The spinnaker is like a large parachute that pulls the boat downwind. It can be set with the true wind direction anywhere from dead astern to about abeam. It's made of light nylon and adds so much sail area to the total sail plan of the boat that speed is markedly increased when a spinnaker is set.
There are two lines to hold the pole in positionthe topping lift to keep it from falling when the spinnaker isn't full of wind, and the foreguy (some people call it the spinnaker pole) downhaul to keep the pole from "skying" (pointing way up in the air) when the spinnaker is full.
Preparation for Setting Starting at the head of the spinnaker, run down both edges one at a time folding each accordion style, holding the folds in one hand as you go. This will ensure that the spinnaker isn't twisted. If two edges are untwisted, the third onethe foot in this casealso has to be straight.
The halyard, sheet, and guy are then connected to the three corners. Make sure the halyard is attached to the head of the sailthe corner with the swivel. Since the spinnaker is vertically symmetrical, you can attach the sheet and guy to either of the other two corners. Make sure the sheet and guy are outside of everything on the boat (shrouds, stays, etc.) before connecting them.
Next, set up the pole to windward with the guy running through the outboard end.
The Hoist The key to a good set is to separate the lower corners of the spinnaker as the halyard is being raised. Often this means cleating the sheet and pulling the tack of the sail out to the pole as quickly as possible with the guy, unless you have enough crew to have a person on the sheet also. The halyard should be pulled up smartly so the spinnaker will neither fall overboard into the water nor fill with air before it's all the way up. If the latter happens, the person on the halyard may have difficulty holding on unless they get a wrap around a winch or cleat in a hurry.
The Set There are a few simple rules that form a good foundation for basic spinnaker work:
- Set the pole at right angles to the apparent wind. Use the masthead fly since it's in less disturbed air than the shroud telltales and make sure the pole lies perpendicular to it.
- Since the spinnaker is a symmetrical sail, it should look symmetrical. Neither corner should be higher than the other. If the clew is higher than the tack, the pole should be raised to even them out.
- The pole should be perpendicular to the mast so it will hold the tack of the spinnaker as far away from the blanketing effect of the mainsail as possible. If the pole needs to be raised, as in rule 2, don't just pull the topping lift (which raises only the outboard end), but raise the inboard end also if it's adjustable.
- Ease the sheet until a curl appears along the luff of the "chute" (short for parachute spinnaker, as it was formerly called) and then trim it back until the curl disappears. The spinnaker trimmer will have to watch the luff of the spinnaker constantly, because the moment he or she looks away the chute will collapse, almost as if it were waiting for him to look away.
If you follow these few basic rules you shouldn't have any trouble learning to fly a spinnaker.
The Jibe There are two basic types of jibes: the "end for end" jibe used on small boats with light spinnaker poles and the "dip-pole" jibe used on larger boats when the pole is heavy.
The Douse Taking a spinnaker down is much like running a movie of the hoist backward. First grab the sheet as near the clew as possible and pull it into the cockpit so the spinnaker will come down behind the mainsail. Second, let the guy run free and start gathering in the foot of the sail. Third, lower the halyard fairly fast, but not so fast that you get ahead of the crew gathering it in lest the sail should fall in the water.
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