Yachting World - - Practical -


Gy­bing a sym­met­ric kite dou­ble-handed is a tough ma­noeu­vre and there is no ques­tion that prac­tice makes perfect. Set­ting up your boat so things are within reach is es­sen­tial, as you may need to reach sheets and guys from the steer­ing po­si­tion and the pole up­haul from the bow.

Other than in very light winds or with small spin­nakers, gy­bing with sheets and guys is a must – if you choose sin­gle sheets, make sure you have the strength to push the guy out in all con­di­tions.


Be­fore go­ing into the gybe think about where you want your kite to fly: al­low­ing it to fly up might help to keep the sail full, but will make it less sta­ble, whereas us­ing the tweak­ers to pull it down too much could mean it is prone to col­lapse. As a rule of thumb I nor­mally set the tweak­ers to guardrail height.

For end to end gy­bing I will go into the gybe deep, with the pole squared back, ro­tat­ing the spin­naker well onto the wind­ward side of the boat. Set the pi­lot to drive dead down­wind with the main­sail well out. Put the wind­ward sheet onto a winch and wind it in un­til vis­i­bly tak­ing the weight of the wind­ward clew.

Gybe the boat on the au­topi­lot, through a shal­low an­gle – around 20° should suf­fice if you were deep to start with – swing­ing the main over as you do so. With the main on the new side re­lease the old guy and head up an­other 10° or 20° to en­sure the spin­naker is blow­ing to lee­ward.

At this stage the crew in the cock­pit should be trim­ming the spin­naker while the other heads to the fore­deck and gybes the pole. Keep­ing the spin­naker on the lee­ward side of the boat should avoid wraps un­til the new pole is on.

Dip pole gybe

Dip-pole gy­bing is more com­pli­cated for a crew of two so I choose to hand steer through this one, while my co-skip­per does ev­ery­thing else. Set the spin­naker to fly in the cen­tre of the boat, square the pole back, but keep the lee­ward sheet on, so the spin­naker does not over-ro­tate. You can sheet the main in at this point if you want.

The helms­man should now steer to keep the spin­naker full at all costs, al­low­ing the boat to gybe when it feels nat­u­ral. The other crew se­cures both sheets – en­sur­ing the wind­ward one has the weight of the sail – re­leases the guy and then heads for­ward to gybe the pole.

If you have a dip-pole then spend some time on the dock en­sur­ing you have a good one-man set-up: the pole up­haul must be mast- and even fore­deck­op­er­a­ble, poles must trip from both ends and mast cleats must be in the right place. It is easy to get a wrap around the pole end once the new guy is in, if it’s not pulled through as the pole is hoisted. This could be a job for the helms­man if it’s within their reach, but beware as get­ting dis­tracted from steer­ing be­fore the pole is set can eas­ily lead to wraps. If not, the fore­deck crew can pull a hand­ful of the guy through the pole from the fore­deck, then come back and tail the rest from the cock­pit.


Above: an end to end gybe is eas­ier for short-han­ders, but a good set-up is im­por­tant be­fore you start Prac­tise pole­less sail­ing with the spin­naker as much as pos­si­ble – if you are con­fi­dent you can keep the sail full you will have all the time in the world to com­plete the gybe.

Make sure split back­stays or run­ners are free to run out on the wind­ward side to avoid get­ting the main pinned in and round­ing up. Set the trav­eller to wind­ward be­fore the gybe. If you get a wrap give your­self a short time limit to sort it out (I’d say less than one minute) if it can’t be sorted then take it down and re­hoist.

At­tach­ing a long line to the mid­dle of the pole will al­low you to swing it into the boat while drop­ping the up­haul at the mast.

Above: square back the pole and sail deep down­wind be­fore head­ing into the gybe

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