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Old 10-08-2009, 19:51   #1
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Almost Fouled the Prop Learning to Gybe the Spinnaker

Well, we passed our 1,000th mile beneath our keel on our new boat this weekend. And, as if to remind us we had a lot to learn, we had our first near-miss- involving our spinnaker which we are still learning to use. I'm sharing below an excerpt from our blog revised for clarity:

"...I personally think we got the spinnaker up easier than last time (which was the first time we used it), it was just that I still hadn't got the whole gybing bit down. A series of three cruise liners were transiting the scheme- and the Edmonds ferry was underway also heading toward us. I decided to gybe in order to clear the last cruise liner and give us some room for the ferry. Although I had gybed successfully a few times prior, the wind shifted just enough to mess a rookie single-handed ASY spinnaker sailor up, and it tucked inside the furled genoa instead of folding in front of it. I called Jody to the deck since the kids were being good down below to give me a hand. When she got up to the bow, it looked like this wouldn't be a quick fix, so I fired up the motor. In retrospect, there was no need to start the motor since the 2 ships were passing clear of us as we were at a dead stop, but I just had to reach for the security blankey! I hit the forward throttle just enough to swing our bow over, and we eventually got the spinnaker filled with air again. Then Jody noticed the lazy sheet was on the wrong side of the boat, like it had gotten too much slack and slipped under the bow. As she tried to walk it back around the bow with the boat hook it became clear that the whole line had been in the water and was now twisting, alot. Somehow the knot tied in the end of the sheet had come out and it had become wrapped around our prop. Very bad. Jody tried to pull the sheet while the engine was in neutral, but to no avail. We shut the motor off and tried again- no luck. I made a questionable decision to start the engine and put it in reverse in short bursts while she pulled to see if we could unwrap it. Amazingly, it worked! We were EXTREMELY lucky. I think this is only because I put it in drive for 2-3 seconds, just enough to swing the boat to complete the gybe. Lesson learned! I poured some out to King Neptune just to be safe!

After that, we sailed a few more hours under spinnaker until the winds died.

Our contingency plans were ok, but not great. Most simply, we were very able to continue sailing to homeport, and with the dinghy/motor we could get to the slip easily enough. We also had a pony bottle and regulator on board for just this purpose. We bought it just a week ago, but unfortunately we didn't have fins or a wetsuit on board yet- it would have been chilly going down to cut those lines!!! our mask/snorkel was also still in storage, but we did have swim goggles on board, okay for what we needed.

Some lessons we learned:
-If it's sailing, sail it. Don't turn on the engine.
- Make sure GOOD knots are in the end of lines. Figure-8 is much better than an overhand knot.
- Always be ready to get wet. Time to get the fins, wetsuit and mask onboard!

Hopefully folks can read this and not have the near-miss we did!

Frank
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Old 10-08-2009, 22:02   #2
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Frank - Glad it all worked out. I always get a bit confused with described scenarios. So correct if I am wrong.

You run an asymetric off a bow sprit so head and tack are "pinned"
You gybe the clew around the forestay when gybing?

If this is the case it just sounds like you might want longer sheets. I don't like the spin sheets knotted but the spin does need to run a long way forward for you to gybe.

I am sure you figured this out but it also sounds like you need to let the spin run out on the old tack, past the forestay, before beginning the gybe.

When the spin is down and the gear is still rigged, or the spin is set on a particular tack we take the lazy sheets, "snug" them up, and then put a loose slip knot in the free ends just after the aft blocks. This prevents the sheet from lossening up and dragging in the water yet allow the line to be freed with a quick tug.
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Old 10-08-2009, 22:29   #3
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Hehehehe, I managed to retrieve a spinnaker up thru the centre case in a sailing dinghy once.

My older brother and I were out sailing our 2 man dinghy one day training for racing and we were working out systems for launching and retrieving the spinnaker. We were trying different things and got one retrieval totally screwed up and ended up dumping the spinnaker right in front of the boat. We were flat off and the centreboard was out of the case and we sailed right over the top of the spinnaker.

