Telltales - where to place them?

I was about to post this same question. Has anyone found a place that truly works well? In any other boat I use telltales, but in the sunfish they seem to never fly quite true. I am currently not using telltales, but I think if I found the right location it would significantly improve my beat. I've used mast head and eye level wind indicators too, but they really only seem to help off the wind in light air.

In previous posts it was said that these locations work well
"place the first set at the top of the third (middle) panel, approximately 30" from the gaff. The second set of two should be attached to the sail at the bottom of the second panel (the panel with the class insignia), approximately 26" from the gaff."

It seems, however, that everyone has their own preferences and everyone's telltales are in different locations.
Generally telltales are placed in the deepest part of the sail. This means that for the sunfish two locations are needed simply because the asymmetric nature of the sail.

Interestingly I noted the location of Jonathan's (the 2009 NA champ) telltales this week. His are the only ones I have ever seen forward of the mast. His first was slightly forward of the mast and his second was just aft of the mast and about a foot higher up.

Has anyone found a definitive location with which they are satisfied and which works on both tacks.
I have a couple of 10" long 12 ga. +/- wires zip-tied to the upper spar about 4' above the deck, each with a yarn tied to the end. with the sail centered over the boat, they stick out 45 degrees each side of centerline. They show me the wind direction just forward of the leading edge of the sail. I'm not saying telltales on the sail aren't good, but I like these.
The problem with telltales on a Sunfish is that the mast causes turbulence on starboard tack and on port tack the mast pushes into the main creating a terrible shape. Despite that it is helpful to place telltales sufficiently aft of the mast that they are in somewhat undisturbed airflow. Putting a couple on the leech isn't going to hurt either. I find on starboard tack that both telltales work fairly well, on port tack I usually go by the leeward telltale. Wind indicators that are mounted on spars or anyplace other than the sail will not tell you whether you have good airflow over your sail, they will only tell you the apparent wind direction.
Thread starter #6
Thanks how high up from the boom do you place them? about how far from the upper spar?
Does anyone put them on the very edge of the leech of the one set at each seam?
I'm not near my SF at the moment but I recall they are 3 to 4 feet above the horizontal boom and a couple of feet aft of the upper boom. The SF manual should have some info. It wouldn't hurt to place one at mid leech, since the boat isn't rigged to control twist in the main, there isn't much point putting telltales on the upper and lower leech. Just don't put them too close to the mast or upper boom as there is too much turbulence to yield worthwhile readings.


Member Emeritus
Here's a great photo from the 2009 Sunfish North Americas illustrating the sail shape from a perspective sailors don't often get of their own boat. I've marked the "zone" Zeppo describes and it's where I put my telltails as well. I seem to experiment along that line and usually end up with a third, lower one, though port tack messes with it.

Thanks Rick et al for that link and all the great photos of the race. Some fantastic examples of how to rig can be found among the shots.

I have posted hundreds of full size photos for everyone to see or download.

Rick Whitehurst USA 12942



This is my sail. My buddy, a sailmaker and Sunfish sailor placed these five (5) tell tales for me. Can you see the top two in the blue area?

I haven't tried it out yet.

So what is the 6 cent solution to seeing which way the wind is blowing? Yarn tied to the top of the mast? Holding up a wet finger? I ask as the guy who spent $3.99 on velcro sheet hangers instead of using duct tape.
you can make a decent one using an old wire coat hanger and some cassette tape.

I made a "spring clamp" out of a piece of PVC pipe that slips right onto the low part of the upper spar. it took some time to get the PVC cut just right to slide over the spar and stay there, but it works quite nicely.

not the prettiest thing to look at but it does help on light wind days!

more details on my blog here: sunfish wind indicators


Upside down?
Staff member
I use something similar to the above. Works great, especially on light air days, and the cost is nil.
I use a hose clamp to secure my, appropriately bent, coathanger gizmo :)

In addition, I use a home-made vane that I attach to the top of the upper spar (gaff). I look at this one going down wind, specifically to see if I am sailing by the lee (which is supposed to be fast when you are racing). But for upwind sailing, I focus on my coathanger gizmo.
One can buy a simple windvane (Intensity Sails) if you don't want to make one yourself.


Well-Known Member
That mention of "yarn" triggered a memory of a yard sale, where I bought five skeins of yarn for $1. :eek: I made sure to select one green skein and one red one. I found a small hole in my Folbot's lateen sail, knotted one end, drew it through, and knotted the remaining side next to the sail. The former hole was located about 18" equidistant from the spars' "corner" attachment point.
The telltale was sort of helpful. :rolleyes:

Another telltale came with my retired Sunfish racer's sail. It had been placed just in front of the Sunfish logo, so the Sunfish image always seemed to be chasing a wriggling bait!
Again, helpful... :rolleyes:


A pair of new telltales came with the newest sail, so it's about time to make them stick. The above sailmaker should know where to stick telltales, so I'm going with the locations he's placed his.

So what is the 6 cent solution to seeing which way the wind is blowing? Yarn tied to the top of the mast? Holding up a wet finger? I ask as the guy who spent $3.99 on velcro sheet hangers instead of using duct tape.
I use an eight-inch length of supple plastic, attached to the very forward end of the boom. This height keeps it off a wet deck, which would temporarily immobilize it. About three inches down, I double-knot a paper clip, which stabilizes it, so you just note wind direction of the last five inches. The breast feather, taken from a pillow, is optional. ;) I attach it using lightweight spider web, which has been produced conveniently where my Sunfish is stored. :cool:

Yes, the hull deflects the indicator strand a little, but you learn where to read it. Without telltales, I find myself "reading" the second panel down from the top. I don't know what the experts here do, locating their telltales. :(

The "supple plastic" is the re-purposed thread pulled from a worn plastic tarp. (So most are blue in color). :oops:

Last edited:

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I like the velcro hangars, easy to put on and easy to take off. You can slide them around or snug them to the boom. And maybe Sunfish Wizard Alan G. will swing by this resurrected thread to tell us what the best cassette tape to use is :)