DOUSING SOCK DRAMATIC STORY



Modern furling systems have come a long way in handling spinnakers and Code Zeros. But the humble dousing sock is still a very reliable and cost-effective way for shorthanded sailors to set and douse spinnakers. Five-time winner of the doublehanded division of the Newport to Bermuda Race, Richard du Moulin, wrote the following after being asked to tell his most dramatic dousing sock story, which will be part of Barry Hayes’ latest article on spinnaker handling systems. 



“As a doublehanded boat, we always use the dousing sock with our spinnakers. Not only do we use socks for the sets and drops, we also use them to sock the spinnaker when we gybe in breezes over 18-20 — once the main’s across, we reset the chute. In the 2002 180-mile Block Island Race, I was sailing my Express 37 LORA ANN doublehanded with Peter Rugg aboard when a white squall whipped through the fleet just at dusk. Suddenly we found ourselves in a sustained 60-knot blow with the spinnaker up. Immediately, we were knocked down with our top spreader about 6-7 feet out of the water and the wind wasn’t letting the boat right itself. As the wind continued to blow, Peter crawled forward along the windward side of the deckhouse. He grabbed the retrieval line of the dousing sock and slowly (it was hard work) started to capture the spinnaker that was lying atop the water. Finally, when he had managed to get the sail about half inside the sock, the boat popped back onto its feet. We hadn’t taken any water so we were ok and the squall had passed. We turned back downwind, raised the sock again, and continued to race. 

“Reportedly every boat in the race with the exception of one was knocked down by that ‘invisible’ squall. I’m really glad we were using the dousing sock. But, having it was not enough. We had practiced using the dousing sock—not necessarily for this situation—but we knew how to keep the retrieval line clear and free of knots for any situation that came up.”

Now that is a dramatic story that shows how reliable the dousing sock still is.

close
UK Sailmakers Hero shot copy

Stay informed!

Stay up to date to date with the latest news from UK Sailmakers.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

uksailmakers
uksailmakers
Articles: 350

2 Comments

  1. The Wonderful Ratchet Block- a solo sailors best friend.

    I bought my first sailboat during my 1970’s stint in Las Vegas in a desperate search to add recreation to the intense work life I had designing for what at that time were the most technically advanced theater production facilities in the world. I had little knowledge of sailing skills and only minimal sailing experience—but I did have one priceless asset. I had a friend who had raced sailboats avidly for the last forty years.

    Hank was his name and he told me if I wanted to learn how to sail I should race because that was the very best way to understand how they work. Of course most of you reading this know that.

    Single-handed racing my 26 foot Ranger sloop became my passion (a choice driven mostly by the scarcity of potential experienced crew in my social circle), and the skills learned from that transferred beautifully to the decade I spent cruising the west coast of Mexico many years later.

    The techniques I’d like to share are those I developed for single-handing spinnakers while sailing alone offshore. Crewed buoy racing taught the value of good spinnaker handling, so when I set off cruising I had a 3/4 oz. ASSO and a 2.2 oz. elderly star-cut that my sailmaker friend remade for sturdy use when there was enough breeze. It was a rare day that I polled out a headsail for wing on wing downwind sailing.

    So let me get to the innovations I added to my tall rigged Islander 37 that made spinnaker work easy and safer. Key to my techniques were the ratchet turning blocks for the sheets and another on a swivel base turning the spin halyard so controlled hoisting and dowsing was facilitated no matter where I was on the boat tending other matters.

    The other vital technique was using an old rope halyard as a continuous sheet run through the ratchet blocks and around outside of the headstay for outside gybes with both ends tied to the spin clew. This continuous sheet eliminated the snake pit of two sheet tails to keep in order, while it also provided a line to the clew accessible from most any position on the boat.

    I could initiate a gybe by pushing two buttons on the autopilot and then un-cleating the working sheet. With the ratchet block providing a bit of drag, the sail was free to float out ahead of the boat while I tended the main sail. With the main settled for the new course I’d get hold of the new working sheet hauling it in with the ratchet block picking up the increasing load while I got the tail around a winch to sheet it home to trim onto the the new course as I either tended the autopilot or went to the wheel to hand steer.

