The crew of Dogstar learned how to set, douse and jibe a spinnaker from the article below. It comes from a long out of print book published around 1950. The first section talks mostly about big-boat spinnakers. The section "Small Boat Spinnaker Technique" describes the fundamental technique we use. The section on "Jibing the Spinnaker" explains how to jibe a Triton's spinnaker with the exception that the fore-guy ( which pulls down and forward on the pole) does not have to be moved on a Triton since it is connected to the center of the pole, not the end. Dousing the spinnaker is a snap if you follow their instructions.

Before getting to the article, here's some background info about rigging and a link to several Triton spinnaker pictures that should make things clearer:

*The spinnaker halyard gets attached to a swiveling block that is attached to the mast above the forestay. You don't use the jib halyard since it is attached to the mast below the forestay.

*A pole lift, a line going from the center of the pole to a block partway up the mast, holds the pole up in light breezes. For fine tuning it adjusts the height of the spinnaker pole.


*A foreguy, a line going from the center of the pole to a block on the foredeck, keeps the pole from rising in strong breezes and also can be used to pull the pole forward in light breezes. The block can be attached to anchor cleat in the foredeck. I've heard of some people just looping the foreguy through the cleat without bothering with a block.

*The sheet/after-guy go to turning blocks that are supposed to be near the stern of the boat.



IN OTHER CHAPTERS, the problems of sail handling have been touched on. Proper setting, trimming and dousing of the spinnaker, however, are important enough to warrant further consideration.


The observance of a few simple rules will greatly facilitate the task of spinnaker setting. It Is helpful, for example, to have a swivel attached to the head of this sail. When hoisting, the spinnaker is apt to become twisted and a well oiled swivel removes almost all such chance. The use of a braided halliard helps further to prevent twisting the spinnaker while it is being hoisted in stops. The friction of a twisted rope running over a sheave or through a fairlead is sufficient to unlay the rope, causing a few turns in the sail. After the sail is broken out, if it is twisted after all, slacking away a foot or two on the halliard and then rehoisting smartly will usually clear it.

To Set Flying Or In Stops?

If the spinnaker is set flying it can be made to draw sooner. Therefore, in all but boats of 50 feet and larger, or in very strong winds when there is a chance of the sail filling before being fully hoisted, it's preferable to set the spinnaker out of a box or a bag. This method will be discussed in the second half of this chapter under the heading "Small Boat Spinnaker Technique."

Figs. 45A, 45B and 45C now apply primarily to larger boats though when they were first made in 1947 this method of rigging was universal

(Note: figures not shown because this attachment technique isn't used on a Triton).

Mark Head, Tack and Clew

It will save time if identifying marks, either ink or a few turns of colored twine, or small swatches of colored cloth are put on the head, tack and clew of the spinnaker. This is especially true of single type spinnakers which are cut differently on. le leach and luff. Stich a marking system permits positive and instant identification, saves time and removes the possibility of attaching a -guy where the sheet or halliard should be, both of which have been done on my boat.


Before hoisting, overhaul the spinnaker to make sure it is free of twists and then attach the sheet, guys and halliard. The sail may also be attached to the outboard end of the pole. Some prefer to make this final attachment after the sail is hoisted. In any event, be sure to attach the after guy to the tack of the sail, not to the pole direct. The pole is then snapped onto one of the guys. (Figs. 45A, 45B and 45C). This greatly facilitates jibing when the occasion arrives (of which more later).

After the sail is all hooked up as above, keep it and the pole either in the cockpit or on the forward deck in a neat pile and, if approaching a mark up wind, never begin to hoist until after rounding. Hoisting earlier produces harmful windage from the sail and the man setting it. It also invites fouling the sail. If reaching for a mark prior to Jibing onto a broader reach or run on the other tack when the spinnaker will be used, don't hoist before the turn has been made. Doing so will only make the 'Jibe more difficult and the sail may foul. When making an off wind start or rounding a mark from a close reach to a broader reach on the same tack, the spinnaker may be hoisted beforehand, but it should not be broken until after the boat is settled down on the new course. Saving seconds in getting the spinnaker up and drawing is important; it is less important than being sure that it goes up 'Without a hitch and without interfering with the sailing of the boat.

