Spinnaker sailing – without the pole

Many sailors, myself including, are so used to the “normal” way of working with the pole and spinnaker together that the thought of sometimes working the spinnaker without the pole hasn’t really occurred to us. We keep doing the same setup; first putting the pole up before hoisting the spinnaker, foredeck working frantically on getting the pole reconnected after a gybe, and pole staying up until the spinnaker is safely stored under deck at a drop.

This article is challenging this routine and suggests that in some instances there are better and faster ways of working with the spinnaker.

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Chinese Gybes – and how to avoid them

A “Chinese Gybe” (jibe) also known as a “death roll” is feared by many and we need to know how best to avoid them.

The scenario:

You’re sailing dead downwind in windy conditions, and suddenly the boat starts rolling back and forth with increasing amplitude to the point where the boat actually broaches to windward. As the boat is broaching to windward it is also turning sharply to leeward causing it to gybe uncontrolled – “crash gybe”.

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Spinnaker gybing


Spinnaker ready to gybe

The following article describes a safe and fast way of gybing (jibing) a spinnaker on a 40 foot yacht. The key aim has been to reduce complexity so that no one in the crew is trying to do several things at once. E.g. it’s quite a common technique, where the spinnaker trimmer tries to trim both sheets at the same time during the gybe, which on this size of boat becomes nearly impossible in a good breeze.

The method requires that you prepare by making a mark on each of the spinnaker sheets for a base trimming position where the spinnaker clews only just clears the forestay when sailing without a pole.

To break down the activities it’s easier to look at the gybing maneuver as a three phase operation:

  1. Preparing for Gybe (Jibe)
  2. Gybing
  3. Post-Gybe

Peel sail change – step by step

Procedure for a peel head sail change, which would apply for a larger type of yacht (30-50 feet) but obviously can be modified for other types as well. By “peel” we mean hoisting a second head sail side by side with an existing one and then once the new sail is in operation we drop the old one. By doing this the impact to boat speed will be minimised.

What this article is also trying to emphasize is the importance of crew weight and working in a smart efficient way to avoid disturbances to the balance of the boat, keeping the crew on the rail as much as possible. It should be possible to change the head sail with only a maximum of two people being away from the rail at any one time.

Assumptions made for the step-by-step instructions below:

  • The boat is on a starboard tack
  • change from no 3 headsail (Genoa) up to a no 2
  • The no 3 is in port track
  • We’ll be hoisting the no 2 on the inside of the no 3.
  • This is a peel only change, ie we will not be tacking
  • There is a spare “change sheet” available on the boat.

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