With so many boats converting to sprits, it’s easy to forget how valuable a spinnaker pole can be. UK Sailmakers’ Butch Ulmer writes that one you make the switch to asymmetrical spinnakers, don’t forget to take your old pole with you when it’s windy.
The toughest point of sail with an asymmetrical spinnaker is a run, particularly in heavy air. If the helmsman gets a little too deep, the disturbed air from the mainsail will make the luff of the chute quiver. The natural reaction of the spinnaker trimmer is to trim the sheet; but that’s dead wrong. Trimming just pulls the spinnaker further behind the main, which causes the chute to collapse. Instead, the trimmer should ease the chute when the sail luffs and let it float out to windward, but that’s easier said than done.
If the wind increases to the point where carrying the chute is getting dangerous, winging out a jib using a spinnaker pole is a safe, effective, and practical alternative. The boat becomes balanced and much steadier allowing you to sail low for the best possible VMG. It’s surprisingly very easy.
The best sails to wing out is a #3 or #4 because they are small and can be stretched tight. Practice this once or twice with your crew before a race and you’ll see what we mean.
After winning his class in the stormy 2017 Middle Sea Race on his Swan 44 MkII TRIPLE LINDY, Joe Mele wrote, “We got a lot of good advice from Butch Ulmer when putting together our sail inventory for these classic ocean races (that year he raced Newport to Bermuda, Sydney Hobart followed by the Fastnet Race and the Middle Sea Race). Importantly, Butch convinced me not to get rid of my spinnaker pole after we converted the boat from symmetrical spinnakers to asyms. On the 90-mile DDW run from Pantelleria to Lampedusa, the winds blew 18-45 from dead astern. Sailing wing-on-wing with the No. 4 poled-out, we surfed at over 12 knots under complete control as we reeled in other boats that wiped-out with their asymmetrical spinnakers as they tried to gybe back and forth.” (editor’s note: In the picture, the boat’s mast displays from the top down read