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Spinnaker Hoist/Dowse

We’re starting to build a rhythm around our big Spinnaker maneuvers, and as the bigger challenges are overcome, smaller ones come into focus, so I’d like to offer some fine-tuning that can help us simplify.  I’m assuming a crew of five people:

  • Foredeck
  • Pit
  • Jib/Spinnaker Trimmer
  • Mainsail Trimmer/ Spinnaker Assist
  • Helm

But when we have six on board, then Mainsail Trimmer stays focused on the mainsail, and the sixth person takes the role of Spinnaker Assist.



(I’m focusing here on the bear-away set from the bag on the deck – which will be the hoist we use most often)


Set up (on the approach to the windward mark)

  • Helm: call “Prepare the Hoist!”
  • Pit: retrieve the Spinnaker bag from the cabin, hand to Foredeck.
  • Foredeck:

o   Bag position just ahead of the shrouds, port side of boat

o   All lines routed to this position prior to race start

o   Clip on all lines, removing Velcro straps from sail, leaving Velcro on top of bag closed

o   Ensure tack line is routed outside the lifelines/stanchions

  • Pre-feed the tack:

o   Foredeck: open the front half of the Velcro on the top of the bag

o   Pit:  tighten up the TACK line

o   Foredeck: ensure no catches.

o   Foredeck: calls “Made”

  • Prepare the spinnaker sheets

o   Helm: take control of the main sheet

o   Spinnaker Assist:

  • ensure both spinnaker sheets are free and clear,
  • route the first active spinnaker sheet to the free winch (starboard side, ie: criss-crossed).  Load with one wrap, no handle.
  • head to the mast to assist the hoist



  • Helm: call  “Ready to Hoist?”
  • All(when ready): answer “Ready!”


Rounding & Hoist

  1. Helm: call “Hoist Away!” and “Rounding!”
  2. Simultaneously:

o   Jib/Spinnaker Trimmer: ease jib to lifelines, cleat in tailer, switch to other winch to be ready for spinnaker sheet.

o   Foredeck (at bag): open remaining Velcro, apply slight tension along spinnaker luff as it is being hoisted (avoids hourglass formation)

o   Spinnaker Assist (at mast):  haul in the spinnaker halyard

o   Pit: haul in the spinnaker halyard

  1. Spinnaker Assist(at mast):   Once Spinnaker is all the way to the masthead, call “MADE”, head back to mainsail position
  2. Jib/Spinnaker Trimmer: Haul the active sheet like mad, until too much tension
  3. Pit:  add wraps to spinnaker sheet, insert handle and grind
  4. Foredeck: Remove bag, ease outhaul, ease cunningham, tension boom vang
  5. Pit: free jib from winch and furl it
  6. Pit: ease main halyard if needed
  7. Breathe!


What are the significant changes:

  • Calling “MADE” when the Spinnaker reaches the mast-head – this is the trigger for hauling the spinnaker sheet.
  • Loading spinnaker sheets criss-crossed – this has several benefits

o   Avoids situation where two lines need the same winch (jib sheet and spinnaker sheet)

o   Places Jib/Spinnaker Trimmer trimmer in the optimal place to see spinnaker luff curl, ease and grind without moving around

  • Jib/Spinnaker Trimmer focuses on the sheets, and only the sheets
  • Pit focuses on getting the spinnaker set before anything else
  • Putting the jib away is Pit’s job – there is no hurry





  • Helm: calls “Prepare to Douse!”
  • Pit: tightens main halyard
  • Foredeck: tightens outhaul & cunningham, eases boom vang
  • Pit: opens the jib (not tight, just inside the lifelines), three wraps, cleated into the tailer , insert winch handle
  • Foredeck: ensures lazy jib sheet is aft and to leeward of the hatch
  • Spinnaker Assist goes into the hole
  • Foredeck gathers lazy spinnaker sheet in front and to windward of forestay, hands to Spinnaker Assist
  • Foredeck grasps tack of spinnaker from in front and to windward of forestay



  • Helm calls: “Ready to Douse?”
  • All(when ready): answer “Ready!”



  1. Helm calls: “Douse Away!”
  2. Immediately and simultaneously:
  3. Jib/Spinnaker trimmer blows the Spinnaker sheet, ensures it runs free, then goes to jib winch to prepare for upwind sailing
  4. Pit blows the tack
  5. Spinnaker Assist begins hauling
  6. Foredeck brings tack of sail to Spinnaker Assist
  7. Then as soon as possible
  8. Pit opens halyard clutch and eases quickly, just slowing halyard a bit if needed to keep spinnaker dry
  9. Spinnaker Assist hauls spinnaker through the hatch (from below)
  10. Foredeck keeps the spinnaker from filling (ie: make a circle with arms, start at hatch, shift to forestay)
  11. At the mark
  12. Helm calls “Rounding!:
  13. Jib/Spinnaker Trimmer begins to harden the jib sheet
  14. Helm hardens the mainsail and heads upwind
  15. As soon as spinnaker is entirely below decks
  16. Spinnaker Assist returns to station to trim the mainsail
  17. Foredeck clears jib sheets and calls “Clear!”
  18. Once we have trimmed our sails for the upwind leg:
  19. Pit: tidies lines in front of cockpit
  20. Foredeck: tidies lines on foredeck
  21. Spinnaker Assist: tidies lines in back of cockpit (ie: spinnaker sheets)


What are the significant changes?

  • Prepare the mainsail for the upwind leg first.
  • Pit opens the jib, and gets it in ready position
  • Jib/Spinnaker Trimmer stays focused on the Spinnaker trim until the sheet is blown, then focuses only on the jib trim
  • Foredeck uses the jib to blanket the spinnaker, and the forestay to remove air and keep it high above the waterline
  • Halyard is lowered very quickly – watching at the waterline to ensure it stays dry
  • Done correctly, this will leave the lines connected properly to allow another bear-away set

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