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How to gybe singlehandedly

By Adam Loory, General Manager of UK Sailmakers International

Thanks to Covid 19’s requirement to sail socially distanced, I discovered the fun of doublehanding and singlehanding my boat. With a tall factional rig held up by running backstays, she is a handful for a crew of 11 at times. But by slowing down the maneuvers and planning out all steps, it can be done.

This video shows me learning how to gybe my huge asymmetrical spinnaker singlehanded. A skill doubleheaders need to know since when you do doublehanded distance races, you can’t count on your partner all the time. You need to let them rest during their off-watch. Long-time doublehanded racer Richard du Moulin described doublehanded distance racing as two people singlehanding the same boat.

Recently I was out daysailing and my wife and friends were too content to rig the spinnaker, but they were perfectly fine letting me do all the work. I welcomed the chance to practice, knowing that I had some extra help if I got into a mess. Getting the chute up and drawing was not an issue in 6-7 knots of wind. Gybing was another story. I learned quickly that the gybe function on the autopilot turned the boat way too quickly. Next I learned that one person can’t move the 180 sq/m asymmetrical around fast enough to pull off an inside gybe. Luckily, when I abandoned the gybe and turned back to my original course the spinnaker untangled. Then I re-led the sheet for an outside gybe.

Next I relearned that in an outside gybe, you need to let the clew of the spinnaker blow out in front of the luff before pulling in on the new sheet. If you pull the new sheet too soon, risk getting the new sheet stuck under the tack patch of the sail — which the video shows happening.

On my fourth try, everything went smoothly. I got the old sheet ready to run. The new sheet on its winch. I tightened the new running backstay, which pulled the main in closer to center line without having to trim the mainsheet (ok to do in light winds). With the main in, it is easier for the wind to blow the spinnaker clew forward of the sail’s luff. Next, in steps, I eased the spinnaker sheet and rotated the course control nob on the auto pilot to turn down. It took three different adjustments of the auto pilot to turn into the gybe, which gave the sail a chance to get blown in front of the boat and then over to the new leeward side. Lastly, I let go the old running back stay, which let the main out and then trimmed the spinnaker . What a great sense of achievement once the gybe was completed and the boat got moving again. Next I’ll practice is higher and higher winds.

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