Spinnaker Gybe with Mike Mac
As a heavy-air gybe approaches, both helm
and crew will usually start to worry about whether they will survive. Their
best chance of doing so, will depend upon how adept they are at doing the
various jobs and how well they have them organized.
GYBING FROM ONE
REACH TO ANOTHER:
It is essential to have a routine that is
practised beforehand and is always adhered to. Think for a moment about
what is involved: we want to alter the boat’s course, to get all three
sails from one side to the other and we want to change sides ourselves.
All this without having to swim. If each job is given a number, then a
proper sequence emerges:
the mark well to windward. Give it a wide berth.
for suitable waves to gybe on, at the same time as looking for gusts. Do
not attempt to gybe while decelerating in a wave or as the wind increases.
Both slow the boat down relative to the wind and increase pressure on the
sails. Arrange to gybe while accelerating or when the
wind pressure on the sails is dropping.
you approach the gybe point, the crew stands. He eases the leeward sheet
and cleats it at the ‘reach’ mark for the other side. As he does so, the
boat is borne away on to a dead run and the helm stands.
this point the crew pulls the spinnaker around by pulling on the old windward
main boom is sheeted in a bit, and, on order, the gybe is started, and
the boom is flicked across by the helm (helped by the crew perhaps).
Al’s note: I don’t think anyone I know really “flicks the boom across”
except in light air. It is usually necessary to bear away well past straight
downwind until the boom ‘wants’ to come over. See also the article on the
S-gybe in Efficient Sailing!)
the crew goes over with the helm, he uncleats the jib, and takes the sheet
from the other side with him.
balances the boat, forgetting the sails until the boat is stable again.
cleats the jib. On the order “NOW”, from the helm, he goes forward to unclip
the pole from the mast.
leeward sheet is pulled out of the plunger.
The uphaul rope is reorganised in its pole fitting if necessary.
The new windward sheet is fed through the pole end and that end is pushed
If the crew has cleated it right, before the gybe, the new windward sheet
will stop the pole just short of the forestay, while the new leeward sheet,
if pre-cleated correctly, should just enable the sail to set.
All this time, the helmsman should be refraining from such unhelpful comments
as “Hurry up!”, etc. He should be standing, balancing the boat for the
straining, un-balanced crew. He should be keeping the boat as upright as
possible, without swaying to windward, which will un-balance the crew even
Be careful about feeding the windward sheet through the lead near the shroud,
or about tensioning the windward barberhauler. This will bring the pole
aft by tightening the windward sheet, and may cause the spinnaker to collapse.
The crew sits down, sheeting the jib in properly - easing or tensioning
as necessary. Then he picks up the leeward spinnaker sheet.
The helmsman sheets in and off they go.
GYBING ON THE RUN:
Gybing on the run uses very similar techniques
except that the crew should hand the sheets to the helm after gybing the
main. The helm can then keep the spinnaker flying whilst steering with
the tiller between his legs.