What is a spinnaker and how to operate it
Denis Korablev
  • 29.10.2021
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What is a spinnaker and how to operate it

Sailing regattas always attract a lot of spectators. The sails are inflated with a favorable wind and the ship runs across the sea towards adventure. The Huge Sail, named with the romantic English word "spinnaker", adorns cruising and racing yachts.

Spinnaker has a convex shape, is considered an additional sail and is used when you need to accelerate the movement. Usually they use it in full courses. The principle of operation is similar to an open parachute. Spinnaker has a "obstinate" character. Not every yachtsman is capable of sailing this sail, which requires good nautical practice, but you can always take a racing yacht for rent and try to master it.

When did the spinnaker appear?

Since ancient times, sailors have invented various types of sails. Spinnaker was invented in 1865. Raised it with a fair wind as an addition to the main sails. Mariners recognized the effectiveness of the spinnaker and by the end of the 19th century it had become quite popular.

In 1936, the sail acquired a symmetrical shape. Ted Hood proposed the horizontal cut of the fabric in 1950. Bruce Banks (1969) invented the star cut that allows it to stay flat under heavy load.

Yachting has been actively developing throughout the 20th century. During this period, many experiments were carried out aimed at improving the aerodynamic characteristics of the sail. Over the course of 150 years, both the cut and the shape have undergone dramatic changes. Nowadays, the spinnaker has become asymmetrical again.

What does a spinnaker look like today?

The sail has a large area and deep profile. Today it is made both symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Main types of cuts and uses:

  • radial (rarely used; quickly loses shape at the bottom);
  • horizontal (raised when driving in full courses);
  • star (works on acute courses);
  • radial horizontal (useful in light winds);
  • tri-radial (resulting in a multipurpose sail).

Asymmetric spinnaker has many subspecies with various aerodynamic properties. The geometry of the cut is the same, the difference is in the size and shape of the cross-section.

How to operate a spinnaker?

This is interesting, but difficult enough. If a person has mastered the skill of sailing, then this is already an experienced athlete! The main thing is to put the sail in a certain way in a special bag (kitty). Laying begins from the middle of the lower part of the sail so that the lower corners remain free, and then the upper haly angle. Lay all 3 ends carefully on top. Attach the halyard, brass and sheet to them. A spinnaker flawlessly placed in a bag can be set up quickly, but if the ends are mixed up in a hurry, it will fail - the sail will twist.

The sailor in charge of the installation, at the command of the helmsman, "Put the spinnaker!" chooses sharply, and fixes the halyard. Another sailor holds the sail with his hands so that it does not fill up with wind too quickly, otherwise he may fall into the sea. At the same time, the second sailor spreads the luffs. After pulling out the halyard, pick up the spinnaker pole, vertically fix the windward angle with the spinnaker pole and fix the guy line. Sheets and bras are the last to be chosen. After that, the spinnaker is filled with wind, and the boat rushes forward, gaining speed.

When installing a spinnaker and operating it from the vessel's tank, strict adherence to safety precautions is required. The sailor must wear a lifejacket and tied with a safety end. Care must be taken not to let the wind leave the sail. This is ensured by the regulation of the spinnaker yard and brace. The lower corners of the sail should be level.

It is undesirable to make mistakes when working with a spinnaker; the yacht may heel and lose control of the boat. Removing a spinnaker is a difficult and very demanding operation; especially it is difficult to do it in strong winds. First, the sail is closed with a mainsail in order to "deflate"; when the spinnaker sags, quickly roll up and store in a kitty.

Is it possible to replace the spinnaker?

Sometimes the spinnaker is replaced by a similar gennaker sail. It is mid-size between spinnaker and genoa sails. Gennaker has a number of advantages, for example, when cornering and in dangerous situations it is safer and easier to steer the yacht. With the same thrust, the yacht's roll is less than with a spinnaker.

How did spinnaker influence architecture?

Spinnaker caught the attention of architects and inspired them to create buildings that are shaped like a beautiful sail. In the UK, the Spinnaker Tower (170 m) is considered a landmark of Portsmouth, in which the contours of a spinnaker are guessed.

In the United Arab Emirates (1999), a hotel was erected directly into the sea (the distance to the coast is 280 meters). Burj Al Arab is one of the most expensive five-star hotels in the world. The impressive sail-shaped building is the symbol of Dubai. The famous hotel resembles an unrolled spinnaker that is attached to a mast!

According to the specialists 2yachts, this sail is very popular not only among professional yachtsmen, but also among advertisers, as it perfectly attracts everyone Attention. Today, yachtsmen often use the spinnaker as an advertising platform.

Think it might be time to unfold the bright spinnaker and take the sea cruise at breathtaking speed?

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