I solo-sail a 1978 Hunter 27 and have just purchased a Gennaker. It has a dosing sock and all seems easy in print, but it has been a challenge in practice. I constantly get the sheets crossed over each other on the set and there never seems to be the right way to jibe it unless I use the sock, jibe, then re-set. Any words of wisdom?
Sue & Larry respond:
Congratulations on your new cruising spinnaker and good for you for attempting to fly it solo. It’s not uncommon to have trouble at the beginning in getting everything right when setting and jibing, even for crews of more than one.
To help you avoid getting the sheets crossed over when you first set the sail, make sure that after the spinnaker is raised, but still in the sock. Then, take up the slack on both the windward and leeward sheets through the blocks in the cockpit. Ensure that you arrange the sheets so that they can freely run out again when you raise the sock and the wind fills the sail. (You might want to try using sheets of different colors for each side to help speed up identification regarding which sheet is which at all times.) After you’ve raised the sock and gotten the sail flying, trim the leeward sheet to keep the sail flying nicely. You may need to pull in a little of the slack on the windward sheet again just to make sure it doesn’t get fouled.
To jibe a cruising spinnaker without using the dousing sock requires good coordination of steering through the wind and in the releasing the sheets and taking them in again. As a single-hander, you must be especially careful not to steer the boat into a position that makes it difficult or impossible to retrieve your new leeward sheet to control the sail without it getting fouled. As you begin your jibe, steer slowly until the bow is headed dead downwind so that the sail is flying clew first (the corner that both sheets are attached to) straight in front of your boat. Both sheets should now be fully released, and once you have confirmed that they are flying freely, get you new leeward sheet ready to trim, and only then begin your turn closer to the wind on the new jibe. Once the sail is trimmed on your new heading, remember to take up any slack on the windward sheet again, which will keep it from getting caught on anything before your next jibe.
A word of wisdom for all spinnaker flyers. Check your rig carefully, not once but twice, before flying any spinnaker to make sure there are no sharp split rings or cotter pins, etc., anywhere that are not taped up. These could catch the sailcloth and rip it. We’re speaking from experience here as we thought we had a snag-free rig, but ripped our cruising spinnaker the first time we put it up. Our spinnaker collapsed and somehow found the single untaped cotter pin next to the mast. We had missed that cotter pin during our rig inspection.
Good luck to you.