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Letterbox Takedown video

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Advantages of the Letterbox Takedown

The letterbox takedown has four distinct advantages:

  • It allows you to drop the chute in a safe, controlled manner with minimal crew.
  • It enables you to drop the spinnaker without having a crew working on the foredeck.
  • Because the spinnaker is being pulled over the boom, the foot flies high with little or no chance of going into the water.
  • Since the letterbox lowers the spinnaker through the companionway, the forward hatch can be kept closed and tightly dogged to keep the breaking seas out of the boat.

Setting Up a Letterbox Takedown

To set up a letterbox takedown, start by attaching a takedown line to the clew of the spinnaker. This could be a changing sheet or a spare line if the sail isn’t rigged with a dedicated takedown line. Pull the lazy sheet around to the leeward side, run the takedown line through the slot between the top of the boom and the foot of the main, then run it to a block on the windward rail, then to an open winch in the cockpit, and give the tail to a crew member.

Executing the Letterbox Takedown

The tack was spiked, and as the sail drifted to leeward, it was pulled in through the letterbox. The takedown line was trimmed, and the helmsman took up the slack. Finally, the sail went down the hatch smoothly and safely. All this was done before the gust came through.

Selecting the Block Placement

When setting up a takedown line, you may not have many options on where to attach the block. Select a lead far enough aft of the shrouds so that the spinnaker runs through the widest section of the letterbox and doesn’t get jammed between the boom and the main stack.

Advantages of the Letterbox Takedown in a Seaway

If you’re in a seaway and you need to get the chute down safely, the letterbox is the answer. With the chute coming down over the boom, it stays completely out of the water, and the spinnaker is funneled directly into the companionway hatch. However, because you’d need to disconnect and rerun the sheets and guys after a letterbox, this technique is rarely used in day races.

 

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