Wannabe Sailing Bum
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: SF Bay Area
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Stevyboy - First off, as is par for the course in the sailing community, everyone in this thread threw out a ton of sailing lingo that you asked to not receive. It's almost a knee jerk reaction for sailors to do so.
Here's the deal. Don't be afraid of the spinnaker. They are very easy to fly. Go on Wikipedia and you'll see all the different lingo definitions for sheets (lazy & active), foreguy, topping lift, pole, halyard, etc. Once you have an understanding of what each do, go out to your boat on a windlass day and rig everything up. Hoist the sail and then look over everything. Practicality rules in "kite" (spinnaker) sailing. For symmetrical spinnakers, sheets (ropes that control the left/right "trim" motion of the sail) are attached to the lower two corners of the triangle, and always run outside of everything, to the blocks (the expensive Harken or Lewmar devices mounted near the cockpit) and then to the winches (more expensive devices). You'll have a track on the mast for the spinnaker pole, and then a foreguy and topping lift to control the pole. The spinnaker pole is always heading in an opposite direction from the main boom. It is there to control the spinnaker and how it is positioned for the direction of sail you desire (and a few other reasons I won't bludgeon you with). Asymmetricals are generally easier to fly, but since you don't have one of those, who cares? :-)
My underlying point is that you need not be afraid of the spinnaker. Practicing in 8-10kts is the perfect environment to learn how to properly fly the "kite." Bring along two friends and you'll have a great time. That kind of wind pressure won't overwhelm you, so whatever you do won't be that hard to deal with. The trick for you as the skipper is figuring out timing for your jibes (your downwind turns). Over communicate with your crew what you plan to do and while turning the boat, make sure you watch the action of the sail so your turn is in sync with the spinnaker. That's really the trickiest part for you as the skipper.
btw, with all do respect to previous posts, if you get knocked down while flying the kite, the correct procedure to right the vessel is to blow the vang, and sheet out. When you come back, sheet in like crazy and then look at the skipper like he/she's crazy. If you are the skipper, look at the trimmer the same way. It's not good to suggest you let the active sheet go where it can run through the block and thus completely out of your control.
I do like the suggestion that you sign up to crew on a racing boat. I've spent many years crewing on J24's, J105's, J90's, NM39's, B38s5's, Farr40's, etc. You learn best by jumping in. Where ever you live, I guarantee there are crew lists, and any novice crew needing "rail meat" will invite you aboard. That's your best way to learn.