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When executed properly, spinnaker takedowns are arguably the most satisfying and most fun maneuvers to be part of. When they are done properly, they’re great. When they go left on you, however, a bad douse can create chaos on the bow as well as cost boatlengths or damage the sail. This is a “How To” on the String Drop Takedown.
The video shows two well-executed, yet totally different spinnaker douses captured by Lindsay Preece during the Pot of Gold Regatta off Fremantle, Western Australia. The wind is in the mid-teens, the water’s flat, and the boats aren’t overlapped so they could use whichever spinnaker takedown techniques they wanted. One chose a string drop using a retrieval line, the other a letterbox. While the Letterbox is the safest spinnaker takedown method for ocean racing, it is not the quickest.
This video details the methods of a “String” or “Belly Button” takedown, which is a very quick method for buoy racing. It offers tips on setting up the maneuver and tricks on executing it well. Other techniques that work well for short course races are the “Mexican,” also called the “jibe-drop,” and the leeward stretch-and-blow. Oh yes, once you get a grand prix racer with coffee grinder pedestals you can grind the spinnaker down in 3-5 seconds. But that’s something totally different.
The key to any successful spinnaker takedown is practicing the ones you might use on any given race. Then you need to make sure the bow team knows which maneuver the back of the boat is calling for and has enough time to properly set-up for the maneuver. Here’s another example of when clear communication and anticipation on a race boat are essential. Finally, make sure you start the maneuver soon enough so that the crew has enough time to get the jib up and the spinnaker down before you round the mark. If you push your team too hard, the chances of a bad rounding increase and you’ll lose more than any potential gain.