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Old 04-16-2002
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Dan Dickison is on a distinguished road

What is a blooper and how is it used? Also, can I fly a loose-luff light air sail like a drifter with a spinnaker dousing sock?

Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. In the context of sailing, bloopers are auxiliary sails that used to be employed while sailing downwind. These triangular sails, which were used in conjunction with spinnakers, were like narrow but deep versions of the asymmetrical spinnakers seen on so many boats today. However, they were almost always smaller and used secondarily to spinnakers, and usually employed only if the course was almost dead downwind.

Of course you don't see bloopers around much any more for two reasons. They have essentially been outlawed by changes in the rules that govern sailboat racing, and they've effectively been made obsolete due to improved hull forms on contemporary boats. Because of the latter, bloopers really aren't that productive when it comes to enhancing performance because most contemporary boats will hit their maximum speeds with mainsail and spinnaker alone.

The unique thing about bloopers is that they were trimmed with the halyard rather than the sheet. That is to say you set the sail and then made frequent adjustments with the control attached to the head of the sail while the two other corners remained almost static.

Regarding the second part of your question, yes. Almost any sailmaker can build you a sail like the one you describe, and can fit a spinnaker sock to it. If you'd care for more specific information, I would suggest you contact someone like Lin Robson, the manager of AirForce Sails in St. Petersburg, FL. You can e-mail Lin at

Here's hoping that this information is useful to you.

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