James Stevens explains which skills are best to perfect while you have plenty of time to do so. This week, learning how to tie a rolling hitch

Learning how to tie a rolling hitch

James Stevens

James Stevens, author of the Yachtmaster Handbook, spent 10 of his 23 years at the RYA as Training Manager and Yachtmaster Chief Examiner

This sounds like an obvious one – indeed it should be – but in my experience only about 50 percent of yacht skippers can tie a rolling hitch. It’s a really useful knot that can get you out of serious trouble. For instance, you may get a riding turn on a winch. At this point you can neither spill wind or tack without heaving to, and unless you ease the tension, it is impossible to release the sheet from the winch. It seriously affects a yacht’s manoeuvrability and that’s a safety issue.

The solution is to attach another rope to the sheet with a rolling hitch and take the strain on another winch. Once the strain is taken on the second line, you will find it much easier to sort out the riding turn. It’s a really easy problem to solve but you do have to be able to tie the knot and so many can’t. You may well have the Ashley Book of Knots onboard but when you’re half a mile from the beach and unable to tack, it’s no time to be learning knots.

It’s pretty simple but you do have to tie it the right way round. If the sheet is slippery you can add as many turns as you wish.

It also has a multitude of other uses from lashing down the dinghy to attaching flags to the flag halyard or the backstay.