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Owners of Large (>40 feet) Multis - How are you handling chutes?


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Looking to hear from actual owners with double handed (Mom and Pop) experience handling chutes on larger multis (at least 40 foot cat or tri).

Specifically looking for:

1.) Is it a true runner?

2.) Is it on a furler?

3.) Up to what wind speed will you carry it?

4.) Walk through your double handed process to get it doused?

Asking because I ran into issues recently (chute, crew and boat came out the other end fine) - and am looking to improve on what we do.

For us the answers are yes; no (deck launched and retrieved); 17 knots true; turn down to collapse chute under main w auto driving, one person forward to gather chute, other in cockpit to first blow tack line and then ease halyard (clutches can be open because chute is collapsed).  This worked without fail until this weekend when we unexpectedly found ourselves in a solid 25 plus knots of breeze.  Wave action made sailing really deep a gybing risk so could not get chute fully collapsed behind main which made the cockpit clutch solution a problem. 

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Well for sure I'm no expert, but answers to:

1. I don't quite know what you mean. We have an asymmetric that we fly down to around 165 apparent.

2. We use a sock.

3. Say 15 kts true.

4. Sue puts the boat on ap and releases the tack and sheet alternately as I pull the sock down. I generally unfurl the jib close sheeted and drop in the lee of the jib.

We have a 48" cat.

 

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1 hour ago, jdazey said:

Well for sure I'm no expert, but answers to:

1. I don't quite know what you mean. We have an asymmetric that we fly down to around 165 apparent.

2. We use a sock.

3. Say 15 kts true.

4. Sue puts the boat on ap and releases the tack and sheet alternately as I pull the sock down. I generally unfurl the jib close sheeted and drop in the lee of the jib.

We have a 48" ca

Thank you.  And sorry for the generic "runner" term.  If you are running as deep as 165 apparent that is what I mean.  It would be a pretty full bellied chute that tend to not like top down furlers too much. On our old F27 tri we had both a runner that was deck launched (it did not furl well on the top down) and a smaller and flatter cut chute that worked great on the top down.  Same furler... but very different real world experience depending on which sail.  On our C36 we have a what I call a runner that I fear would not work well on a furler.  But equally we have a screacher (that lives hoisted) and a bunch of other things that would make the geometry of a hoisted sock a likey issue.  So we deck launch and douse.  Which was fine until yesterdays fun LOL.  All is well that ends well (and yea I unfurled and sheeted in the jib and tried everything to hide/shade/collapse the chute) but I am looking to avoid a repeat performance... and thus for suggestions and learning from others (gear and practice).

What cat you got?

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My previous boat was a 42' monohull...yes I know not a multi but similar sized sails so hoping this still might be helpful...

We had both reaching and running kites, asymmetric and symmetric.

When double-handed (e.g. my wife and I) we only flew asymmetric kites, the reacher up to about 20 knots true, and the runner up to about 15 knots true.

No furler or sock, launched off the deck, doused back onto the deck in light air, "letterbox douse" in heavy air.

The letterbox douse was a thing of beauty and never failed us, either double-handed or fully crewed, in any conditions.

The process for the double-handed "letterbox douse" was as follows:

  1. Person one steers and tails halyard, person two leads the lazy kite sheet between the foot of the main sail and boom 
  2. Person one steers the boat down as deep as possible without gybing
  3. Person two eases the tack line, pulls the clew of the kite between the foot of the main and boom, gathers the foot
  4. Person one eases the halyard while person two pulls the kite over the boom and into the companionway

So you're basically using the "letterbox" between the foot of the main and the boom as a giant snuffer. 

This clearly wouldn't work if you have any kind of cockpit enclosure, but not sure why it otherwise wouldn't work on a multi of similar size...

 

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1 hour ago, Wess said:

But equally we have a screacher (that lives hoisted) and a bunch of other things that would make the geometry of a hoisted sock a likey issue. 

A permanently hoisted screacher would make it slightly busy with all the lines going up, but why would it be an issue? I had a sock that worked without fail, singlehanded. Blow the tackline, pull the sock down. 

1 hour ago, gspot said:

The letterbox douse was a thing of beauty and never failed us, either double-handed or fully crewed, in any conditions.

