Sunday, September 18, 2005

Go Windward Young Man

During the Frostbite race one today we encountered a mark rounding on the downwind leg that I should have handled very differently. During our race preparation and practice we had always executed standard leeward takedowns of the spinnaker.

Today's race is a perfect example of when practicing for all scenarios pays off. Our port jibe to the leeward mark was right on the layline. The problem was that in order to execute a standard leeward takedown we needed to jibe over to a starboard jibe. Out of caution I held the port jibe till I was sure we could clear the mark when the spinnaker was down and we completed the second jibe back to the port. There were problems in the jibe which forced us to head way out from the mark putting us well behind the pack and by the time we were back on the port tack we had lost probably 2-3 minutes. Looking back now I think there are 2 ways I could have avoided this scenario easily. The first would have been head higher on the port jibe much earlier then jibe to starboard to takedown the spinnaker just before the mark and jibe around the mark to the port tack.

The second option, had I actually shared with the crew and had them practice, would have paid off huge in the end even if we encountered problems. Instead of the standard leeward takedown I should have called for a windward takedown. The windward douse is trickier and if not practiced could lead to twisted and tied up lines.

To execute the windward takedown the jib is raised while on a port jibe, the pole is taken off and stowed. When sailing with a crew of 5 the one crew becomes the human pole holding out the port sheet. The halyard is released halfway to drop the spinnaker to a point where it floats above the water. Once floating the trimmer releases the starboard sheet and sheets in on the port side with the bow man and human pole assisting the spinnaker as it is makes its way around the headstay and into the companionway. The person designated to gather the chute will need to get far out and retreive the spinnaker and ensure it comes into the companionway over the lifelines. Now the spinnaker is back on the port side ready for a standard hoist on a starboard tack around the next mark. be sure to have the bow man check the halyard and sheets to ensure they are on the right side of the stays.

I will definitely be adding this takedown approach to the practice drills for next season.


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