My brother was going ballistic at me and yelling at me to get that F'ing spinnaker back in the boat when it started bubbling up the centrecase. So I grabbed a handful and yanked the damn thing until I had the entire spinnaker retrieved. Of course I had to unclip the sheets and halyard and get them out of the centrecase so we could a) stick the centreboard back in the case to go back upwind and b) rehoist the spinnaker and see if we could get the launch and retrieval right, but at least I got the F'ing spinnaker back in the boat.

Hey, it wasn't me who sailed straight over the top of the spinnaker.

We eventually worked out a system where I worked the pole and its uphaul and downhaul, the brace and the sheet, and the headsail, while my brother worked the halyard while helming. He wasn't doing anything else except letting the mainsheet out and yelling at me, so ....

Can't be too many people who have retrieved a spinnaker that way .... its not in any sailing manual I've ever read.
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Old 10-08-2009, 23:57   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
Frank - Glad it all worked out. I always get a bit confused with described scenarios. So correct if I am wrong.

You run an asymetric off a bow sprit so head and tack are "pinned"
You gybe the clew around the forestay when gybing?

If this is the case it just sounds like you might want longer sheets. I don't like the spin sheets knotted but the spin does need to run a long way forward for you to gybe.

I am sure you figured this out but it also sounds like you need to let the spin run out on the old tack, past the forestay, before beginning the gybe.

When the spin is down and the gear is still rigged, or the spin is set on a particular tack we take the lazy sheets, "snug" them up, and then put a loose slip knot in the free ends just after the aft blocks. This prevents the sheet from lossening up and dragging in the water yet allow the line to be freed with a quick tug.
Yep, I use an asymetric with the tack as a set of parrel beads around the furled Genoa, with downhaul of course. The sheets are plenty long, a little over 2x the boatlength, since the lazy sheet has to go in front of the furled genoa in my setup.

After some more gybing, I finally got down what you were saying about letting the spinnaker run out on the old tack. It was just a matter of getting used to the rhythm of it!

I like to have the lazy sheet "snugged up" also, especially since it is outside the lifelines/railings. Funny enough, one of the first things I worried about was fouling the prop or wrapping around the rudder with such a long sheet outside the railing. I slacked the lazy completely in the above scenario in an effort to free the spinnaker from around the furled genoa. I like the idea of a slip knot, I have to try that as I was using the winch to snug up the lazy sheet.

Any other suggestions as far as sheet management? The length of the sheets and the fact they are saltwater soaked is one of the PITA's of spinnakers for us. That, and the fact it seems to take us a good 15-20 minutes to set it up, although I'm sure the one thing that will fix that is practice!!!

Just curious why you don't prefer the sheets knotted?
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Old 11-08-2009, 00:21   #5
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For me the spinnaker is one sail that has the ability to get pretty far from the boat where it can get significant leverage.

A couple of weeks ago we were out practicing for a race on a 40 foot Beneteau and due to a mis-timing by the crew we fouled up bad.

- the spin didnt' get "made" to the top - about 3/4
- the sheeting crew was sheeting and not looking
- the skipper was rounding up to a reach and not driving under the spinnaker
- the sheeting crew realized what was happening and eased the brace and sheet
- the spinnaker was now about 30 feet off the bow, half made, and full but also about 20 degrees off the starboard bow
- a nice big gust came along

The inevitable happened. The skipper ran out of rudder to drive back under the spin, the boat rounded up, everyone stopped sailing and started self preservation mode as the rail went in the water.

The sheets ran out through the blocks so that after the broach when the boat righted there was zero power on the now flailing spinnaker. The spinnaker was then captured and doused with some difficulty.

Knots in the spinnaker sheets could have resulted in the spinnaker repowering and the boat still being out of control.

Here is a not so good video I took of one of the volvo ocean racing boats gybing at the inshore races in singapore. I like how tight they keep the clew to the forestay - lot's of help on board - and the acceleration after the spin is on the new side.

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