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Classic Asymmetric Sail Mistakes - And How to Avoid Them

by Wiley Nautical/Sail-World on 15 Sep 2012
Cruising boat La Scandell sailing with MPS - photo by Jenksie SW

Using asymmetric sails is not only for racing sailors. Cruising sailors on long journeys with good conditions and the wind behind are often tempted to use an MPS or other gennaker. And getting the MPS wrapped around the hull is not a good look at any time. In this article from the book Asymmetric Sailing, published by Wiley Nautical, Andy Rice shows how avoid some of the classic mistakes when sailing with a gennaker.

1. Make a Plan:
Know what you’re about, and what your aims are. Everyone on board needs to know what the game plan is before you start . As former 49er World medal list, 505 World Champion and America’s Cup veteran Morgan Larson puts it: ‘Even a bad plan is better than no plan. Of course if I get a bad start – which I often do – then you need a Plan B, of course!’

2. Prepare for the Unexpected:
Practice for when things go wrong. Put yourself in these pressure situations, and see how you respond. For example:

• Practice how to two-sail reach for that time when the wind suddenly shifts. Suddenly you have to start two-sail reaching, which can be the toughest point of sailing.

• The other common mistake is only to practise bear-aways on starboard tack. Try bearing away on the other gybe – and it feels totally alien. You won’t have to do it often but a port bear-away that feels like second nature is another weapon in your armoury. The strangest things often happen at the most crucial of moments.

3. Trawling the Kite:
But the worst can happen. Trawling the kite is a horrible feeling. Suddenly the whole thing is in the sea, trawling like a ?sherman’s net and the boat slows to a near standstill. Leeward heel is the main reason why the trawl happens. Bear away to give the kite that little bit of air before it has a chance to hit the water. Make sure that the crew are ready. Once they start the hoist that it needs to be one continuous movement that doesn’t stop at any point. If they stop and the kite just droops slightly and catches the water, then suddenly the job becomes twice as hard.

4. Twist in the Kite:
If the spinnaker goes up with an ‘hourglass’ twist, then you need to pay attention to how the kite is stowed during the drops. Keeping some tension in the gennaker sheet will make it much harder for the kite to twist on the way into the bag or chute. It’s when you let the kite ?og before you drop it that the problems occur. So keeping sheet tension on as late as possible is the key to twist prevention.

5. Keep a Lookout Downwind:
Remember the rule of keeping a 24/7 lookout. This can be forgotten when a short-handed crew is busy with sailing. There can be a large blind spot to leeward when you’re travelling downwind. One thing you can do is to sail the boat very ?at, or almost heel to windward. But, in light- to- medium conditions, this isn’t always practical. So it could be that either the helm or the crew needs to move to leeward occasionally, just to get a sense of obstructions, so that you know if there’s a possibility that you might be on a collision course and can do something about it.

But if you really want to get the most out of your asymmetric spinnaker, you'll find great value in the sailing book Asymmetric Sailing.

Championship-winning sailor, Andy Rice, guides you through the basics of these exciting craft before letting you into the secrets of how to make the most of your gennaker, valuable for the cruising sailor as well as those who race.

The book includes sections on:

• Rigging and tuning an asymmetrical spinnaker
• Hoists, gybes and drops
• Solo and crewed
• High speed sailing with asymmetrics
• Advanced skills with asymmetric spinnakers

If you can't find the book in your local marine book store, buy it online by,descCd-buy.html!clicking_here.

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