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hertfordnc 05-23-2008 09:29 AM

self taught spinaker handling
The conditions this weekend are perfect to try the spinnaker. I've read several step-by-step pages. It seems pretty straightforward but just to be prudent;

What are the most likely places where a novice can damage people or gear?

I think i'm a competent boater, line handling, safety, navigation, etc but i'm pretty clueless about the actual sailing part.


Plumper 05-23-2008 09:41 AM

The person at greatest risk is likely the guy on the foredeck hoisting the sail and setting the pole. He is pretty easy to knock over board or hit with the spin pole. He should be careful.
The gear risk is getting the sheets in the screw. Make sure the sheets are under control all the time.
Make sure you have lots of sea room for your first hoist just in case it takes a while for you to get it down.
Really there is nothing to flying a spin in reasonable winds. Two corners are supported by poles (The head and one clew) and you sheet with the other clew. Square it off to the wind and go for it! It will eventually be your favourite sail, guaranteed!

sailingdog 05-23-2008 09:47 AM


What an honest and brutal self-assessment. :)

Is this an asymmetrical spinnaker or a symmetrical spinnaker? Are you using a pole?

The biggest danger is probably a spinnaker induced broach and knockdown. The second biggest danger is an accidental gybe. When learning to sail with a spinnaker... try sailing on a broad reach or run, rather than closer to DDW. That reduces the accidental gybe risk.

A Camper Nicholson 31 is a pretty good boat, and will help keep you out of trouble IMHO. Some boats are far more squirrelly and will tend to help get you into trouble under a kite. :)

Just remember, if it feels like the spinnaker is going to knock the boat down or cause it to broach...let go of the active sheet and then recover the spinnaker after things get back under control.

P.S. Plumper's advice is geared towards a symmetrical spinnaker... and his point about getting the sheets tangled around the screw is a valid one, but if you're not motor sailing, not too much of a risk if you sail with the prop locked.

Faster 05-23-2008 10:02 AM

As a beginning spinnaker user, avoid trying to fly the spinnaker in heavy air, obviously, but also avoid trying it in extremely light conditions. Keeping a chute flying in the lightest conditions is a challenge for even an experienced crew, and trying to do that as a beginner will simply frustrate you.

With a nice 8-10 knots of breeze, try your first hoist on a comfortable broad reach. You can hoist from the pulpit or, as we have taken to, hoist from the leeward rail midway between the bow and mast. Be sure your halyards, sheets and pole lines are all run free and not crossed over with others, lifelines, pulpit rails etc. I'd suggest you practice hoists and takedowns on the same tack before trying to gybe, that way you can quickly douse the sail if things go wrong later.

As mentioned, have plenty of sea room initially, esp for your first attempts to gybe. Ultimately the driver has the most influence on how the gybe goes, for two reasons... first he should keep the boat "under" the sail, and secondly from his/her vantage point any potential snags and problems should be immediately visible, so you can coach the crew past the snag.

Make sure you talk all aspects through before attempting the gybe (and not just the first time either)

The spinnaker can be a very rewarding sail to use, but seems always poised to catch the careless and unaware at the worst time. This is why taking the sail down should be second nature - when it has to happen it has to happen cleanly and quickly.

As far as sheets in the prop, this usually occurs when the sail has been stowed and the motor started up after the finish or heading into port. If the sheets are not all "stowed/secured" too that's when the engine may suddenly stop:eek: !

merlin2375 05-23-2008 10:08 AM

I agree with the above stuff, just had a few things to add.

You should think hard about what procedure you will use to set the spinnaker and then what procedure you will use to douse it. What will you do first, how will you rig it before launching it, who will do what, etc, etc. There's a lot of stuff to do and it's nice to know what the steps are and who on your crew will play what role

Second, the way the spinnaker is packed can make a big difference in how easy the set goes. Make sure it's packed correctly and that you kind of have idea of how it's going to come out of the bag.

Third, how will you deal with the spinnaker if it has a twist in it.

Last just to second what Faster said, try and find a relatively stable day weather wise.

Last, you belong to a club or know other sailors? Maybe you could invite someone to go out with you the first time you fly the spinnaker to learn from them :)

sailingdog 05-23-2008 10:09 AM

One quick question... are you flying the spinnaker with a sock or other dousing aid??

hertfordnc 05-23-2008 10:43 AM

- forecast for the Sound this weekend, NNE 9kts. We're going South.

- there is no sock, it's just in a bag.

- I was advised to try it with adult supervision and I am not unwilling to do that but the conditions Saturday are very good.

- I have a somewhat limited crew- wife and daughter look to me for guidance so they're pretty screwed

sailingdog 05-23-2008 10:54 AM

PFDs all around... and i feel sorry for the wife and daughter... they've got the bar set pretty low.... :)

hertfordnc 05-23-2008 10:59 AM

I was a small boat engineer and public affairs specialist (spokesman) in the Coast Guard so while my own experience is limited I draw on decades of other peoples mistakes to keep me safe.

sailingdog 05-23-2008 11:08 AM


Who's going to be on the spin pole?? and is it an asym or sym spin?

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