Friday, September 11, 2009

Spinnakers Part 1

I like to fly the spinnaker. In the Soling we flew it in winds up to 35 kts (as measured by an anemometer on the committee boat) and I am comfortable with the sail. Here is my take on spinnaker handling.

Terminology: The spinnaker has a halyard and two lines: the sheet and the guy, also known as the afterguy. The guy is on the spinnaker pole and attaches to the tack of the spinnaker, the sheet is on the clew.

The pole has two lines on it: the foreguy (pulls the pole down) and the topping lift (holds the pole up).

I run the foreguy from the pole bail to a block at the mast step if it's not too breezy. That way I don't need to adjust it as I trim the after guy in or out.

If it's really breezy I run the foreguy to the mooring cleat. Sometimes I run it through the cleat and then aft, so I can adjust it from the cockpit. If I run it aft I don't use a block at the cleat, the friction isn't bad. But mostly I just take it to a block or padeye at the deck near the mast.

Hoisting: Make sure the sail isn’t twisted. You may want to repack it down below. Bring the sail in its bag or ”turtle” to the leeward rail and secure the bag to the lifeline. Get the boat to a very broad reach. The after guy will have been run outside all the shrouds back to the cockpit. Put the guy into the end of the pole and bring the line around the forestay and back to the turtle and tie the guy to the tack of the spinnaker (a bowline is good). In a light enough wind you can take back on the guy so the tack of the spinnaker is at the pole, but if it is windy that risks the sail blowing into the water ahead of the boat, not good.

Secure the spinnaker sheet to the clew with a bowline Take some slack out of the sheet but don’t pull the sail out of the turtle.

Double check that your lines are all led correctly, not through lifelines etc.

Only then attach the spin halyard.

The idea is to hoist the sail near the main, in its lee. (But don’t hoist it into the shrouds.) Then, when the sail is all the way up and the halyard fast, take back on the after guy and the sail should fill nicely.

If it is windy consider putting some turns of the halyard around a winch as you hoist, so if the sail fills unexpectedly you don’t burn your hands or go up the mast, as happens sometimes.

Double check that the halyard is all the way up. Especially when it is blowing, if the head of the sail is a few feet from the mast the sail will wobble around and be hard to control. Sometimes people don’t notice.

A trick to consider is leaving the jib up until chute is hoisted and at least partially trimmed, then drop the jib. This way the chute can't wrap around the forestay. I don't usually do it that way but it is a good trick, especially at sea where it is easier (because of rolling)for the sail to get wrapped tight around the forestay. Some boats use a "spinnaker net", hoisted up the forestay on a halyard, for the same purpose.

Tomorrow I'll talk about spinnaker trim and jibing.

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