There are several ways of doing this. The most common is to retrieve the spinnaker down the main hatch. Again, this is easier with twin sheets and guys. Hoist or unroll the jib. Take a bight of the lazy guy directly from the sail on the leeward side under the boom over the rail and into the main hatch.
Ease the guy until the pole is just off the forestay. Steer downwind. The person lowering the halyard makes sure it is clear to run. At this point the cockpit crew can either let the guy and lazy sheet run through the pole on the windward side or the foredeck crew can ping the snap shackle releasing the sheet and guy from the windward corner of the sail.
Either way the sail is now flapping like a huge flag behind the main, held by the halyard and a crew member in the main hatch, holding the lazy guy. The halyard is eased quickly and the crew gather it in as it comes down, trying to avoid it dragging in the sea. Lower the pole and tidy up the lines.
On boats with a loose-footed main the spinnaker can be retrieved by passing the lazy guy between the foot of the main and the boom. The spinnaker is pulled down in the lee of the main through this slot into the main hatch — a technique known as a letterbox drop, which is effective in removing any wind in the spinnaker and making it less likely to trail in the water.
To save all this hassle it is possible to rig a snuffer, which is a giant collapsible tube which can slide up and down the sail. The spinnaker is set with the pole, sheets and guys ready an d hoisted like a sausage with the sail in the snuffer.
Using another halyard in the snuffer, the tube is pulled up, releasing the sail from the deck upwards. Once set, the folded tube stays at the head of the sail.
To retrieve the spinnaker the boat is sailed on a run to blanket the spinnaker and the snuffer tube is pulled back down.
What could be easier — except of course if it jams on the way down. But it is simpler than the traditional drop and the spinnaker doesn’t need repacking.
With a normal drop the cabin by the main hatch ends up full of spinnaker and it is time to repack it. Many racing boats have a hook on the deckhead in the cabin which takes the head cringle.
This allows the crew to work down the two edge tapes of the sail from the top, undoing any twists. Having reached the clews, the three corners are gathered and the sail pushed into the bag keeping the corners on the top. The skill is to prevent a twist when it is rehoisted.
Another slower and safer technique is to find the head, sit on it so you know where it is and work down one edge, flaking as you go.
When you get to the clew, sit on the folds and work down the other edge from the head. Sit on all the folds and pack the bag carefully, leaving the folds until last. If it goes up with a twist, the beers at the bar afterwards are on the packer!
Decades ago when offshore racing was less frenetic, yachtsman used to drop the spinnaker at night. That is unthinkable when racing now but a good idea for cruising yachtsmen.
Some of my most memorable cruising has been sailing on a summer evening in light airs with a spinnaker powering us towards our destination. It was great to know that the extra speed would allow us to arrive before dark, to enjoy that special thrill of entering a harbour at the end of a great sail.
pass the lazy guy aft to the companionway hatch while the crew prepares to gather in the sail
don’t drop the halyard too quickly to give the crew time to gather in the sail
With the guy eased, the sail will stream out like a flag behind the main
a snuffer can take the stress out of setting the spinnaker, though they sometimes jam
a letterbox drop can help avoid trailing the spinnaker in the water
pull the snuffer over the sail before dropping
repack the spinnaker by following the tapes