Don’t Lose The Chute: How to Drop A Spinnaker

Last week, JibeTalk brought you coverage of the annual Junior Safety at Sea seminar, hosted by the Storm Trysail Foundation. This seminar taught junior sailors how to pull their weight while working on a big boat.

Continuing with big boats, here’s Tony Bull of Bull Sails explaining how not to lose your spinnaker sail during a race. Bull’s article was also posted on Sailing Scuttlebutt, which is where I first saw it.

A lot can go wrong on the race track and retrieving the spinnaker is one area that is fraught with danger and too often goes wrong. A successful drop relies on a few key points. It is a drill that involves multiple crewmembers all working in synchronisation. They must all be able to do their roles in the right sequence. So allow a lot of time for each to do their job. Messy

One of the bigger issues these days is to find regular crew and this can be a real problem for a lot of racing boats. If you have a chopping and changing of the guard on a regular basis then it is important to have a default setting for your spinnaker work. This would entail a tried and true retrieval system that is fairly safe.

A familiar dousing technique enables you to incorporate a few newbies into their roles with a minimum of fuss. Be precise with your instructions of when and where they need to be and what they need to do and look out for them. You can work all this out doing very conservative spinnaker work as part of your pre-race drill. It still amazes me the number of boats where the first hoist of the day is at the first top mark. What hope has the newbie got?

Cadet Nationals 2013 Day 6 011I find when working up a crew of mixed competence levels it is always easier to just develop one procedure on most manoeuvres and then once mastered,differing systems can be incorporated. Most racing boats will have quite a few variations of spinnaker dousing they can utilise for different race positions. But all have a lot in common.

The crew must know their roles. Make sure all the halyards and sheets are ready for the job and will not snarl. There must be enough time allowed to enable the manoeuvre. Don’t rush it; snappy crew-work comes with competence, not with haste. Let’s have a look at a few different ways to drop the spinnaker.

Check out a full list of recommended ways to drop the chute on Tony’s blog, Bull Sails.