The right sails and setup

Yachting Monthly - - EXPERT ON BOARD -

Half the bat­tle with fly­ing a spin­naker is mak­ing sure you’ve got your setup right be­fore you hoist. As we all know, the spin­naker hal­yard ex­its the mast above the forestay, while the two clews are sheeted back to the cock­pit via blocks on the quar­ter, and the guys are led aft via blocks mid­ships. The pole height is con­trolled by an up­haul at the mast and a down­haul, which is led aft via a block on the fore­deck. The pole’s in­board end at­taches to the mast, of­ten on an ad­justable track, and the wind­ward guy passes through the jaws on the pole’s out­board end next to the wind­ward clew.


Rac­ing in­no­va­tions are help­ing make life eas­ier for cruis­ing sailors, says David Bar­den, pro­duc­tion di­rec­tor at Allspars. ‘Many rac­ing teams are us­ing mod­ern soft at­tach­ments, blocks and rings, in­clud­ing soft dyneema pad eyes com­bined with blocks such as Karver KBO or INO blocks that can deal with the high loads but are ex­tremely light. These are also pop­u­lar in long-dis­tance cruis­ing be­cause they are ro­bust and re­li­able and don’t have metal fittings that can fa­tigue.

‘Although blocks still pro­duce less fric­tion, low-fric­tion rings are used all over boats; they work well on tweaker lines. If you are end-to-end gy­bing, tweak­ers mean you only need one sheet on each side, and you pull the wind­ward tweaker on to turn the sheet into a guy. Snug­ging the lee­ward tweaker down in heavy con­di­tions helps sta­bilise the spin­naker.’


Us­ing the wrong spin­naker could make your life dif­fi­cult too, says Peter San­ders of San­ders Sails: ‘The chances are that only one spin­naker will be car­ried so it must cover all the con­di­tions that the crew are ca­pa­ble of us­ing it in. The prob­lem with most sym­met­ric spin­nakers on cruis­ing yachts is that they are just too heavy. The cheap­est ny­lon that you can buy is 1.5oz, there­fore it is com­mon for sail­mak­ers to of­fer this weight for all yachts over 30ft, but it is heavy, bulky and re­quires at least 12 knots of ap­par­ent wind to stop it from hang­ing like a de­flated bal­loon. Sail­ing down­wind, this means a true wind of about 18 knots, which is too much for most cruis­ers to con­sider a spin­naker. Most of the time, ‘light is right’, so 0.75oz spin­nakers on yachts up to 35ft and 0.9oz above that, are much eas­ier to han­dle, set and gybe.

‘If you have an old or sec­ond-hand spin­naker, it may not be the right size. The re­sult will be in­sta­bil­ity, rolling and the pos­si­bil­ity of broach­ing, which never helps re­la­tions on board. Sim­i­larly, spin­nakers have some stretch to ab­sorb gusts, but if it’s old, it will be­come deeper and bag­gier with tight leech tapes and it will re­tain wa­ter mak­ing it hard to set.

‘Most spin­nakers to­day are made with a true-ra­dial panel lay­out thanks to the ad­vance­ment in sail de­sign soft­ware. In the past, spin­nakers were made on the floor so the mid­dle panels were hor­i­zon­tally cut, mak­ing it pos­si­ble for the sail­maker to shape the seams.’

Light­weight blocks like this INO one, are more re­li­able and durable

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