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The following tips are taken from the North U Cruising and Seminar Course book written by John Rousmaniere, author of the Annapolis Book of Seamanship. These tips are meant to be helpful reminders and reference for the cruising sailor. All subjects are covered in greater detail in the North U seminars and course materials.
Wing and Wing
A good breeze behind you makes covering long distances a pleasure. A common and safe cruising setup is to sail wing and wing under jib and main, with the jib poled out and the boom secured by a preventer.
Sailing in strong winds requires strong gear. You need a spinnaker pole (not a whisker pole) supported by a topping lift (or spare halyard) and secured by an after guy and foreguy. The genoa sheet should run through the end of the pole; don’t attach it directly to the clew of the sail.
The mainsail preventer is separate from the boom vang (which is there to control twist). The preventer runs forward, holding the boom out. In rough weather the preventer should run from the end of the boom through a block on the foredeck, and then aft to the cockpit for easier control. A preventer-vang combination attached to the toerail can cause problems, particularly as seas build and the boat rolls. If the boom dips into a big wave, the pressure of the water against the preventer can bend or break the boom, or it might cause the boat to spin out of control.
One danger of a preventer is the false sense of security it can provide. As you wander on deck, do not assume that the preventer will stop the boom from jibing. Always keep your head low.
Under spinnaker in heavy air – are you crazy?
It’s true that if not properly trimmed in heavy winds, a spinnaker can overpower the boat. As you learn better trim, you can raise the wind speed at which you can carry the sail and still maintain control.
In heavy air, if the spinnaker rolls out to weather, then it will probably roll the boat to weather too. In more moderate conditions it can work well to square the pole aft, to get the spinnaker out from behind the main. In heavy air, this same trim creates problems.
Likewise, if the spinnaker flies too high or too far in front of the boat, then it will wander from side to side. As the spinnaker swings, the boat rolls, making steering difficult and control tenuous.
To keep control of the boat, you need to control the spinnaker. Choke it down directly in front of the boat by lowering the pole and over trimming the sheet. This “short leash” prevents the spinnaker from wandering and pulling the boat out of control.
Sailing under Gennaker in fresh breeze and following seas requires careful attention to trim and steering. Ease the tack line and Gennaker sheet to allow the Gennaker to roll out from behind the mainsail, and steer actively to keep the bow pointed “downhill.” To prevent a broach in gusts, ease the Gennaker sheet. If things get out of control, snuff and stow the Gennaker and switch to a jib.
North Sails Cruising