Before the sail is hoisted, it is well to cleat the end of the sheets and guys. Then, if the spinnaker breaks out prematurely, it won't get out of hand. Be sure to lead the sheet outside the headstay and shrouds, except when using a flat single cut spinnaker.

When hoisting,. try to keep too much weight off the bow. One man forward is enough on boats of the size we are considering (under 35 feet over all). The man doing the hoisting should move aft as far as he can and still handle the halliard properly. This maintains the boat's trim. It is well to hoist the spinnaker before lowering the jib. On a run, the helmsman should steer high of the course while the sail is being set, keeping the jib full and drawing and squaring away on the course only after the spinnaker has been broken. Most skippers prefer to break out the spinnaker before lowering the jib, though little speed is lost if the jib is doused and the spinnaker broken Immediately thereafter. In very strong winds this may be prudent.

Avoid Commotion 

All sail handling should be done with a minimum of commotion. A well trained crew needs few commands. It learns also, to work smoothly and fast without much moving about. Especially in light airs, it is essential to stay quiet to keep the boat from rolling and pitching. Failure to do this is sure to shake the wind from the sails and the constant change in trim slows the boat even further.


Once a spinnaker is broken out, it is of utmost importance to keep it properly trimmed. When set, it becomes the most important sad on the boat.

Position of the Pole

The pole should be guyed aft to be not quite at right angles to the apparent wind. Apparent wind differs in direction from true wind because of the boat's movement. It comes always further for-ward than the true wind except on a dead run, when it is the same. The masthead wind pennant shows the direction of apparent wind. The common error is to guy the pole too far aft. If the pole is at right angles to the wind, the tack will be much farther aft than the clew, and wind will spill out of the clew side of the spinnaker. For this reason, the pole should never be guyed all the way back to the shrouds, unless sailing by the lee. Try letting it forward a few feet and watch the boat speed up. Our experience has indicated that it should seldom if ever be guyed further aft than 60' or 70' from the bow.

The spinnaker pole should be level. If one end is higher than the other, the sail is not held out as far as it could be and its full area is presented less efficiently to the wind. To keep it level, a topping lift is attached at the middl~ -of the pole. This is really a halliard for the pole and is especially useful to prevent it from sagging in light airs. In a strong breeze, the outer end is apt to cock up in the air. In this case, the solution is to move the inner end of* the pole higher up the mast, thus permitting the desirable lift in the sail and maintaining a level pole in the process. A sliding fitting on a mast track is the best solution for this. If the outer end still tends to cock up even after the pole has been raised to its limit, the forward guy will keep it from going too far. It is sometimes desirable to have it cocking upward slightly, particularly in a strong breeze. At all times, forward guy, after guy and topping lift should be taut to keep the pole from flopping around. Otherwise, the wind may easily be shaken out of the spinnaker.

Sheet Lead

The spinnaker sheet should be led outside of the headstay and lee shrouds unless it is a single-luff type sail. On a reach, lead it as far aft as possible. Unless class rules prevent it (they often do) leading to a snatch block on the wain boom gives a fine lead. 

Put a Good Man on the Sheet

The correct lead is of slight value unless the sheet is trimmed properly. Put your best man on it. He should slack the sheet out as much as possible. On a reach, this will get the luff curving out ahead and reaching for more air. It also prevents the leech from hooking in and backing the main. On. a run, the position of the lead is less important but it is just as necessary to slack the sheet as much as possible so that the sail will flow around the headstay and present its full area to the wind.

The sheet tender must be in a position to watch the luff. As soon as it begins to break, a sharp quick trim will keep it full. Except in a very fluky breeze, there is no reason for the spinnaker to collapse but, unless it begins to break slightly at frequent intervals, chances are it is too flat. If it does collapse, the helmsman can help get it full again by bearing off slightly.

