Flying a spinnaker single-handed
I single-hand a lot under spinacker, both on my previous 25 then 28 footer and I have just started single-handing with the chute on my current 38 footer. All of those are symetrical chutes flown with a normal spin pole. Only the 38 footer has an autopilot. I have also tried to single hand with assymetical cruising chutes. Here is what I found:
I find that a symetrical chute is far easier to single-hand than an assymetrical. The assymetrical has a narrower range of wind angles that it can tolerate and are more prone to getting a wrap when jibing. A wrap when you are single-handing can be an extremely dangerous situation because it requires so much time on the bow to clear. I don''t use a sock as I find socks more prone to sending the sail up with an hourglass, which again is a major issue when you are single-handing. I don''t understand the purpose of a ''Tacker''and feel that it dangerously removes a critical option in those situations where the Chute needs to come down quickly in a lot of wind. In my experience, the recovery line on a sock can get fouled leaving you with a half out chute and nothing that you can quickly do about it. I find that socks are next to useless when the wind really pipes up unless you can get the chute in the lee of the mainsail. So I conclude that assymetrics and socks are fine for boats with crews but really are less than ideal for single-handing.
To ease flying the chute single-hand I have marked the sheets for the proper setting for the jib. I head a few degrees above dead down wind and set the sheet and guy to their marks. I then jibe the pole, walk back to the cockpit and jibe the mainsail and then head up to the new course. This is actually easier than tacking an assymetrical because assymetricals require you to haul in so much more line and the timing is so critical.
To douse the chute I head just above dead down wind and either on an assymetrical I release the shackle on the tack line or on a symetrical chute I release the shackle on guy. The sail then ''flags'' with no load on it. I then grab the sheet and pull the chute close into the lee of the mainsail. I gather the foot and only then release the halyard. I then haul the chute down like a rope, hand over hand, stuffing it down the companionway. I can usually do this within reach of the helm.
This is a much faster and reliable operation than trying to stuff a chute and then lower the sock.
I have tried going wing and wing with an assymetrical chute and it works reasonably well. You need a special length whisker pole as a spin pole or a whisker pole are usually too short. So my conclusion is that when everthing is going well an assymetrical chute is more user friendly but they are more prone to things going seriously wrong and when they do they are harder to clear than a symetrical.