Beneteau First 210
First 210

Tech Notes

Beneteau First 210 Tech Notes

Title: How I Fly a Spinnaker Single Handed 
Author: Terry F. Ellis 

This is how I fly a spinnaker on my Beneteau First 21.0, sailing single handedly:

1) Attach a shock cord from the tiller to the two stern mooring cleats to "tame the tiller" yet still allow you to tack the boat easily.

2) Launch and retrieve the chute from a canvas bag inside your cabin hatch, hanging from ceiling wires inside the cabin, which is the same dimension as your cabin hatch when open all the way.

3) Decide which side to launch the chute and stick to that plan even if you have to sail away from the mark for a while, then gybe the chute after it's hoisted.

4) Leave the genoa up while raising the chute, then drop it after the chute is flying.

5) Raise the genoa before lowering the chute, sailing DDW with pole forward, using the jib and the main sails to block the wind from the chute (it will fall down in your lap even in strong winds).

6) To gybe the chute, uncleat the sheets and take several wraps around the winches to "hold the sheets" yet allow them to "give" if you need more line to push the pole out, and too, release the downhaul line for the same reason.

7) When you gybe the pole you should be sailing DDW even a little by the lee so the sheet (which will become the guy after the gybe) is easy to reach from the foredeck.

8) Hold the pole with one hand and reach out with the other, grabbing the spinnaker sheet, pulling it down to the idle jib sheet, lifting both up in that one hand while sliding the pole under the jib sheet and locking the spinnaker pole latch end to the "now guy".

9) Push the pole out with one hand while using your other hand to unlatch the "old" guy, letting it drop and letting the jib sheet drop to the foredeck.

10) Deliberately but not in haste, (watching the boom all the way and keeping it from gybe into you) return to the cockpit, steer the boat, trim the guy, then the sheet and cleat the guy and downhaul.

11) To free up two hands temporarily, you can steer with the tiller "lodged" in the small of your back (so called "butt steering") while you are standing up in the cockpit, keeping your legs spread apart in the "at ease" position to provide balance, allowing your knees to bend and shifting your weight as needed to balance the boat.

12) On a beam reach, sit aft and outboard where you can see the luff of the spinnaker shoulder, holding both the main sheet and tiller extension in one hand (so you can "dump" the main in a puff) while using the other hand to trim the spinnaker back and forth (temporarily to free both hands, you can double cleat the spinnaker sheet on top of the spinnaker guy line (I can do that with "horn cleats" on my boat).

13) Sail up in the lulls and down in the puffs, sailing nearly dead down wind in strong winds and letting the main sail flog when you come up in the "lulls".

14) Practice in a non-racing course of your own, going a short leg to windward, rounding a mark, popping the chute, and back and forth until you have it mastered.

15) Try sailing your chute alone in light winds at first, then gradually sail it in increasing winds until you gain confidence.

16) Don't try to be a hero...if the wind's too strong for you to control the spinnaker all alone, your boat's likely to do better with jib and main anyway...with crew or not.

17) If the wind's too strong for you to safely "gybe" the chute, simply raise your jib, lower the chute and gybe with jib, sailing the opposite tack until you can gybe back on the original course, then re-raise your chute and drop your jib.

18) Generally set your chute to be hoisted on a starboard tack, so you will have the right-of-way over port tacking boats.

19) Plan your hoist and lowering of the spinnaker well in advance, doing so in plenty of time and away from a pack of clean air (you'll find this pays off in any case as you avoid all their bad wind and "bad talk" too...sometimes even you raise your chute and roll right down on top of them before they know you're there!)

20) Coil your spinnaker halyard very carefully and lay it in a spot on deck side where it will feed out with no kinks or snags when you're ready to lower the spinnaker(the last thing you want is for the spin hlyd to foul on the take down).

21) During the spinnaker run, take time to neatly clean up all lines and keep them separated, while keeping one eye on your sails, one eye on other boats, one eye on the wind and one eye on the approaching mark - that's 4 eyes wide open!

22) Install a mast pole eye on a car which can be slid up and down a track on the mast, (or attach two fixed eyes - one at mast base and one at pole height location) then sail with the pole attached to the base pole eye and ready to raise with the spinnaker sheet/guy already latched in the fwd end of the pole, which should be resting at the bow stem inside the bow pulpit.

23) Leave the pole topping lift and down haul attached all the time, then, before launching the chute, go to the foredeck and raise the pole up to its proper position, then raise the pole with the topping lift, feed the spinnaker out to the end of the pole, hoist the spinnaker halyard and trim the sheet, guy and down haul.

24) When sailing to windward with main and jib, remember to take up slack in the spinnaker pole topping lift line so it will not snag the jib sheets when you tack,possibly installing an open jamb cleat with jaws facing up on your mast to hold the topping lift line in place when not in use, yet releasing when you hoist the lift.

25) Tie a "safety knot" in the downhaul line (a simple loop) to let the pole "sky" some but not go completely out of control (make this stop knot fat enough that it will not slip through the fairlead eye on the downhaul cam cleat).

Flying a spinnaker single handed is great fun and good exercise. It takes the boredom out of sailing down wind and gets you "home" much faster. I fly it whether day sailing or racing. Attached is a picture of me sailing close hauled with pole on deck at rest, followed by a picture of me flying the spinnaker on a broad reach.


Title: How I Fly a Spinnaker Single Handed 
Model(s): Any Sailboat; First 21 Classic; First 210; First 211 Spirit 
System(s): Sails 
Author: Terry F. Ellis 

updated May 12, 2004