Ease the Halliard Sometimes 

If your boat has jumper stays, they may interfere with the head of the Spinnaker on a reach. If the shape is spoiled by laying across a jumper stay, it may prove advantageous to slack the halliard a foot or two to clear it. In a fresh breeze, the halliard may often be slacked to advantage even on a dead run. This pen-nits the sail to belly out ahead better and, because it is lower, there is less tendency for it to bury the bow.


With the modern spinnakers which have an identical leech and luff, and a hook on both ends of the pole instead of jaws on one and a hook on the jibing is a cinch, provided the necessary steps are taken at the right #time and in proper sequence. A spinnaker can be jibed and drawing in as little as 8 to 10 seconds. Assuming 20 seconds to be a more general norm, the jibe could take place as follows: (Figs. 46A, 46B, 46C and 46D).

0 seconds: Unhook the forward guy and snap it onto the inboard end of the pole. If the foredeck man is unable to reach the outer end of the pole to detach the forward guy, the crew slacks the after guy as required. (Fig. 46B). 5 seconds: Detach the pole from the mast. As it is detached, the man on the after guy trims back what he had slacked previously. The helmsman begins to bear off a bit unless the mark is in the way.

10 seconds: Hook the other end of the pole onto the former sheet. The pole now has the spinnaker attached to both of its ends. The main boom is trimmed at this stage and the helm put up to execute the 'Jibe. (Fig. 46C).

15 seconds. As the main boom jibes over, unhook the former spinnaker tack from the pole. This end becomes the clew and the former after guy then becomes the sheet. The man tending this line makes sure it is not too slack as the jibe is accomplished. Other-wise the sail might back.

20 seconds: Attach the pole to the mast. The helmsman is careful not to round up until this is done.

An alternative to the order of steps outlined above is often practiced Some prefer to switch the forward guy after the jibe has been completed instead of at the outset. If jibing from a reach to a run, this appears to be preferable, since the forward guy is more necessary on the reach. If jibing from a run to a reach, we advocate switching the forward guy first so that it will be ready as soon as the boat jibes to the new course.

The problem may be simplified further by leading the forward guy to the middle of the pole instead of to one end. 'Then it need not be shifted at all when jibing. In light and moderate winds, this works well but in strong winds it is well to have the guy lead to the end of the pole; otherwise the pole will bend and possibly break from the upward pull of the sail.

A good crew can keep the spinnaker full and drawing throughout the entire evolution of jibing. It is important that the former sheet (new after guy) be given sufficient slack to prevent the sail from backing as the jibe takes place. Likewise, the man tending the old after guy (the sheet on the new tack) must be sure that it is not slacked too much. As the boat changes course to perform the jibe, one slacks and the other trims, keeping the sail squared before the wind at A times.

 Note: On a Triton the the "forward guy" shown in these figures will pull down on the spinnaker pole from the center, not from the end. It does not need to be shifted from one end of the pole to the other.



Fig. 46A-The spinnaker set and drawing before the jibe commences.




Fig. 46B-The pole has been slacked forward and the forward guy switched to the other end of the pole.




Fig. 46C-The pole has been detached from the mast and both ends attached to the spinnaker. At this stage the helm is put up and the main boom jibes over.




Fig. 46D-With clew unhooked from the pole, and the pole attached to the mast and squared properly, the jibe is completed.





Little difficulty need be experienced when it comes to taking in the spinnaker, providing proper procedure is used.

The first step is to have the halliard clear for running, and to make sure that the sheets and guys are also dear. Then, if the race is still in progress, hoist the jib and trim and cleat it for the course which will be sailed after the spinnaker has been doused.

At this point, the foredeck man takes his station, the helmsman runs off a bit before the wind if there is room to do so and only if there is a strong wind (running before it lessens the strength of the apparent wind and facilitates spinnaker handling). One crew member slacks the after guy while another tends the sheet. As soon as the guy is slacked, the tack of the spinnaker is detached from the pole. The sail flies ahead and to leeward, held only by the sheet, and the halliard. The man formerly tending the after guy now takes charge of the halliard. Meanwhile the sheet has been trimmed quickly and the foot of the sail gathered in to leeward of the main and clear of the spreaders. The halliard is lowered and the sail pulled down into the cockpit. The whole evolution takes 10 to 15 seconds or less.