Also did letterbox douses on a racing mono. Works well, looks cool. It is more work though because you then have to repack the chute, re-run the sheets, etc. The tackline needs to be 2x as long to make it all the way back to the companionway. But if caught in a stronger wind than expected and without a sock it's a great solution, agree.

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1 hour ago, gspot said:

My previous boat was a 42' monohull...yes I know not a multi but similar sized sails so hoping this still might be helpful...

We had both reaching and running kites, asymmetric and symmetric.

When double-handed (e.g. my wife and I) we only flew asymmetric kites, the reacher up to about 20 knots true, and the runner up to about 15 knots true.

No furler or sock, launched off the deck, doused back onto the deck in light air, "letterbox douse" in heavy air.

The letterbox douse was a thing of beauty and never failed us, either double-handed or fully crewed, in any conditions.

The process for the double-handed "letterbox douse" was as follows:

  1. Person one steers and tails halyard, person two leads the lazy kite sheet between the foot of the main sail and boom 
  2. Person one steers the boat down as deep as possible without gybing
  3. Person two eases the tack line, pulls the clew of the kite between the foot of the main and boom, gathers the foot
  4. Person one eases the halyard while person two pulls the kite over the boom and into the companionway

So you're basically using the "letterbox" between the foot of the main and the boom as a giant snuffer. 

This clearly wouldn't work if you have any kind of cockpit enclosure, but not sure why it otherwise wouldn't work on a multi of similar size...

 

Thank you.  Familiar with the letterbox from my monohull racing days.  Tried it once or twice on our tri when the bimini and dodger shade were off as were the lazyjacks and stackpack.  It was workable but brought its own set of issues such that we both strongly felt the deck (nets in our case) douse was far safer and faster especially when doublehanded.

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34 minutes ago, EarthBM said:

 

A permanently hoisted screacher would make it slightly busy with all the lines going up, but why would it be an issue? I had a sock that worked without fail, singlehanded. Blow the tackline, pull the sock down. 

Also did letterbox douses on a racing mono. Works well, looks cool. It is more work though because you then have to repack the chute, re-run the sheets, etc. The tackline needs to be 2x as long to make it all the way back to the companionway. But if caught in a stronger wind than expected and without a sock it's a great solution, agree.

Agree the sock would be a good solution but in our case the screacher halyard exits the mast (along with its upper swivel and etc... hardware) just a few inches below where the spin halyard exits.  Had a number of riggers look at it because that was our initially preferred approach but all agreed there was a high likelihood that the sock once raised would be at some significant risk of snagging on the screacher upper hardward and not be able to be lowered.

I think what happened in this case was because we were also full main (in a solid 25 plus... not forecast obviously) that even when sailing as deep as we dared under auto the boat was still so freaking fast that the apparent was still far enough forward that the chute kept drawing.  I needed to slow down to get the apparent to go aft but couldn't slow her down enough.  Its also not a square top main so the top of the chute still sees some breeze.  Basically I think we found a wind speed such that it wasn't possible to depower or collapse the chute such that we could open a clutch for the halyard or tack.

We did enjoy some stiff drinks while we cleaned up the boat when anchored once we got her to a safe place.  Too damn old for this insanity LOL.

 

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5 minutes ago, EarthBM said:

Why wasn't opening the tack an option? 

In clutch and to spike it one needs to get to end of a rather long bowsprit.  No me brother!

 

 

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1. Yes. symmetric tri radial. 1.5 oz., 40' relatively fast cat

image.png.7933c00ae6399caf714a1cf47d6b035c.png

2. ATN sock. Loved our ATN 

3. 15 knots true, but have been day sailing lots more. That photo was at least 25 knots. Notice the reefed main.

http://maiaaboard.blogspot.com/2010/09/race-day.html

4. Make sure that main is all the way eased out. We did not have swept back shrouds so that helped. Note that in the picture above it's a pin head main that is reefed so upper part of the sail will still be full no matter what. 

In 25 knots or more:  BIG ease of tack. Took a while for my family to understand this. Get the sail rotating behind the main. Sometimes a big ease of the sheet to get it to luff as well in really knarly conditions. Autopilot driving almost DDW, wife or daughter would do the ease.

Only times it was a real challenge was at 3 am somewhere in the Pacific. Had been carrying the chute for 3 days/nights. Got caught by a squall. I saw 14 knots on the GPS and rising as I left the cabin to get it down.  No idea of the wind speed (we didn't have wind instruments) but it was "very windy". Never thought we were going to capsize but sure felt like the rig was very stressed.

