Jibing an Asymmetrical Spinnaker

This is not a difficult maneuver to perform, but like all sailhandling techniques it requires practice. Jibing an asymmetrical without a spinnaker pole is actually quite easy. It's only when a spinnaker pole is employed that it becomes more difficult. Let's look at a pole-less jibe first.

Without a Spinnaker Pole

Just like jibing a symmetrical spinnaker, the helmsman plays a key role in the process. It's up to him to jibe the boat in concert with the speed at which the spinnaker is able to be moved from side to side. In light winds, the jibe must be gentle, keeping maximum boat speed and using a minimal amount of rudder to turn the boat. As the helmsman bears away, the spinnaker trimmer eases the sail until the boat is sailing dead downwind. At the same time, if possible, someone else tightens the tack line tensioning the luff of the sail. If it's not possible to do it simultaneously, tighten the tack line first and then ease the sail. The spinnaker will collapse from the luff first and curl in to leeward. At this point the sail can be rotated to the other side. If the sail is set on a bowsprit, the sheet can be passed between the headstay and the luff of the sail, but if the sail is set from the bow the sheet might have to be passed around the front of the sail since there will not be enough room to allow the sail to pass through. In either case it will now be on the new leeward side where it can be led aft and trimmed in. Again, the size of the boat, the aspect ratio of the spinnaker, and the distance between the headstay and luff of the sail will determine if the sheet is passed between the stay and the luff or around the front of the sail. Some smaller racing boats actually have two sheets attached, and the crew can jibe the sail inside the luff not unlike tacking a headsail.

With a Spinnaker Pole

It becomes a bit more complicated when a spinnaker pole is involved. The helmsman still plays a critical role, but it is up to the coordination of the fore-deck crew to execute a flawless jibe. As the boat bears away to begin the jibe, the load from the afterguy must be transferred onto the tack line by easing the

Jibing an asymmetrical spinnaker is easy especially if the boat has a bowsprit. The sail passes in front of the headstay.

Jibing an asymmetrical spinnaker is easy especially if the boat has a bowsprit. The sail passes in front of the headstay.

Sailboat Jibing

former and simultaneously taking up on the latter. At this point the jibe is carried out as if there was no pole, moving the bow through the eye of the wind at the same speed as the sail passes to the new side. The foredeck crew, meanwhile, must release the afterguy, take the pole off the mast and bring it aft so that the outboard end can be passed behind the headstay and then re-attached to the mast with a new guy in place. As soon as everything is connected, the pole can be raised and pulled aft to match the new wind angle.

"There will be times when, despite your best efforts, it all goes wrong and the spinnaker ends up wrapped around the headstay... Quick and decisive action is therefore necessary."

Without pole

• In light winds the jibe must be gentle.

• Ease the spinnaker sheet.

• Rotate the sail to the other side.

• Pass the sheet between (on small boats or if there is plenty of room) or around (on larger boats) the headstay and the luff of the sail.

With pole

• Transfer the afterguy load to the tack line.

• Release the afterguy.

• Bring the pole aft so that it can be set on the new jibe.

• Attach the pole to the new afterguy.

• Transfer the load back onto the guy.

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