It is important to keep the sail clear of the spreaders and, when lowering, to make sure that it does not get in the water. If it does get overboard, be sure not to let it act as a scoop. Hold only one end, never both tack and clew, and it should then be a relatively simple matter to bring it back on board. 


The heading of this section is in some respects a misnomer because this method is becoming increasingly popular on boats 50 feet and larger, particularly the system of setting flying (but not so much the running guy which isn't necessary on larger boats). In the case of large boats, however, a bag is substituted for the box hereafter mentioned, with the spinnaker being flaked into it with clews and head protruding. A short length of line or a stop should be sewn to the bottom of the bag to permit lashing to a padeye or life line stanchion on deck.

The method, however, is especially suitable for small boats and hence the name. The key to its success, in addition to setting flying, is to snap the outboard end of the pole, not to the spinnaker tack or after guy fitting as in Fig. 45, but instead to the running part of the guy. Fig. 46E illustrates the set up.




With the arrangement, the pole can be rigged on the mast prior to reaching the mark, and when at the mark the spinnaker hoisted in the protected lee of the mainsail and then pulled around the jibstay to the pole end. In boats such as Lightnings, where the method has come into most favor, the whole evolution can be completed without anyone ever leaving the cockpit.

To make sure we've got this simple and effective method down pat, it might be helpful if we considered it step by step.


Prior to the start, try to decide which tack the spinnaker will be first set on. Then lead the after guy through a quarter block, outside the shrouds, around the jibstay and to what will become the lee shrouds. The sheet is then led through a quarter block, outside the lee shrouds and its end snapped to the end of the after guy. If you later discover that the spinnaker leg will be on the other tack, merely pull the guy and sheet around the bow so that their ends are adjacent to the chainplates on the other side.

Next place your spinnaker in a box. We use a cardboard beer carton and carry a spare under our for-ward deck in case one goes overboard. In boxing the spinnaker, first take one clew and place it in one corner of the box. We keep it in place by slitting the corner about one-third of its height. Then run your hand along the foot and slip the other clew into the slit in the adjacent corner of the box (see detail, Fig. 46F).



Next run your hand up the two leeches simultaneously, flaking them into the box and stuffing the body of the sail in at the same time. This running aloneg the foot and luffs insures against twists. When you've reached the head, slip it into the slit in a third corner of the box. The spinnaker can now be put away until ready for use.

When nearing the weather mark, one crew member takes out the pole, clips its end onto the running part of the after guy, attaches the lift and then sets the other end in the mast fitting. If the downwind leg is to be on the same tack as that on which the mark is approached the pole lays against the jibstay. (See Fig. 46F.) If on the other hand, one has to tack around the mark or Jibe immediately after rounding, the pole can still be rigged ahead of time on most boats with no overlapping Jibs. On a Lightning, for example, there's Just room for the rigged pole to pass between the lee shrouds and the leech of the jib. (See Fig. 46G.) In this position, it extends off to leeward and care must be taken to give the mark and right of way yachts on that side an adequate berth.

With the pole rig ed on the windward side, and also before reaching the mark, the spinnaker box is taken out from its shelter, the guy is attached to the tack, the sheet to the clew and finally the halliard. In light and moderate going the box can be placed on deck, to leeward of the Jib. (See Fig. 46F.)

This makes it easier to be sure that it will hoist clear and to leeward of the main and jib. On some boats there is room on deck to place the box inboard of the lee shrouds to keep it from sliding overboard. In heavy going it is often better to keep the box in the cockpit. The sheet, guy and halliard can still be attached, taking care to lead them so that they will run clear when hoisting. Be sure not to lead them between the jib sheet and the deck, but over the jib sheet.