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2 minutes ago, Wess said:

In clutch and to spike it one needs to get to end of a rather long bowsprit.  No me brother!

We have a long enough tack line that we can release from the cockpit, belay on a winch, and will accommodate the sail tack flying all the way back to the nets/cockpit without running out of line. 

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15 minutes ago, gspot said:

We have a long enough tack line that we can release from the cockpit, belay on a winch, and will accommodate the sail tack flying all the way back to the nets/cockpit without running out of line. 

Yes, we do too but with 20 lines led to the cockpit it becomes a spaghetti factory and we didn't have a clear winch to take the load of the tack so the clutch could be opened. It had also gone from 7-10 knots of breeze (forecast) to 25 plus (not forecast and without any indication of a squall line or cell) and it seemed to still be building fast.  Both the wife and I reached for knives both thinking the same thing.  We needed it down fast!

21 minutes ago, Zonker said:

1. Yes. symmetric tri radial. 1.5 oz., 40' relatively fast cat

image.png.7933c00ae6399caf714a1cf47d6b035c.png

2. ATN sock. Loved our ATN 

3. 15 knots true, but have been day sailing lots more. That photo was at least 25 knots. Notice the reefed main.

http://maiaaboard.blogspot.com/2010/09/race-day.html

4. Make sure that main is all the way eased out. We did not have swept back shrouds so that helped. Note that in the picture above it's a pin head main that is reefed so upper part of the sail will still be full no matter what. 

In 25 knots or more:  BIG ease of tack. Took a while for my family to understand this. Get the sail rotating behind the main. Sometimes a big ease of the sheet to get it to luff as well in really knarly conditions. Autopilot driving almost DDW, wife or daughter would do the ease.

Only times it was a real challenge was at 3 am somewhere in the Pacific. Had been carrying the chute for 3 days/nights. Got caught by a squall. I saw 14 knots on the GPS and rising as I left the cabin to get it down.  No idea of the wind speed (we didn't have wind instruments) but it was "very windy". Never thought we were going to capsize but sure felt like the rig was very stressed.

Thank you Zonker.  Yes because of the rig and shroud geometry the main can't be eased as far as I would have liked in that situation. And yes I am pretty sure the lack of a squaretop main contributed to the chute staying full just from the breeze on high.  We usually do blow tack line first and indeed eventually did here as well so we are familiar with that trick.

But I see another vote for the sock.  Making me think hard about trying to find a way to use one.  And a rule that no matter how benign the conditions the tack line at least can not be in a closed clutch.

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We picked up that spinnaker used for $500 at a used gear store Second Wave in Seattle. Made a special trip to get it because I saw it on their web site.

Got to the store, it was perfect and was very happy. I said to my wife - "Now we have to keep an eye out for a snuffer, but good luck with that"

She pulls out an ATN snuffer on the adjacent shelf, that had the same luff length as the spinnaker. for $75.... "Like this one?" 

I think a lot of the RTW racers use socks (or at least they did) because they are pretty straightforward.

I think in your case just fly the head of the kite a few feet forward of the rig to keep a snuffer bundle clear of the screacher?

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I think the effectiveness of a snuffer all comes down to the specific details of the boat and rig.

I had one with my monohull and hated it, but that was also a masthead rig with masthead kites, and the snuffer would frequently foul on the top of the jib foil and we couldn't pull it down. A fractional rig wouldn't have this problem. 

Also @Airwick has been single-handing a lot lately, and I think he mentioned that he uses his screecher to help douse the kite. I think he deploys the screecher while the kite is still flying, and the kite basically collapses and almost sticks to the back of the screecher as he pulls it down onto the nets. Maybe something to try?

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You can get a taliska fitting with a wire trip.

Tie a thin cord to the wire trip and then you can spike the kite tack from the bow easily. In a panic (ie squall etc) spike the tack, the sail will weathervane and you can pull it in where ever it is convenient.

In normal conditions don't bother with the spike. Use boat speed and a quick bearaway and the kite will collapse behind the main and jib. Faster the boat is going the easier it will be.(less apparent wind over the boat) Start the drop when the boat is surfing.

Short handed also run the halyard forward where you  are pulling the kite in then the person pulling the kite in can control the drop speed by standing on the halyard or you can have both people forward if you have a autoplilot.

