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Old 06-30-2002
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Spinnaker Pole Set-Up

How do you set up a spinnker with a pole?

Dan Dickison responds:
There are two main types of spinnakers: symmetrical and asymmetrical. We're assuming that you're asking about conventional spinnakers or symmetrical spinnakers. From there, you have to determine whether your boat will use the simple approach with one spinnaker sheet and one spinnaker guy, or the slightly more complex arrangement that uses a lazy guy and a lazy sheet (used mostly for boats in the 35-foot-plus range). For a fairly straightforward understanding of these terms and how these lines should be led and used relative to the spinnaker pole, have a look at Steve Colgate's article, "Spinnaker Fundamentals." Steve includes some very useful graphics in that article and I think you'll find that a picture here is indeed worth a thousand words.

If you have further questions, you might want to refer to Rich Bowen's "Spinnaker Trim for Performance" and Dean Brenner's articles on different ways of hoisting the spinnaker ("Bear-Away Spinnaker Sets" and "Perfecting the Jibe-Set"), and Eric Water's "Flying the Cruising Spinnaker." 

Essentially what happens with a spinnaker is that it is suspended from the masthead (or somewhere near the masthead) by a halyard like any other sail. A sheet is run on the leeward side of the boat to trim the spinnaker, and a guy is run on the weather side for the same purpose. With symmetrical spinnakers, the guy (occasionally referred to as the afterguy) is run through the outboard end of a spinnaker pole just before it attaches to the spinnaker. The pole is used to project the spinnaker away from the boat and to adjust the angle of the sail to the wind.

Conventional spinnaker poles are usually controlled by two separate lines apart from the guy. One is the topping lift, which is used to support and hoist the spinnaker pole. The other is the downhaul or foreguy, which restricts the spinnaker pole from going too far aloft. Usually you start the process of using the spinnaker pole by running the guy through the outboard end of the pole and attaching the inboard end of the pole to a fitting on the mast. Then you can hoist the outboard end of the pole by way of the topping lift. After doing that you're pretty much ready to hoist the spinnaker. After doing so, you'll probably need to adjust the pole height and angle, but now you know how that's done.

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