February 4, 2006 - Dave Franzel
Our resident moviemaker (DC) was in the Caribbean last week so this will have to be an old fashioned written recap. In reviewing the videos throughout the season it is apparent that big gains and losses occur while turning – particularly rounding the weather mark and the leeward mark. These gains and losses are magnified (often quite dramatically) when spinnakers are being used. Here are some thoughts on mark rounding techniques.
Weather mark rounding: Several things have to happen before arriving at the mark to provide a high probability of an excellent set:
So how do you make this happen, perfectly, each time? Well every member of the team has a job to perfect. Let’s call the five team members bow, mast, pit, trimmer and skipper.
While sailing upwind the pole lives on the deck with the topping lift and downhaul attached. Its aft end is clipped onto the inboard side of the starboard turnbuckle with the topping lift running through it. With genoas, the pole and topping lift are under the “V” of the sheets; with small jibs, everything is to starboard of the jib sheets.
The action begins when you become convinced that you are on your final starboard tack approach to the mark. This is a good time for mast person to help assess whether an immediate jibe is called for after the rounding, because everyone else is busy.1. Setting the pole requires the coordination of the bow and pit. The pole set works best if the pole stays horizontal at all times. When the bow person unclips the pole from the shroud the pit person must immediately take up the slack in the topping lift and continue to pull until the pole is in the ring and horizontal. Then the downhaul gets cleated. It is worth it to pre-set the pole before the first race and magic mark the topping lift at the correct position. That way, pit person can pull to that mark and cleat. As always, one should never pull a line without being aware of what it is attached to. Pit person should be watching bow person throughout this operation. With practice, this can happen quickly enough so you can tack to starboard one or two lengths from the mark and be ready to hoist at the mark.
Leeward mark rounding: The biggest key to success here is to do everything early. A minor gain made by keeping your spinnaker up until the last possible moment is more than negated if you are not ready to go upwind or tack right away when you round.
Mast person hoists the jib on the skipper’s call or on his own discretion if the skipper forgets. It is very useful to magic mark the jib halyard too so it can easily be returned to the fast setting. As soon as jib is up, mast person gets ready to act as human spinnaker pole until it’s time to douse. Pit person hands the guy to trimmer or skipper, and then releases topping lift as bow person unclips both ends of the pole. When using a genoa, forward end of pole gets slid under the jib sheets and aft end gets clipped into topping lift and back to starboard turnbuckle. With a jib, the pole and topping lift get clipped to the turnbuckle to starboard of the jib sheets.
This can all be done early if the wind is aft as you can free fly the spinnaker with almost no loss of speed—you can even do last minute poleless jibes if you need to. A port takedown leaves you set up for the next set, but a starboard takedown may be called for if you are approaching on a port tack reach or in light air when you need everyone to leeward to help head up around the mark. If you do a port takedown then bow person can put the guy back in the pole when you are next on starboard tack.
If you have any questions or comments, please email or use the racing forum.