The History of the Spinnaker Sleeve

The first spinnaker retaining device was invented in Germany about 35 years ago. It was called the Blue Max and was a very simple cloth tube with a rigid opening at one end and a closed-loop line running along the inside that was used to control the up and down of the tube. Nobody paid much attention to it back then since flying spinnakers was not very popular at the time.

Then along came Eric Tabarly, the French singlehanded sailing ace who recognized the need for such a device and asked his sailmaker, Viktor Tonnerre, to make him one for the 1976 Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race, or OSTAR. Tabarly hoped that the spinnaker sleeve would allow him to sail his yacht Pen Duick singlehanded with a spinnaker. And when Tabarly won the race, the spinnaker sleeve was credited with his success and the public became formally introduced to this innovative device. Soon thereafter every sailmaker in France was building his own version.

In the United States two companies - Mack-Shaw Sailmakers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Cruising Systems of Marblehead, Massachusetts - were credited with making the first serious attempt at the modern spinnaker sleeve on this side of the Atlantic. In fact, the two competitors' early spinnaker dousing devices were very similar to each other. Unfortunately, in both cases, the devices were made out of spinnaker cloth or bag material, which would cling to the sail when wet making it difficult to hoist. The lines were also too small, so that they burned the users' hands and could foul and wrap around the spinnaker. In short they were unreliable and unsafe, even when handled by an experienced crew.

Eventually sailor-turned-sailmaker Etienne Giorre decided to take it upon himself to create the perfect spinnaker sleeve, in the process implementing a number of innovative ideas that solved the problems faced by the earlier systems. For example, Giorre created a separate channel for the control lines that kept them apart from the sail at all times. Next, he addressed the mouth of the sleeve by manufacturing an oval fibreglass hoop that was light but strong enough to remain open when pulled against the sail and slippery enough to go over the sail without chafing the fabric and stitching. Finally he addressed the problem of the wet material sticking to the sail by having a fabric specially woven for the socks called a "tricot" a meshlike material that dries easily, is light and strong, and most importantly of all, does not hang up on the spinnaker when wet. Today, having manufactured over 10,000 sleeves for all sizes of boats ranging from the 156-foot yacht Hyperion to small daysailers, Giorre has been credited with revolutionising the way spinnakers are used by everyday sailors.

DOUSING SOCK

Pulley at the top for control lines.

Pulley at the top for control lines.

Spinnaker Sock

bridle off rigid hoop.

Figure 123

Dousing Sock bridle off rigid hoop.

Figure 123

Dousing Sock

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Responses

  • amie
    Who invented the spinnaker sailing?
    12 months ago

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