SPINNAKER. Tips

Spinnaker Nacra 500

A spinnaker on cats, everyone should have one!

For those like us, in the equatorial climes, spinnakers are a must. Often on the change of season we find ourselves running home with 3 knots of breeze against 3 knots of tide! Without the kite this would be a hard task. The photo above shows a Nacra 500 being sailed solo with the spinnaker – this is one of the best ways to experience 5 metre catamarans, just make sure you know how to upright your cat after you roll it!

As we tell everyone, “don’t leave home without it” – you don’t have to fly it but make sure it’s in the snuffer. 

The one-string system and mid-pole snuffer have taken all the headache out of spinnakers. Pull one string to get it up, pull the same string in reverse to pack it away – that’s it!

Rigging
This is the tricky bit for a while as the spinnaker does add more rope to the platform.
Have someone experienced in rigging with you the first couple of times.
In the end it’s no more difficult than rigging the jib. 

On the handling side. 
Launching is easy, head off on a broad reach, let the boat settle and pull the halyard when your ready.
Make sure you get it all the way up before you pull the sheet i.e. skipper should watch and call it!
Once it’s hoisted the crew should grab the leeward spinnaker sheet and move to the rear of the windward hull.
Once in position, inflate the spinnaker by pulling the sheet in.
Once it inflates, get the crew to ease the sheet just a little as it normally takes a bit of “over sheeting” to get it to fill.
When it’s filled and you’re feeling comfortable, gently head the boat up a few degrees and then let it settle again. You’ll feel it start to pick up speed.
When you’re settled in again, ‘heat it up some more’. As the air goes from true to apparent the cat will really start to surge forward. As it does concentrate on steering a smooth arc to leeward.
POINTING up into the wind will result in a swim!
Keep the boat sailing steadily in the grove by controlling the steering, heating up to get more pressure, bearing away as she accelerates. The smoother you make this process, the faster you will go. 

Dropping
When you’re ready to drop the kite, gently bear away from the wind until the boat stalls and settles.
With the boat settled, pop the spinnaker halyard and pull hand over hand on the retrieval line.
When most of the spinnaker is sitting on the rim of the spinnaker ring, you can’t make a mistake.
It will take a big pull to get the bundle of sail into the snuffer, then it gets easier.

Your done. High performance sailing was never this easy! 

If you want some more intensive reading, try these,

Greg Goodall, spinnaker notes

F16 Kite lessons

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  1. Pingback: From one Monsoon to the next…2010 in review « Pro Sail Asia - January 2, 2011

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