WHICH SPIN­NAKER IS BEST?

SAIL - - Boat Works Ask Sail -

Q: My boat does not have a spin­naker, and I am con­sid­er­ing buying one. How­ever, I don’t know if I should buy an asym­met­ri­cal spin­naker or a sym­met­ri­cal one. Can you ad­vise? Blake An­der­son, sail­mail@sail­magazine.com

BRIAN HAN­COCK REPLIES

The answer to that ques­tion largely de­pends on the kind of sail­ing you plan to do. Most sailors have gone away from us­ing a sym­met­ri­cal spin­naker for a num­ber of rea­sons: first and fore­most among them, the fact that it’s a lot more work to set and douse. If you don’t al­ready have a spin­naker pole and the other nec­es­sary as­so­ci­ated rig­ging, you will also have to go out and buy the equip­ment. With an asym­met­ri­cal, on the other hand, you just need to at­tach the tack at the bow along with a sheet block along the lee­ward rail and then hoist with the hal­yard. It’s also eas­ier to set and douse, es­pe­cially if you use some kind of dous­ing sock or a top-down furler.

Gen­er­al­i­ties aside, how­ever, there are some caveats to con­sider. For ex­am­ple, with a sym­met­ri­cal spin­naker you can use the pole to ro­tate the sail aft and away from the dead air to lee­ward of the main­sail. True, it’s pos­si­ble to do that with an asym­met­ri­cal, but it’s not as easy and re­quires a del­i­cate touch on the helm. There­fore, if you are go­ing off­shore and will have plenty of steady, fa­vor­able air, such as the North­east Trades, a sym­met­ri­cal spin­naker would be my first choice, since you will be do­ing a lot of sail­ing down­wind. Sure, it takes some ad­di­tional ef­fort to set, but if it’s go­ing to be up for days or even weeks on end, that small amount of ex­tra ef­fort is far out­weighed by the ad­van­tage of be­ing able to ro­tate the sail aft.

There are pros and cons to go­ing with an asym­met­ri­cal spin­naker

BRIAN HAN­COCK IS A SAIL­MAKER, WHITBREAD RACE VET­ERAN AND CRE­ATOR OF GREATCIRCLESAILS.COM

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