If the pole is rigged to leeward prior to tacking around the mark or in anticipation of jibing after rounding, the box is on the windward deck and sheet, guy and halliard are attached as shown in Fig. 46G.


Now that you're rigged, anyone can set spinnaker. (See Fig. 46H.) Assume we have a three-man crew, skipper and two others. As soon as the mark is reached on the tack you will be running on, or as soon as Jibe is completed, one man hoists spinnaker as fast as possible and belays when within half a foot or so of "two-blocks." As soon as it is up and while it is still being belayed, the other crew who has been checking that the sail ran up clear from the box, tosses the empty box back in the cockpit and hauls on the after guy to pull the tack up to the pole end. While this is being done and while using one hand to belay the halliard, the No. 1 crew man uses his other hand to hold the pole forward against the jibstay. Were he not to do this, the pole would swing aft as the guy was trimmed, and this would make it slow and difficult to pull the spinnaker around the P. If the leg was a reach it would also make the spinnaker back as soon as it cleared the Jib.


At this point when the tack reaches the pole end, the No. 1 crew man either relieves the No. 2 crew of the after guy or he grabs the spinnaker sheet. We find it better for the No. 1 crew to take the guy, trim it to approximately the right spot and belay. He then lowers jib, while the No. 2 crew is handling the spinnaker sheet.

We've omitted the skipper's role but suffice it to say that in addition to handling the main sheet the skipper can frequently lend a hand on the spinnaker sheet or guy, to speed the process of setting. Constant practice will enable a three-man crew to work smoothly and complete the whole operation in a few seconds.

No mention has been made of a forward guy, for the simple reason that on our Lightning, and on many small boats, one is unnecessary. We have a hook attached to the deck adjacent to the shrouds. By leading the after guy under this hook, there is enough downward pull to make a forward guy unnecessary. We have found that it is better not to lead the guy under this hook until the spinnaker is squared. Leading under the hook prior to this just slows up the process of pulling the sail out to the pole end.

If you must have a forward guy, connect it to the middle of the pole beneath the lift (see Fig 46E). If in strong winds this results in the pole bending up excessively on a reach, snap the forward guy onto the end of the pole. If at all possible on your boat, however, try doing without a forward guy. It's a great convenience not to have this additional line to handle.

With this method of spinnaker setting and rigging the evolution of Jibing is handled in the conventional manner, with the exception that when the pole is shifted over the new outboard end is snapped onto the running part of the guy, just as it was on the other tack. This is important, because the new method has its advantages while dousing Spinnaker as well as while setting.

In taking in the spinnaker it is not necessary to leave the cockpit of a small boat. Make sure the after guy is coiled down, has no knot in it and is ready to run clear. Then, when ready to take in spinnaker, let the pole forward and then let the after guy run free. It will shoot through the pole end and the crew man on the sheet can pull the sail in to leeward of the main in the usual manner. The big advantage, of course, is that no one has to go on the foredeck to unsnap the tack. How many centerboarders have capsized because of forward weightl

One might expect that the guy would occasionally fall to run clear, but in several season's use ours never has.

I've been asked if I preferred this method to a turtle. The answer is yes. In the first place, boats with their jibstays right up to the stem cannot use a turtle. Even in boats which can use a turtle, this box method seems just as fast, though no faster. It has a real advantage if the spinnaker is to be reset because the crew can much more easily rearrange the spinnaker into a box than into a turtle lashed on the stern, and can do so, moreover, without slowing the boat down by standing on the bow.

One note of caution: One must be careful that the slack after guy doesn't fall under the bow. If it does, one could pull the spinnaker under the boat as it was hoisted, or be unable to pull it around. This happened to us once; now we keep our eyes peeled to see if doesn't again. Some Lightning skippers guard against this by lashing a projection forward of the stem. A wire coathanger bent into the form of a 6" bowsprit is effective and insures against the guy slipping down the stem. Before rigging this, however, be sure your class rules don't outlaw such a gadget.

To sum up, I've a suspicion that once you've tried this method of spinnaker setting and dousing you will never switch away from it. We approached it with some skepticism but we're now sold on it.