Sailing Dinghy Spinnaker Handling Techniques - Hoisting Gybing Dropping

Sections: Hoisting/Launching Spinnaker Pole Adjustment Trimming Gybing Spinnaker Drop

Contains information on such as spinnaker flying, spinnaker launch bag and spinnaker chute in this spinnaker trimming guide and tips. Spinnaker sailing

Conventional sailing dinghy spinnakers have complicated rigging and therefore need well practiced spinnaker handling techniques when sailing.

Flying a Spinnaker

Hoisting or Launching from a Spinnaker Chute

  • When hoisting or launching from a spinnaker chute, the helmsman pulls on the halyard.
  • The crew sets the sheet and guy to their marks then attaches the pole.
  • The helmsman cleats the halyard then trims the sheet and guy as the crew deals with the pole.

Hoisting or Launching from a Leeward Spinnaker Bag

Hoisting the dinghy spinnaker from the leeward spinnaker bag is easier as the helmsman can hoist it out of the pouch without help from the crew.

  • The helmsman bears away to a run or broad reach.
  • The crew releases the halyard from the reaching hook then pulls on the guy drawing the windward clew towards the forestay.
  • As the helmsman hoists the spinnaker, the crew clips the pole to the guy.
  • The crew attaches the uphaul and downhaul, and clips the inboard end of the spinnaker pole onto the mast bracket.
  • The helmsman then cleats the halyard, controlling the sheet and guy as the crew sets the pole.
  • The crew slips the guy under the reaching hook, or adjusts the twinning line, then trims and cleats the guy.

Hoisting or Launching from a Windward Spinnaker Bag

  • First the crew frees the halyard and cleats the guy with the clew clear the forestay then removes the spinnaker from the launching bag, holding securely.
  • The helmsman bears away to a broad reach or run.
  • The helmsman then hoists rapidly with the crew throwing the sail to windward and then pulls on the sheet bringing the sail to leeward of the forestay.
  • The helmsman then controls the sheet and guy.
  • The crew rigs the pole and slips the guy under the reaching hook then cleats it, or pulls on the twinning line.

How to Rig a Dinghy Spinnaker Pole

Learning how to rig a spinnaker pole involves adjusting of the pole angle and height, allowing the sail to set to its efficient position and to be effectively trimmed. Adjusting the spinnaker pole angle horizontally is done using the guy and altering the height of the pole is achieved using the uphaul and downhaul. The following is the correct spinnaker pole rigging and setup.

Spinnaker Pole Angle

  • The angle of the pole is set slightly larger than 90 degrees to the apparent wind.
  • This needs trimming by bringing the pole aft sailing further downwind, and easing it forward turning on to a reach.
  • Do not allow the pole to lie against the forestay as there is a chance it may bend or break.
  • This also requires adjusting the guy after putting it under the reaching hook or tightening the twinning line then cleating it.

Spinnaker Pole Height

The pole in the horizontal position holds the dinghy spinnaker away to the greatest extent from the rest of the rig. Make sure that the clews of the sail are kept level, at the same height above the water. The windward clew is attached and held in place by the pole but the leeward clew attached to the sheet is free to move up and down with the strength of the wind and the sailing dinghy's course.

This means that the adjustment of the clews is done with the windward clew using the uphaul/downhaul on the pole. If the leeward clew is lower than the tack, lower the pole and if higher, raise the pole. If the pole is set too low or too high the sail becomes inefficient and may collapse.

Setting and Trimming a Spinnaker

The dinghy spinnaker once set, has a huge effect on dinghy handling and therefore must be kept under control by the crew. To acquire knowledge of how to trim the spinnaker correctly to cope with gusts and gybing, requires practice. Following is a spinnaker trimming guide.

Playing the Sheet

Different dinghy spinnaker shapes require trimming in different ways, but general rules are fundamental to getting the sail to perform efficiently.

  • Keep the sail symmetrical about its centre line by keeping the clews level above the water.
  • Encourage the spinnaker to fly as far past the mainsail as possible allowing air to pass freely between the two sails.
  • When set correctly, the crew is able to ease the sheet allowing the luff to start curling back on itself about halfway up.
  • Well-designed spinnakers are sailed with some luff curl without the sail collapsing.
  • The point where the luff starts to curl indicates the optimum trim in any wind strength and point of sailing.
  • The apparent wind shifts forwards or backwards with the change in boat speed so the sheet is trimmed continually, keeping the spinnaker on the edge of curling.

Handling Gusts

Correct spinnaker handling requires knowing how to handle gusts to avoid the power in the spinnaker overcoming rudder control.

  • As a gust hits, the crew eases the spinnaker sheet to curl the luff allowing the sailing dinghy to accelerate.
  • If this is not done, the sailing dinghy heels and develops significant weather helm which makes it hard for the helmsman to stay on course or bear away.
  • The apparent wind now shifts forward when the boat accelerates with the crew ready to sheet in preventing the spinnaker collapsing.
  • As the sailing dinghy slows, the apparent wind shifts aft and therefore the sheet must be eased.

Gybing a Spinnaker

Gybing a spinnaker, requires a routine and practice. Keeping the sailing dinghy upright is essential to complete the spinnaker gybe quickly preventing the spinnaker becoming uncontrollable.

  • Prepare for the spinnaker gybe with the helmsman bearing away to a run.
  • The crew removes the guy from the reaching hook while setting the sail square across the bow.
  • If the sheets are marked to indicate their correct cleating position, they are set quickly and easily at the gybing position with the sailing dinghy ready to be gybed.
  • Pointing dead downwind, the mainsail and jib are gybed and the crew pulls on the vang helping the boom over.
  • The helmsman takes control of the guy and sheet keeping the spinnaker full while standing in the middle of the boat, steering the sailing dinghy with the tiller between his knees.
  • Removing the pole from the mast, the crew clips it onto the new guy, and then pushes it out.
  • After removing the old guy from the pole, the crew fits the pole onto the mast bracket and puts the guy under the reaching hook, cleats it then takes the spinnaker sheet from the helmsman.

Spinnaker Drop and Retrieval

Choose between lowering the spinnaker into the windward or leeward pouch. The less complicated method is dropping the spinnaker into the windward pouch keeping the crew's weight on the windward side. Only consider dropping the sail into the leeward pouch if that pouch is needed for a later leeward hoist but either method requires steering onto a broad reach or run.

Windward Spinnaker Drop

A windward drop requires the crew to remove and stow the pole prior to lowering the sail. Then by pulling on the guy until the clew is in his hand, the crew then pulls the sail down by its luff and stuffs it into the windward pouch stowing the halyard under the reaching hook.

Leeward Spinnaker Drop

The crew pulls hard on the sheet until the clew is reached, then releases the guy and pulls the sail under the boom into the leeward pouch. Once in the pouch, the halyard is hooked under the reaching hook and the spinnaker pole is removed and stowed.

Spinnaker Chute Drop

  • When lowering into a chute the crew sheets the foot of the sail tight against the forestay.
  • The helmsman uncleats the halyard and pulls on the downhaul.
  • When the middle of the sail enters the chute, the crew releases the sheet and guy then removes the pole.
Spinnaker handling techniques involved in hoisting trimming gybing then the spinnaker drop.