    The ratchet blocks also gave me single-handed control when dowsing. I’d set the autopilot for a deep broad reach, ease out the main, and go to the mast. Un-cleating the halyard I could bring the tail with me while I positioned myself with a leeward shroud secure in the crook the arm holding the halyard tail. My other hand went for the lazy sheet sheet as my foot kicked the conveniently located continuous tack line shackle release to turn the sail into an unloaded free flying flag floating in the wind shadow of the mainsail.

    The old star-cut had a sock who’s halyard had its own small ratchet bock that I’d shackle to a lifeline. This kept the sock from raising itself too quickly and tangling up its internal halyard.

    Now I could sit down and stuff the sail back into its turtle as the halyard ratchet block controlled its decent. Returning to the cockpit, I could release the roller furler line that went through its own ratchet bock for a controlled unwinding as I hauled in the sheet that had been preloaded around it’s self tailing winch.

    Easy peasy, the kite was in the bag, the boat was on its new course, and the sails were trimmed—all accomplished by a solo sailor in relative safety.

    If you set your boat up this way you’ll find you’ll get a lot more out of downwind sailing, and I hope you’ll take a moment to tip your hat to my mentor, Good Old Hank McGill.

  2. The Wonderful Ratchet Block- a solo sailors best friend.

    I bought my first sailboat during my 1970’s stint in Las Vegas in a desperate search to add recreation to the intense work life I had designing for what at that time were the most technically advanced theater production facilities in the world. I had little knowledge of sailing skills and only minimal sailing experience—but I did have one priceless asset. I had a friend who had raced sailboats avidly for the last forty years.

    Hank was his name and he told me if I wanted to learn how to sail I should race because that was the very best way to understand how they work. Of course most of you reading this know that.

    Single-handed racing my 26 foot Ranger sloop became my passion (a choice driven mostly by the scarcity of potential experienced crew in my social circle), and the skills learned from that transferred beautifully to the decade I spent cruising the west coast of Mexico many years later.

    The techniques I’d like to share are those I developed for single-handing spinnakers while sailing alone offshore. Crewed buoy racing taught the value of good spinnaker handling, so when I set off cruising I had a 3/4 oz. ASSO and a 2.2 oz. elderly star-cut that my sailmaker friend remade for sturdy use when there was enough breeze. It was a rare day that I polled out a headsail for wing on wing downwind sailing.

    So let me get to the innovations I added to my tall rigged Islander 37 that made spinnaker work easy and safer. Key to my techniques were the ratchet turning blocks for the sheets and another on a swivel base turning the spin halyard so controlled hoisting and dowsing was facilitated no matter where I was on the boat tending other matters.

    The other vital technique was using an old rope halyard as a continuous sheet run through the ratchet blocks and around outside of the headstay for outside gybes with both ends tied to the spin clew. This continuous sheet eliminated the snake pit of two sheet tails to keep in order, while it also provided a line to the clew accessible from most any position on the boat.

    I could initiate a gybe by pushing two buttons on the autopilot and then un-cleating the working sheet. With the ratchet block providing a bit of drag, the sail was free to float out ahead of the boat while I tended the main sail. With the main settled for the new course I’d get hold of the new working sheet hauling it in with the ratchet block picking up the increasing load while I got the tail around a winch to sheet it home to trim onto the the new course as I either tended the autopilot or went to the wheel to hand steer.

    The ratchet blocks also gave me single-handed control when dowsing. I’d set the autopilot for a deep broad reach, ease out the main, and go to the mast. Un-cleating the halyard I could bring the tail with me while I positioned myself with a leeward shroud secure in the crook the arm holding the halyard tail. My other hand went for the lazy sheet sheet as my foot kicked the conveniently located continuous tack line shackle release to turn the sail into an unloaded free flying flag floating in the wind shadow of the mainsail.

    The old star-cut had a sock who’s halyard had its own small ratchet bock that I’d shackle to a lifeline. This kept the sock from raising itself too quickly and tangling up its internal halyard.

    Now I could sit down and stuff the sail back into its turtle as the halyard ratchet block controlled its decent. Returning to the cockpit, I could release the roller furler line that went through its own ratchet bock for a controlled unwinding as I hauled in the sheet that had been preloaded around it’s self tailing winch.

    Easy peasy, the kite was in the bag, the boat was on its new course, and the sails were trimmed—all accomplished by a solo sailor in relative safety.

    If you set your boat up this way you’ll find you’ll get a lot more out of downwind sailing, and I hope you’ll take a moment to tip your hat to my mentor, Good Old Hank McGill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.