I recently acquired an asymmetrical spinnaker with a sock or snuffer. On my first boat I had a radial-head spinnaker and used a pole for control. The sock method appears to be preferable. Are there any tips you can offer for using the sock before I get started and try it for the first time?
Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. If your boat is about 30 feet LOA or larger, you're right about the sock being the preferable method for controlling an asymmetrical spinnaker, particularly if you're sailing shorthanded. And you're also right to want a little direction before trying this on your own. I don't say that because using a spinnaker sock is difficult, it's just that following the proper technique can make a night-and-day difference in getting the kite up and down.
Brian Hancock, a veteran offshore sailor who served as a consultant for SailNet's AirForce Sails, wrote a pretty good explanation of this technique in his article titled Using the Asymmetrical Spinnaker. Also, Eric Waters of AirForce Sails wrote a shorter piece about using cruising spinnakers titled Flying Cruising Spinnakers.
Have a look at each of these articles and I think you'll come away with some valuable tips on effectively using your spinnaker sock. Remember, if you can find a day when the weather is benign, this is the best time to go out sailing and get more comfortable with a maneuver that you might otherwise find a little daunting. Best of luck.