Spinnaker setup and controls

1. halyard

  • Tie the halyard very carefully to the sail.  If it comes undone, the halyard may have to be re-threaded through the mast.
  • Run the halyard back under the thwart where it can be easily used by the helm.  The halyard should be 4 mm line & 45 ft long.
  • Generally hoist the sail right up to the halyard block on the mast. Some people ease it about 6” on close reaches in medium air but this is of questionable value.
  • Use the guy hook on the side deck to keep the halyard tight when the spinnaker is not in use.

2. sheets

  • Some racers use one continuous spinnaker sheet. This should be 58 ft of 5 mm soft braid line.
  • The sheet passes through a block in the side deck located as far aft as possible.  It is then lead forward through blocks so that it is easily controlled by the crew in the hiked position.
  • It is handy to have a cleat to keep the sheets tight when not in use. The cleats can also be used to pre-set the sheet in the appropriate position for a reach just before hoisting. Sew coloured thread into the sheet at the spot where it would be cleated for a reach.  A similar arrangement for the guy will also work. The objective is for the spinnaker to fly immediately as it is hoisted. It may be risky to "pre-set" the sheet in strong winds. If the sail fills before crew and helm are hiked, the boat may capsize immediately!
  • Install open hooks combined with a cleat on the side deck just behind the shrouds to control the guy. The crew must adjust the guy to keep the pole approx. 90º to the apparent wind. As the guy is eased, the sheet must be trimmed to keep the sail in the right position to the wind. The masthead fly is a useful guide to the wind angle.
  • Controlling the spinnaker sheet is the same as any other sheet. Ease until the luff of the sail begins to collapse, then trim slightly. This sheet adjustment is done continuously to maximize power from the sail.
  • Install a mini-bowsprit made of plastic coated copper electrical wire. Have this loop stick out 3 or 4” in front of the bow to help keep the sheets from falling underneath the boat (a very messy event).

3. pole

  • The pole is to be (no more than) 6’ 6” from the ends of the fittings.
  • It controls the height of the foot of the sail and the angle of tack of the sail to the wind.
  • For racing it is handy to carry the pole along the side of the boom by installing some short loops wire or plastic pipe to each side of the boom. The front of the pole is then held in place by the uphaul/downhaul arrangement  The crew can quickly grab the pole to fasten it to the guy and the mast.

4. pole uphaul/downhaul

  • The downhaul is run through the deck just in front of the mast through a block at the bottom of the mast step leaving about a meter of control line free. Fasten 10 – 16’ of shock cord to this line to keep it tight and to provide some downward tension on the pole. One arrangement is to run this cord up the inside of the mast. Another is to run it across the floor of the boat beside the centreboard to the back of the cockpit. A longer run works better. Take it to the back of the cockpit, through a block, then back to the mast step. Keep it beside the CB housing where it will be out of the way or possibly under the floorboards in a Mark 1 boat.
  • The uphaul line runs up the front of the mast to a minimum of spreaders height, or can be taken as high as just below the jib halyard block on the mast where it passes through either an external block or better, an internal block into the mast. It then runs down to near the mast step (the external line will need a second hole through the deck just in front of the mast) through a block, then back under the thwart where it passes through an eye and a cleat. This must be convenient for the helm to adjust while sailing. Mark the uphaul with the usual positions for light and heavy wind.
  • The uphaul/downhaul is fastened to the center of the pole by a ring or rope loop. The best arrangement is to have a plastic "ramp” on the side of the pole which has a slot in the middle for a loop of line which is part of the uphaul/downhaul. When setting the pole, rotate it 45º till the ramp is on top. Then fit the loop into the slot in the ramp. Rotate the pole back by 45º trapping the loop in the slot. This is simple and keeps the uphaul/downhaul securely in place. Connect a trip line between the pole end fittings to release the guy when gybing. Be sure to trap the uphaul/downhaul line inside this trip line so that the pole can not be lost overboard.
  • The pole height adjustment is small. Typically, the end of the pole should be 9” above horizontal in light air and 12 to 15” above horizontal in heavy air.
  • The luff of the spinnaker should curl evenly as the boat heads up when the pole is at the correct height. If the lower luff curls first, lower the pole.  If the upper luff curls first. raise, the pole. Another indication of correct pole height is that the tack of the sail is at the same height as the clew.