The right sails and setup
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.
HARDWARE IS CHANGING
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.’
SAIL CHOICE IS CRITICAL
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