The drop

Yachting Monthly - - EXPERT ON BOARD - Thanks to UKSA in Cowes for the use of their Swe­den 43 01983 294941;

Hatch drop

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.

let­ter­box drop

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

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