If you are worried about accidental gybing tie a preventer on the main first. Make sure it is tight. Normally 170 should be as deep as you would need to go.

Our new kite is a very flat cut similar to a screecher and works on a bottom up furler but it would not work deep very effectively. It also needs a fair bit of effort to furl it.

I do not like top down furlers.

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Seawind 1190 Sport, so just under 40’. 2 kites, one reacher, one runner. The runner is only used fully crewed while racing. We launch and take down the same as you would on a Corsair. The reacher is in an ATN sock. Runner gets used until about 17 true then we’ll go to the reacher, regardless of the angle. 

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16 hours ago, Zonker said:

I think in your case just fly the head of the kite a few feet forward of the rig to keep a snuffer bundle clear of the screacher?

Yea but my concern is that I think (need to research this) if the sock gets snagged up there, then there is no way to get the chute down except to go up the rig. 

14 hours ago, gspot said:

I think the effectiveness of a snuffer all comes down to the specific details of the boat and rig.

I had one with my monohull and hated it, but that was also a masthead rig with masthead kites, and the snuffer would frequently foul on the top of the jib foil and we couldn't pull it down. A fractional rig wouldn't have this problem. 

Also @Airwick has been single-handing a lot lately, and I think he mentioned that he uses his screecher to help douse the kite. I think he deploys the screecher while the kite is still flying, and the kite basically collapses and almost sticks to the back of the screecher as he pulls it down onto the nets. Maybe something to try?

You have nailed our concern w the sock/snuffer.  And alas it is a problem on our fractional rig.  We though of using the screacher to blanket the chute but things were getting very nuts very fast with limited runway so we opted against it.  When we did get the chute down both the wife and I hade reached and snagged knives. It was to that stage.

13 hours ago, bushsailor said:

 

If you are worried about accidental gybing tie a preventer on the main first. Make sure it is tight. Normally 170 should be as deep as you would need to go.

 

I do not like top down furlers.

Oh gosh no on the preventer.  That means swimming on our boat for sure.  I hear you on the furlers.  We love them til we don't LOL.

11 hours ago, jdazey said:

Chris White Voyager 48

Great boat. Love CW designs.  Hear some of the latest (mast foils) might be dogs but that could also be the owners.  Every CW I have sailed on or helped deliver has impressed me.

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Just adding a thanks to all that commented.  Wife and I both talked through what happened and still neither us (or this thread) have an answer other than don't be in that situation.  Our current thinking is a boat speed limit that means the chute has to come down and switch to screacher if double handed. 

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Sail a 57 with symmetrical chute. Use it all the time.

If dead downwind we won't have the main up. If we have the main up it has one reef.

We use a sock (prefer the soft socks now over the hard ATN socks).

Run the sock line to a block forward of the mast.

Pull the sock down with an electric winch. 

Never fails and no one is stressed about the chute getting outta hand.

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3 hours ago, mpenman said:

Sail a 57 with symmetrical chute. Use it all the time.

If dead downwind we won't have the main up. If we have the main up it has one reef.

We use a sock (prefer the soft socks now over the hard ATN socks).

Run the sock line to a block forward of the mast.

Pull the sock down with an electric winch. 

Never fails and no one is stressed about the chute getting outta hand.

Question for all you folks using the sock/snuffer.  And no criticism intended or implied with this question... but am I correct that if it gets hung up aloft there is no way to get the chute down?

The sail plan for the C36 is here: http://www.corsair-germany.com/userfiles/corsair 36 sailplan Rev0 (1).pdf

My concern - and I would love to use a sock - is that the spin halyard exit is too close to the screacher which is on a furler and lives hoisted.  When we think back to our take down we realized we were at the stage that if it didn't come down fast we would likely capsize and if we accidentally gybed before we got it down we would likely capsize. 

 

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Couple thoughts:

- If there is something up there that can snag the sock, wouldn't it be about as likely to snag the spinnaker itself (in which case it wouldn't come down either way)? If there is something specific it might be worth spending some time and energy addressing that regardless of using a sock.

- If the concern is that the spinnaker/sock might get stuck on the screacher itself, you would be able to lower the screacher at the same time and they both should come down no? Although I guess if you have a 2:1 halyard and a sock/spinnaker wrapped around it it could get pulled in the block and stop you from lowering the screacher so maybe that's the concern? But that brings us back to the first point, maybe have a sleeve covering 2:1 block to prevent that?

