Flying a spinnaker is exciting and may be your best sail plan when sailing downwind in light conditions. Taking additional time to avoid the two most common spinnaker mistakes or accidents will lead to a more enjoyable, less dramatic experience. Both fouled halyards or sheets and hour glassing or spinnaker wrap can be initially avoided through careful preparatory measures starting with bagging the spinnaker.
If this is your first experience, take your sail to a large, grassy area and enjoy the luxury of bagging for the first time with plenty of space to stretch it completely out. Onboard bagging will typically find one below with the sail piled in the space between the sattee, galley, and companionway. The choice for comfort is yours; the process is the same.
Locate the head of the sail, normally the end with a swivel attached, and keep it in one hand.
Following along one side, or leech, extend your arm, grab ahold of the leech and bring it to your other hand to make large accordion folds.
Continue making and passing accordion folds to your other hand until you have reached the clew at the foot of the sail. Be certain to hold on tightly to each fold.
If your boat and spinnaker are smaller and easily managed, transfer the folds to your other hand so you can repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other leech, or side of the sail. If the sail is too big to hold both sides, secure the accordion folded leech with your knees while using both hands to gather and accordion fold the other side. With two people, this can be simplified by simultaneously according folding both leeches .
Secure both clews, accordion folded leeches, and head making certain none get away or fall loose (hold all three ends).
6. Gather the middle of the sail, the belly, and stuff it into the sail bag.
7. Bagging the three ends last being certain to maintain their alignment with the belly.
8. Finish by securing the three ends together. This will ensure your ability to move the sail bag without fear of loosing an end and having to dig for it possibly causing a twisted sail.
Careful bagging will greatly reduce the risk of finding yourself hoisting a twisted sail and the ensuing wrestle to correct it or bring it back down to the deck.
An ounce of prevention is worth a thousand cures. Rejoice... you have eliminated one of the most common errors when hoisting a spinnaker, sail twist! Preventing fouled lines will be covered in the next post leaving you ready to go out and experience spinnaker flying on your next light wind day.