Escaped spinnaker

Discussion in 'Sailing Talk' started by xerexes, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. xerexes

    xerexes New Member

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    I was walking on the seafront at Southsea today, and my attention was drawn to a yacht race. They were on a run and appeared to be headed for a finish line between a committee boat and a buoy. But what really got my attention was one yacht who suddenly 'lost' her spinnaker. I would guess that they had tried to gybe the spinnaker but lost both its guy and its sheet with the result that it flew out horizontally ahead of the boat from her masthead. Having lost both lines, they seemed totally unable in the fresh breeze to recapture them and get the spinnaker down. I then saw a second yacht get into exactly the same predicament.
    Assuming that stopper knots on spinnaker guys and sheets are not a good idea, if you do lose these lines, what is the best way to drop the spinnaker? If you simply run out the halyard, the the sail just flies out further from the boat.
    Fortunately, to date I have never been in this predicament, but what is the recommended course of action to recover (undamaged) the 'chute?
     
  2. Merrily

    Merrily Administrator Staff Member

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    We tie the spinnaker lines together so that the guy and sheet are continuous. Never had the problem you describe. If it did happen to me, I guess I would carefully head up.
     
  3. Wayne

    Wayne Member Emeritus

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    Note to self: no new crew at the bow.

    [​IMG]



    Anybody see where the new kid ran off to ?

    [​IMG]
     
  4. xerexes

    xerexes New Member

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    Wayne's first photo is close to what I saw, except that the crew had actually tried to lower the spinnaker quite a bit with the result that it is flying a lot further ahead.
    I'm not too sure about tying the sheet and guy together. I see where you are going but rather than do that I would use stopper knots.
    One of the yachts with the problem did come close hauled to try and get the chute coming astern, but had no success that way. I did suggest to my companions that if he tacked, gybed, and repeated that several times, he could actually use the masthead as a reel and wind it in that way..... common sense killed that idea straight away - imagine the mess that would cause!
    Another suggestion was to get a nearby rib to catch a sheet and bring it back to the yacht, but that could so easily give the rib a problem.
    The solution we saw was for them to run downwind and wait (pray) for the sail to drop into the sea and give them a chance of catching up on it. This was OK given that they had miles of water available to them, but is there a better solution? Anyone who has been there care to share the experience?
     
  5. Wayne

    Wayne Member Emeritus

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    Interesting assumption..., I follow the same sailing edict as Merrily so I have no explanation for a practice of leaving the bitter ends vulnerable.


    The racing situation might lend some logic to why they didn't simply head up, heave-to, and retrieve the chute.


    Much will depend on your block, winch, and cleat layout.


    . . . not to mention, loosing position on the race course.

    However, if that works for you, call it the "twisty" or better yet, the "Monty Python". :eek:


    I believe powercraft assistance during a race is strongly frowned upon.



    What you witnessed may very well have been the skipper's contingency for an escaped chute during a race ... simply let it fly until crossing the line or rounding the mark, where a course change brings it back within reach.

    .
     
  6. xerexes

    xerexes New Member

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    I would not be keen on using stopper knots on these yachts (30+ feet long) because there are circumstances where it would be preferable to let the sheets run out rather than broach. Talking it over with a friend, we are in agreement on this point.
    My friend did tell me that he had actually had this happen in a large yacht. The solution they used was to come onto a very broad reach and then slowly drop the spinnaker. It comes into the wind shadow from the main and then drops further and becomes retrievable. Once the spinnaker gets into the wind shadow it will drop quite rapidly and it may well be necessary to quickly pull the halyard up to avoid the sail going under the boat.
    If the boat happens to be a fractional rig, then the flying spinnaker should come into the wind shadow rather earlier.
    This method does, of course, require a lot of sea room as a change of course in this situation could lead to an even worse situation.
     
  7. Wayne

    Wayne Member Emeritus

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    All sounds do-able.

    How do you think that woud have worked in the race you were watching?

    .
     
  8. xerexes

    xerexes New Member

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    Wayne,
    My questions were provoked by what I saw as an amused spectator on the sea front. It was also to figure out what I would do if I was caught out in similar circumstances, for instance sailing back across the channel from France. Assuming I was clear of shipping then how would I recover an escaped chute? The answer seem quite reasonable and I will keep it in my memory IF such a mishap should befall me or any yacht I am sailing in.
    As to the race on Saturday, I don't know if it was a single race or one of a series, or even what club was organising it. If it was a series, then I guess the skipper would have to consider how he was doing in the series, could this be a discard race, and so on. If he decided to keep racing and recover the chute as he raced, then he would also have to consider whether he risked fouling any other yacht and, if he did, what penalty he might risk. Interesting thought as to a crossing situation where he was on starboard with right of way, but the flying spinnaker touched a port yacht, how would a protest committee look at that? My memories of the rules are rusty on that detail.
    I would also say that, as always, the weather conditions would play a big part in this. I can't see it happening in light airs, but when it does happen in a fresh breeze, is it just a squall and will the wind drop almost immediately?
    On it goes, always more questions and possibilities when one thinks it through.
    I'd hate to have it happen if I was a single-hander! Personally I probably wouldn't even have a spinnaker on board if I was alone!
    Xerexes
     
  9. Muzza

    Muzza Member

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    Never knot the sheets on a large sailboat - end of story. The loads are simply too great and too dangerous. This applies to both the headsail and spinnaker sheets but not to the mainsheet. We rely on crew work to prevent sheets running accidentally but in my 32 years of short course and ocean racing there have been a number of occasions where we have deliberately allowed the sheet or guy (usually the guy) to run free.

    Some boats also choose not to knot the spinnaker halyard. I have always knotted that halyard but have always had a large sharp knife holstered in the cockpit for emergencies. With modern cordage materials you must be sure that the knife you intend to use is actually capable of cutting through the very hard and strong lines used as halyards.

    Assuming sea room and time allows, the technique described above, of sailing such that the spinnaker comes into the shadow of the mainsail, is the first choice. This is not always possible or desirable. For example, you simply may not have the sea room, or you may have a crew member overboard.

    Running both sheets and halyards saved the life of a crew member overboard from Heaths Condor in near-freezing water in the Southern Ocean during the second leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1977/78. A boat with a spinnaker out of control but physically tethered to the rig or hull cannot maneuver.

    A spinnaker set free will float for a good period of time.

    Fortunately these are not issues we face in our lasers.
     
  10. Zeppo

    Zeppo Member

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    Obviously the crew screwed up, no need to let the guy and sheet go, just release the sheet and you will have depowered the chute. The skipper probably yelled "let the sheet go" and the crew member on the guy responded as well. Presumably there was a fair bit of wind or the release would not have been necessary so retrieval could only be done in two ways, dump the halyard and risk sailing over the chute (bad) or turn up into the wind and carefully lower the chute (good) By the way I have never heard of having jib sheets without stop knots. If the sheets are of sufficient length you simply let them run out and your headsail will flog, powerless. You don't want to have a jib sheet fly free as getting it back under control will be like walking into whip fest. I don't understand this continuous sheet/guy arrangement, please clarify. Cheers
     
  11. Muzza

    Muzza Member

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    In dinghies this is the most common arrangement. The spinnaker sheet is a single line from clew to clew. The major advantage is that the crew does not need to go looking for the sheet after a set or a gibe. The crew can get straight out onto the trapeze and because the guy is within reach, so too is the sheet. It is not a practice used in big boats.
     

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