- I personally don't like having the screacher up at the same time as the spinnaker because it makes jibing difficult so I normally take it down (or at least ease a couple of feet of halyard so it sits along the mast if I think I'm going to need to switch back). Might be worth taking it down when flying the spin if it bring peace of mind.

- As @gspot mentioned, I've had good luck blanketing the spin with the screacher: I've found it especially useful when I can't/don't want to bear away. Here's an example: https://www.facebook.com/100010128423196/videos/920906558256950/. Takedown is about 1 min in. Obviously these are very benign conditions and it's a much smaller sail but it does show how it pretty much hangs limp behind the screecher (mind you my screacher has a long foot as well so that might help).

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We sail a Canadian 40' LOD Farrier F36/39 with the spinnaker tack at the very tip of a 2 meter prod (so 47' LOA). We have a large windward screecher but always take the screecher down when flying the spinnaker because there are too many complications when it's left up with the asym.  We are on a circumnavigation double handed  having only made it as far as New Zealand when Covid derailed the cruising life.

The chute is an asymetrical and we sail it to windward up to about 16 knots of boat speed in maybe 18 knot TWS . We use the same chute downwind up to about 160-165 AWA and get concerned when the AWS is over 18 reaching 20.

We have used an ATN but just recently switched to a top down furler that is oversized for our rig (Facnor FX4500). We still have not used tghe FX4500 in conditions that are anything but benign.

Switched away from the ATN after my last battle with it in 20kn winds.... but wish that I had first tried it with a block at the bow to pull it down thru the block while standing near the mast. The electric winch idea sounds great.... as long as nothing hangs up at the mast head.

 

1240833804_SpinakerinGuemesChannel.jpg

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1 hour ago, Airwick said:

If there is something up there that can snag the sock, wouldn't it be about as likely to snag the spinnaker itself (in which case it wouldn't come down either way)? If there is something specific it might be worth spending some time and energy addressing that regardless of using a sock.

I think it's more a matter of mutual incompatibility between certain things. 

For example, a furler swivel creates a nice "ledge" that does a an excellent job of catching the semi-rigid edge of a snuffer, whereby a soft and pliable kite head (i.e. without the snuffer) just glides right over.

An electric winch could certainly help bring it down - all of it!!! ;-)

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1. In the winds where you are concerned about being able to take down the spinnaker you probably won’t feel like unfurling the screacher just to blanket it.

2. Instead of the rigid ATN sock an inflatable doughnut may be safer. 
 

3. With the pressure on the kite easing 3-4’ of spi halyard is likely to unsnag (or rip) whatever entanglement is up there. 

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No mention yet of starting both engines (on a cruising cat) and motoring downwind on a very broad reach?

Use app wind if you have it or just course if it's steady...it certainly takes the sting out of a rising wind, making any form of douse easier. Obviously it's not a good time to run over a stray line overboard, there is that! 

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I'll answer where I can specific to our current boat.

The Atlantic 57 does not have a screecher, that's what the symmetrical is for. I can put the symmetrical on either side as I run two lines to both tacks. When putting that big a sail on a furler, you're asking for nothing but weight and trouble. I have had many a conversation about this for the 72 and have decided that the setup should be exactly the same except with a soft sock. If something is hanging up at the masthead that is a setup issue, not a snuffing/furling issue.

If you are not using a winch to 'snuff' the sail you are doing a disservice to yourself. These are big sails and when you raise the main, you use a winch simply because you cannot do it manually. I see too many people trying to man handle a big symmetrical like they're deckhands on a j boat and burning thru a pair of gloves.

Grab a glass of wine, hit the winch button and snuff the dang thing. Ease up on the tacks/clews before you get to the bottom though :D

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Thanks all for the many additional responses.  To answer some of the questions...

1.) Yes we could lower the screacher to solve the problem of the sock hung up aloft on the upper swivel, but that would not be a solution for the issues we had which was the chute need to come down IMMEDIATELY.

2.) No we are not going to take the screacher down when flying the chute.  We have zero issues gybing the chute with it up (we do inside gybes).  We are double handed, and the screacher is a tough sail that gets used a lot and way to much work to raise and lower over ad over when double handed (see 5). Also the screacher may be part of the solution (see 3).

