Learn to Sail – Spinnaker Chutes

Following an article I wrote on learning to sail with a spinnaker, I thought it may be worth introducing to the beginner and sailors that have not had the pleasure of using a spinnaker chute.

Designed in America for the Flying Dutchman class it has proven it worth in many sailing races that allow the use of a spinnaker chute. Its is fast to hoist and lowering the spinnaker so in a race with light airs it can be a major benefit on time when hoisting around the mark.

All sailing yachts are different in size therefore each spinnaker chute can be slightly different in setting, but generally the basic setup is as follows.

This description given is when the spinnaker is hoisted, if you can imagine a continuous loop from the spinnaker halyard to a mid point connection on the front side of the spinnaker sail, for a down haul connection. The down haul leads down to the spinnaker chute and then horizontal to the stern of the yacht on exiting the spinnaker chute to the stern there is a free board length that allows for pulling on the down haul rope. At the end of this is a roller block returning the down haul forwards, which in turn becomes the spinnaker halyard, going horizontally forward through a jammer to the mast base and then up the mast and connecting to the spinnaker sail head swivel.

The function to lower the spinnaker is to on skippers instruction; un-jam the spinnaker halyard and release the spinnaker sheets in a controlled manner, then pulling in on the down haul which will allow the spinnaker to collapse down into the spinnaker chute until fully stowed and jammed off.

To hoist the spinnaker un-jam the halyard and hoist the spinnaker at the same time pulling in on the spinnaker sheets and allowing the spinnaker to fill with wind, jam off the halyard and adjust the spinnaker sheets for optimum sailing.

If your sailing yacht has a jib furling system it is advantages to furl the jib away when learning to use the spinnaker, enabling the crew to concentrate on the spinnaker, especially when sailing a yacht with a large overlapping Genoa.

Spinnaker Stowage

Provisions should be made to stow the spinnaker to either port or starboard sides of the yacht. The spinnaker should be stowed clear of the floor of the yacht and kept as dry as possible. When initially fitting a spinnaker chute to a yacht is should firstly be positioned for free running of the spinnaker when hoisting and lowering, not applying extra load on the spinnaker in this operation. Then the deck fittings should be positioned and fixed in the correct places bearing in mind the crew’s position in the yacht. Care should be taken to reduce the friction in the sheeting system and the use of large diameter blocks is preferred. Bulls- eye deck fitting should be used where you have long runs of sheet to lift the sheet clear of the deck, especially when the sheets are wet.

Training

After practice, it will be obvious that certain timings of the hoisting and lowering of the spinnaker can be considerably reduced and the crew becoming more efficient.

After initial training, each crew can develop their own version of these systems which will differ from yacht to yacht, but basically improve sailing technique and hopefully help win the race!