness is a little cumbersome when setting up this method.

Downhaul tense harness


We have two knots that we can apply to be able to use nothing but a thick stick to tense the downhaul.

1. Prepare the knot for the bar

Downhaul Bar Knot 2-1Downhaul Bar Knot 2-2Downhaul Bar Knot 2-3Downhaul Bar Knot 2-4Downhaul Bar Knot 2-5


2. Tie the knot around the bar

Downhaul Bar Knot 1-1Downhaul Bar Knot 1-2Downhaul Bar Knot 1-3Downhaul Bar Knot 1-4 Downhaul Bar Knot 1-5


You can also finish off the knot like this to make it easier to undo afterwards

Step-winch Mast Base

This device really makes life easy for us. This is by far the tool that makes tensing the downhaul the easiest. It, however, has two major downsides: firstly, it eats away at the rope constantly, wearing it down. This probably will never come to happen though if you don’t wash the mast base with sweet water after EVERY use because it will at some point get stuck and stop working. Yep, I have yet to meet someone who can say they have been able to use this mast base for very long.
Step-winch mast base


If you have any back problems, you should definitely get one of these bad boys. Since all you do is plug it into the mast base and turn the winch, all you need is arm strength and don’t need to use your back at all. It might need somewhat more energy input than the step-winch mast base (maybe someday they will come out with a version with gears 🙂 ) but it is completely harmless for the rope.

Downhaul tense WinchDownhaul tense Winch in action