Spinnaker handling

1. hoisting to leeward

  • Always plan to hoist to leeward. It is safer and simpler. Before a race check the course and rig the spinnaker so that it will be to leeward for the first reach.
  • Free the halyard and the sheets.
  • Cleat the uphaul for the approximate pole height desired as per threads in control line.
  • Pre-cleat the guy in the approx. position per coloured threads in the sheet and guy.
  • Adjust the main, jib and centerboard for the new course to keep up boat speed before hoisting.
  • Helm hoists the spinnaker.  (If it is heavy air ease the main and raise the CB most of the way before hoisting so as to keep the boat under control until helm and crew can hike).
  • Crew fits the guy to the pole, fixes the uphaul/downhaul to the middle of the pole, and then hooks the pole to the mast.
  • While the crew is doing this, the helm hikes the boat flat. Keep the pole end hooks pointing up to help prevent the guy from falling out.
  • Crew then takes control of the sheet and guy. and hikes to keep the boat flat. It is critical to keep the boat flat on spinnaker reaches & runs. The boat will quickly broach and capsize once it starts to lean in strong winds. If necessary, release the sheet to get the boat flat. If the helm can not bear off quickly enough in the gust, it often pays to heel slightly to windward until the rudder is perfectly balanced.
  • It is exciting to plane with the spinnaker flying in strong winds.  The secret to survival is to keep the boat flat:
            - raise the CB to be only about 1/3 down
            - both helm and crew hike well out
            - do not overtrim the sails; partly luff the main if needed
            - bear off quickly in gusts, head up in lulls
            - if starting to lean in a gust, release the spin sheet momentarily until the boat recovers
            - on runs, avoid "death-rolls" by putting the CB most of the way down, and slightly
              oversheeting the main and spinnaker

2. hoisting to windward

  • Bear away to a broad reach then set main, jib and CB.
  • Cleat the guy to the "preset" mark.
  • Crew frees the halyard and sheet, takes the sheet in one hand then gathers the sail up in a ball and throws it to windward of the forestay as the helm quickly hoists.  Immediately after throwing out the sail, the crew quickly trims the sheet so as to pull the sail around behind the jib. (If the spinnaker blows between the jib and the mast, it will be big trouble!)
  • Helm takes the spin sheet, keeping it trim, heads up to the proper course, and readjusts the main.
  • Crew installs the pole then readjusts the sheet and guy.
  • Retrim the jib, adjust the CB and go!

3. gybing the spinnaker
note: The priority when racing is to make a crisp smooth rounding and quickly position the boat on the best tactical course (usually to go high to prevent others from taking the wind).  Hence get on the new course, set the main and jib, then fix the spinnaker later.

(Al’s note: The system that follows was based on the tapes which were made before Uncle Al fell in love with the “balls” system which in my opinion is the best spinnaker system available to us! With the "balls", all that guy hook and pre-cleat stuff is basically not necessary.)

  • Approach the mark wide to windward. Try to time the gybe to avoid gusts and, in major wind and waves, to coincide with a surf.
  • Crew eases out the sheet (soon to be the guy) and pre-cleats it to the mark which will have the pole just off the forestay after the gybe.
  • Helm eases the main all the way out while bearing away to a dead run. Crew trims the old guy in until the pole is parallel to the thwart, removes the guy from the guy hook & pre-cleats it to the mark set for the new sheet. (Do not pre-cleat this line in strong winds!)
  • Crew sits on the center of the thwart for the gybe, releases the jib sheet and raises the CB most of the way up (only if heavy air).
  • Helm bears off for the gybe. Crew can help bring the main over using vang.  Helm grabs the parts of the main sheet (between the traveler block and the boom) so that they do not catch on the transom corner.
  • Helm trims the main for the new course. Crew recleats the jib, helps helm to balance the boat and fits the new guy under the guyhook on the side deck.
  • When the boat is under control on the new course, the crew stands up, unhooks the pole from the mast, trips the old guy (Al’s note: my daughter, Joanna, wanted me to be sure to explain which "old guy" we were tripping - it's not George Blanchard!!) from the pole, fastens new guy in the pole hook, checks that the uphaul/downhaul is secure, pushes the new guy end of the pole up to the new spinnaker tack and connects the other end of the pole to the mast.
  • While the crew is changing the pole, the helm hikes the boat flat and steers for tactical advantage.
  • Crew hikes to windward, trims the spinnaker sheet, adjusts the guy, then retrims the jib. The CB can then be reset to approx.  1/2 down if it has been raised for safety in the gybe.

4. Dousing the Spinnaker

  • Always bring the spinnaker down to windward.
  • Arrange the windward jib sheet so that it is aft of the crew’s legs. This insures that the spinnaker will be stowed to leeward of the jib sheet ready for the next hoist.
  • Crew hands sheet to the helm, stands up, and unhooks the pole from the mast.
  • Crew pulls the pole aft, releases the uphaul/downhaul and slides the pole into the supports along the boom, then releases the guy.
  • Helm releases the sheet, crew pulls in the guy, gathers in the foot of the sail and tells the helm to release the halyard.
  • Crew drops the sail into a storage bag (or just under the deck) being sure to get all the sail off the deck, while the helm lowers the CB then begins to sheet in the main.  Approach the leeward mark wide so that the boat can be hard on the wind as it passes just to leeward of the mark.
  • Crew gradually trims the jib and begins to hike, as the boat heads up for the beat.
  • Once the boat is trimmed for the beat, crew secures the halyard under the guy hook, organizes the old guy and cleats it to keep it out of the water. The old sheet is organized, put under the guy hook and cleated when on the next tack.
  • Remember to readjust the outhaul, vang and cunningham if they had been reset for the reach or run.