Spinnaker Handling Techniques for Racers

As noted above, for the cruiser it is better to err on the safe and steady side when playing with spinnakers rather than take chances. But for racing sailors it's a different game. They expect to have occasional problems, and the trade-off between a quick spinnaker set and one that might possibly go wrong is a worthwhile risk. In this section we will look at four maneuvers in detail:

• A bear-away set with a conventional symmetrical spinnaker.

• A jibe-set and a regular jibe with a symmetrical spinnaker.

• Jibing an asymmetrical spinnaker.

• Taking down the spinnaker.

These two photographs show boats approaching the windward mark with the spinnaker gear all set for a bear-away set.

Before we look at these techniques, there are a few points to consider:

• Always know the skill level of your crew and plan accordingly. It's no use waiting until the very last moment to drop the spinnaker at the leeward mark if your crew can't manage a quick takedown. You would do better to drop the sail early.

• Make sure that everyone knows his or her job. When sails are set or doused, especially when the wind is up, there is a lot that needs to happen and it all needs to happen very quickly.

• Make sure that there is a clear division of responsibility among everyone on board and stick to established routines for each maneuver.

• Keep calm. Yelling and screaming have no place on board a well-run boat.

With all of these spinnaker maneuvers it's important for all crews, even the experienced ones, to talk the maneuvers through before they carry them out. This reminds everyone of what's expected of him or her and refreshes the process in everyone's mind. With good planning, good communication, no yelling, and some practice, all of these seemingly complicated maneuvers can be carried out with ease.

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