In past posts, we’ve discussed two well-used spinnaker retrieval methods: the letterbox, which is highly recommended in the ocean or when the sea state is up, and the string drop, where you blow the lines controlling the three corners of the chute and use a belly retrieval line to pull the sail onto the deck and down the hatch. Here’s a video with a third variation: the stretch & blow spinnaker drop.
In this video shot by Lindsay Preece we see the IOR One Tonner HITCHHIKER as she threads her way through a fleet of boats racing on the Swan River off Perth, Western Australia. This is a symmetrical spinnaker with no retrieval line, so the string drop was not an option. The Letterbox is not a good option in a buoy race since it requires too much time to re-rig for the next set.
The Stretch-and-Blow Spinnaker Douse allows you to sail practically right up to the leeward the mark with the sail drawing fully. When it is time to drop the spinnaker, the pole is eased to the forestay, the sheet is over-trimmed to stretch the foot tight and then the spinnaker halyard is let run. Over trimming the spinnaker sheet brings the foot within reach of the foredeck crew. With the foot in the hands of the crew, the halyard is completely released. The top of the sail floats downward and to leeward of the jib. The air flowing beneath the jib keeps the spinnaker out of the water. The foredeck team then quickly pulls the sail under the jib and onto the deck. The Stretch-and-Blow takedown is uncomplicated, allows you to sail longer with the spinnaker drawing, and it’s great to watch from other boats.
Note that the afterguy is not released until the spinnaker is completely stuffed down the forward hatch. This is done for two reasons. First, if the sail goes in the water, having that clew at the end of the pole keeps the sail from getting swept behind the boat and second, it helps to keep the sail’s leech from getting twisted as the sail is stuffed below.
Note to Self: If you are rounding closely inside of an overlapped leeward boat, the stretch & blow is NOT recommended as you’re likely to lay the sail onto the leeward boat, which would break rule 11 (a windward boat shall keep clear of a leeward boat). Here it is again. Notice how fast the halyard is released, which allows the sail to depower so that the crew does not have to fight to bring it aboard.