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The Manoeuvres

Spinnaker Sailing

The spinnaker (‘spi’ for short) is used in light winds with the wind ‘abaft the beam’ (running).

a) Spinnaker equipment

This consists of spinnaker sail, spinnaker boom, topping lift, down haul, sheet, guy, halliard and sailbag.

The sheets and the head, tack and clew of the sail are coloured to aid correct rigging. Starboard in green, port in red. The tack is shackled to the guy, the clew to the sheet; guy and sheet are determined only by the position of the spinnaker boom.

b) Setting and lowering the spi (beginners)

  • The spi is untwisted in its sack.
  • Head, tack and clew are correctly shackled on.
  • Sheet, guy and halliard run outside the shrouds and forestay.
  • The spi boom, fully rigged with the guy in the snap shackle is attached to the mast fitting.
  • The boat is steered dead before the wind.
  • The spi is hoisted in the lee of the jib.
  • The guy 15 hauled in se as to bring the boom to the correct angle.
  • Correct course is now steered and the spi trimmed with the sheet.


c) Lowering the spi

  • The boat is steered dead downwind.
  • The boom is allowed to swing to the forestay.
  • By simultaneously freeing the guy and halliard and hauling in on the clew, the sail is stowed in its sack, ready to be set anew when required.


d) Trim of spinnaker and boom

  • Using the topping lift and downhaul, the boom is adjusted at right angles to the mast. Before the wind, wind and boom should also be at right angles. On other courses the angle between boom and wind is somewhat smaller, and in the limiting case the boom touches the forestay with the boat sailing at about 80° to the wind. At angles closer to wind than this the spi causes excessive heeling and drift.
  • The foot of the spi should be about horizontal when running (tack and clew at the same height.)
  • To compensate boat movement, only the elastic downhaul should be effective.
  • The spi 15 correctly trimmed when the luff shows a slight tendency to collapse.
  • Should the spi collapse in light wind, a tug on the sheet is normally sufficient to fill it again.
  • The sheet must be retrimmed at each change of course.


e) Gybing under spinnaker

  • The boat is steered dead before the wind.
  • The crew then releases the boom from the mast and clips the free end on to the sheet. The boom is now attached to both sheet and guy.
  • The main sail is gybed and the spinnaker boom released from the old guy and clipped into the mast fitting.
  • The new course is steered and the spi retrimmed with guy and sheet.


A few practical hints

  • The spinnaker manoeuvres should be first tried out on land with the boat on the trailer (but the crew not on board!)
  • It is advisable to check the spi equipment before leaving harbour.
  • When under spi the crew is normally responsible for the jib and spinnaker sheets; only during hoisting does the helmsman look after the sheet and guy.
  • With the centre board up, the boat will readily plane under spinnaker.

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