Spinnaker Set


Why does everyone raise and lower their spinnaker from the leeward side the majority of the time? In high winds, my crew usually has problems grabbing the leeward guy line to bring the spinnaker down because it is out of reach (short wife). I know I am missing something basic, but I have no idea what I am not thinking about.

We almost never lower to leeward.

No matter which jibe you approach the leeward mark, take the pole down at 3 boat lengths to the mark and douse to port as you round. This automatically gets the chute properly staged for the next set.

In Hot Wheels example, you can ease the sheet way off, and trim the guy way in, so the "tack" of the spinnaker comes to the crew, right at the shroud. They can then gather in the foot, and start stuffing it into the turtle on the port seat, as I release the halyard.

This lets the "clew" end and sheet fly downwind, and makes for a lot less excitement in getting the chute down and stowed. This method also puts the chute in prime shape for raising the next time downwind.

It helps to get the pole down, before you start the above. If the last few lengths to the leeward mark happen to be on port tack, the main is also out of the way of the crew, as they execute.

I tend to douse a little earlier, as my crew and I are still figuring a lot of things out. It seems to me that having the chute down, and being set to round well and trim to go to weather seems to gain distance. It also allows me to see what any boats that round ahead are doing and which tack looks favored.

Hot Wheels probably rounds first, so he doesn't get this benefit ;-)

Phil Scheetz
FS 4086

In a leeward take down, the pole comes in last.
The sheet is hauled tight so the crew can reach it and the HALYARD is blown completely off, which releases pressure on the sail. The guy [pole end] stays cleated until the crew has gathered enough sail to control and stow it.

It is important that the HELMSMAN be able to control the halyard, meaning it should be cleated aft within reach of the helm. The crew should not have to deal with the halyard while gathering.

The halyard should be on a retractor to prevent snarls and knots. A retractor also provides just the right amount of halyard tension so that the helmsman can tend to other things and pretty much let go of the halyard and it will reliably run clean without any excess slack so the crew can deal with the sail.

I think one thing that most people do is stow the chute on the port side. This is to make the launch at the weather mark (marks to port) smooth and less prone to issues. Approaching the leeward mark, and ready for takedown most will want to drop the chute on the port side so it will be ready to launch again. So if you are on starboard you will have a leeward takedown. My wife also has trouble reaching the sheet, since my helm position is aft of her I grab the sheet and pull it inboard enough for her to reach it, then I let it go. When she has it she begins to gather in the foot, when she has a good bit of it in, I release the guy which allows her to continue gathering the sail. If good so far, I will begin to release the halyard in a controlled way as she is pulling the rest of the chute down and into the boat. My halyard is led aft on the trunk but I do not have the take up reel. The skipper has to watch the chute to be sure the halyard release is not to quick which may put the chute in the water. One other issue to avoid is to be late with the above since the main will need to jibe over before or during the mark rounding. If she is still gathering the chute she is unlikely to enjoy a jibe.

If you are on port you will have a weather takedown which is actually a bit easier since she can reach the guy, it's under the hook. After stowing the pole she gathers the foot and when ready I control the halyard release. If traffic allows we will usually wait longer to drop on this approach since all you have to do is harden up around the mark (no jibe) and she ends up on the high side. Also if the drop is a little late the chute will blow into the jib on the rounding which keeps it out of the water. Within reason.

The starboard approach has the big advantage tactically since port boats will have to keep clear and you should be having inside position to round the mark.

While she ends up doing most of the work it really comes down to the skipper and proper timing if it is to be done smoothly. It may be good to start the process a little early and play it safe, as you get the hang of it you might delay it a little and see how it goes.

P.S. This assumes a downwind scenario, a planing spinnaker reach is another story.

Great thread and good posts by all...I'm in favor of the post from Travis as in most situations makrs to port means to me Starboard sets.

I will need to look at the Mast cleat to hoist, I have utilized that racing other boats. This way the crew can pull up the Halyard as posted then cleat it at the most themselves while the slack from the halyard that is lead aft for me can be pulled in later.
Mental check needs to be done near roundings to release the cleat at the mast.

We douse on the side which is most convenient depending on our approach to the leeward mark. When possible we will douse on the port side to allow a port set at the next windward mark, but not always because (a) you might want to do a jibe set at the next windward mark, (b) you might need to do a starboard side douse in order to have a better leeward mark rounding, and (c) you might be sailing to the finish so you don't care about the side for the next set.

In very very heavy air a windward douse is easier and safer, and eliminates the problem of how does the crew get hold of the sheet for a leeward douse. Just don't let the pole poke you in the eye when you pop it off the mast.

We don't usually care if the chute is on the windward side for the next set. If it's on the windward side, just set it on the windward side, then put up the pole. There's no harm done by a windward set. The only time this would pose a problem is if the next downwind leg is a tight chute reach, which hardly ever happens any more, given the preponderance of windward-leeward courses.

The most important part of the douse is to finish it before you round the mark, so you do a good mark rounding, with the sails trimmed properly and the boat not overly heeled. It costs a lot more to do a bad rounding than you gain by leaving the chute up a little longer.

J. Lott
FS 5698