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Beginners guide to using a Spinnaker!

by Sam Newton, Rolly Tasker Sails 20 Mar 2021 14:00 PDT
Beginners guide to using a spinnaker © Rolly Tasker Sails

A great video and interesting article courtesy of our friends at Rolly Tasker Sails, Australia

The Asymmetrical Spinnaker is one of the favourite sails in the cruising sailor's wardrobe.

A young couple cruising the world have produced a great video full of excellent tips on how to get the best out of your Asymmetrical Spinnaker in a relaxed and easy manner, and without any of the hassle or stress that many fear.

Their video shows a clear, step-by-step guide on how best to hoist, trim and drop your Asymmetrical Spinnaker.

Hoisting the Asymmetrical Spinnaker

For the hoist, these are the main points.

The three corners of an Asymmetrical Spinnaker are marked as Tack, Head and Clew. You just attach the tackline to the Tack of the sail, the halyard to the Head and the sheet to the Clew. You can then lead your tackline through a block in front of and outside the pulpit, back to a cleat or jammer on the deck so that it can be adjusted. Sheets can be attached to the sail with either a bowline or with a snap shackle.

Once the sail is attached you can bear off to roughly 160 degrees off the wind, ease the main out, and then hoist the Asymmetrical Spinnaker either by itself or in its spinnaker sock in the wind shadow of the mainsail.

Once the Asymmetrical Spinnaker is fully hoisted and the halyard cleated, you should luff up slightly so that the sail can fill with wind, or if you are using one, as the sock is pulled upwards.

Trim of the Asymmetrical Spinnaker

The video clearly shows the trim of the sail - simply let out the sheet until the luff of the sail just begins to curl.

This is the best trim for racing and for concentrated hand-steering, however, for the more relaxed cruising mode, running under autopilot or a self-steering system, you should sheet in a bit more to allow for any inaccuracies in steering.

The best wind-angles for a cruising Asymmetric Spinnaker are between 80 and 120 degrees off the apparent wind, that is, from just forward of the beam to a broad reach.

Using the Spinnaker Pole

If you want to run even further downwind then there is a good way of adapting your Asymmetrical Spinnaker for deep downwind sailing, again as shown in the video.

When sailing downwind, the Asymmetrical Spinnaker can get blanketed by the mainsail.

To be able to pull the sail clear out of the wind-shadow created by the mainsail, we can use a spinnaker pole set quite low on the mast because an Asymmetrical Spinnaker is cut with a very low tack.

When the pole is set, you can run a new sheet, sometimes called a brace or guy, through the outboard end of the pole and to the tack line, where or it can be clipped on (this is demonstrated very well in the video).

You can then trim the pole by pulling the sail out to the 'windward' side. The three lines - brace (also known as a guy), tackline and uphaul of the pole - can be used to fix the pole in a stable position.

To prevent the leech of the sail from swaying too much you can attach what is known as a Tweaker, preferably with a snatch-block, to pull the sheet down and stabilise the sail. Again, this is clearly shown in the video.

Using a Tweaker is a straightforward process.

Dropping the Asymmetrical Spinnaker

You just bear away until the sail is blanketed from the wind by the mainsail then, let out the sheet until there is no wind at all left in the asymmetrical spinnaker. Finally, if you are using a spinnaker sock, pull down the sock over the sail.

If pulling the downhaul line of the sock down when standing on deck, it is actually not very secure. It is better to lead the downhaul line through a ratchet-block on deck and pulling the line from the block upwards is much easier.

You can even do this while sitting down on deck which is much safer if a sea is running. Finally, the ratchet block will help you to safely hold on to the downhaul even if a gust of wind should try and pull you off the deck!


We hope that you will enjoy this video, but even more, that you will feel confident to use your Asymmetrical Spinnaker to take full advantage of your boat's performance and have much more fun.

If you wish to follow Matt and Amy's voyages, have a look to their Youtube channel.

For more information on the spinnaker and spinnaker sock used in this video be sure to visit the Rolly Tasker Sails website or contact the team at Rolly Tasker Sails:

Rolly Tasker Sails - Australia

Greg - 0413 705559 or Sam - 0450 636190

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