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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.