Flying a spinnaker may be your best sail plan when sailing downwind in light conditions. Taking additional time in preparing to hoist will increase your success with avoiding the two most common spinnaker mistakes or accidents: hour glassing or spinnaker wrap and fouled halyards or sheets. In the previous post, careful spinnaker bagging was covered, so let's eliminate the next most common mistake, fouled lines. It is just as easy!
When preparing to set the spinnaker:
Attach the bag to the leeward life line.
Run the aft sheet outside all stanchions and lines to the aft block and around a winch.
Set the pole on the windward side of the boat, just barely touching the forestay, and rigged with a topping lift and down haul.
Run the forward sheet around the front of the jib, through the upward facing jaw of the pole, then back down the windward side of the boat on the outside of all stanchions and lines, to the aft block and around a winch.
Finally, remove and follow the halyard all the way up to the block at the top with your eyes to ensure it is free and untangled. Ensure too it is on the outside of the jib sheets.
Attach the halyard to the head of the sail and the lifeline.
Secure the other end. The sail is prepared and ready.
As the sail quickly fills with wind, feel the vessel accelerate. It is really an exciting sensation! Remember to keep the vessel under the sail and to fly the spinnaker as a kite; whatever you do with the sheet on one side, you must do the opposite on the other. In other words, if you trim the windward side to catch the wind, you must ease the leeward sheet. Examine the wind indicator and position the spinnaker so the center of the sail is aligned with the indicator.
The only sure way to make no mistakes with flying a spinnaker is to never take it out of the bag. Following the steps outlined in the previous post for bagging a spinnaker and double checking all lines before hoisting the sail will increase your success with spinnaker set. Have no fear, get out and try it on a low-wind day. Flying a spinnaker when downwind sailing is a great asset!