3.) Yes we could have and thought about deploying the screacher to blanket the chute.  If we had been in 20 knots of breeze (so over our self imposed wind range for the chute and when we would be switching down to the screacher anyway) I would have tried the screacher trick but as it was we were in 25-30 and thought we were likely on the edge of a disaster (though to be fair the boat showed no signs of distress... no buried bows, lifting stern, etc...) I did not want to either delay or run the risk of making things worse. But this is certainly something we want to try in the future.

4.) No to the turn on the motor.  The boat was already doing ~ 20 knots SOG.  We wanted to slow down and move the apparent aft!

5.) No to electric winches.  We have avoided things like that or windless etc... as heavy and forcing added systems and expanded batt bank.  We follow KISS and keep her light. 

Cool boat @2flit.

I think the bottom line for us is:

a.) Don't get into this position.  In addition to the wind speed limit have a boat speed limit for the chute.  Being in the lee of land we didn't get a good visual of how much the wind had picked up (and no we don't have wind instruments (see 5 above... too complicated on rotating rig)

b.) Find a better solution than the cockpit clutches for the tack line and halyard such that they can be blown even if heavily loaded.

c.) Trial the screacher as blanket in more moderate conditions.

d.) See a.

Keep them coming if you have other ideas and thanks to all fore the comments here.

As a PS we had a great sunset and moon rise sail last evening... even ran into the Pride of Baltimore headed home and got some great pics of her.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Wess said:

Thanks all for the many additional responses.  To answer some of the questions...

I would have tried the screacher trick but as it was we were in 25-30 and thought we were likely on the edge of a disaster (though to be fair the boat showed no signs of distress... no buried bows, lifting stern, etc...) I did not want to either delay or run the risk of making things worse.

You were there...both you and your wife grabbed knives for the safety of the boat even though in retrospect it probably wasn't that awful.  Does seem the safest thing is to figure out how to blow the tack no matter how much wind there is.  Hopefully you also have separate sheets and not continuous.  

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3 hours ago, Wess said:

b.) Find a better solution than the cockpit clutches for the tack line and halyard such that they can be blown even if heavily loaded.

I think being able to blow the tack line in any conditions is a key safety feature.

If you're going to renovate your tack line, I'd recommend going with a 2:1 setup. Lots of big boats do this, and it was one of the best kite-related upgrades we made on our last boat - made the 1,400 square foot kites sooooooo much easier to handle!!!

You can also use lighter line. We used 5/16 Dyneema core, and it was more than enough in even extreme conditions.

Simply run the tack line from the cockpit to the block at the end of the pole which you probably already have, up through the bale of the shackle, and back down to the end of the pole. You just need more line. 

In the cockpit we had a dedicated clutch for the tack line, which led to a cabin-top self-tailing winch, and also a Harken cam cleat adjacent to the winch for times when we didn't want to use the self-tailer. Pretty much the same setup as @Airwick's video above.

We also use the same setup on our current F-82R, except for the 2:1 which isn't really required. 

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Yea we for sure got lazy on the tack line in the clutch.  For the longest time we would always belay that to a winch and have the tack line clutch open so it could be easily blown.  But over time given we had zero issues collapsing the chute prior to take down, and have a spaghetti factory of lines in the cockpit and never enough winches, we fell out of that habit.  Its an easy fix to go back to our past practice and make that an SOP.

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On 4/27/2021 at 10:39 AM, mpenman said:

Sail a 57 with symmetrical chute. Use it all the time.

If dead downwind we won't have the main up. If we have the main up it has one reef.

We use a sock (prefer the soft socks now over the hard ATN socks).

Run the sock line to a block forward of the mast.

Pull the sock down with an electric winch. 

Never fails and no one is stressed about the chute getting outta hand.

So, to run the sock line through a block, on your sock, the pull-up line and the pull-down line must be distinct? On my, they are continuous. And it seemed to me to be the best/safest option. But I often end up in dangerous postures on the foredeck, so I like the idea of setting a block and pulling from a safe place. Any drawback to the 2 separate pull lines ?

 

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God has spoken on this subject:

”the spinnaker

written for Sailing World by Randy Smyth

It's rare in sailing when an improvement in performance can also deliver simplicity. This synergy just about defines asymmetrical spinnakers. Starting with a cross-sectional shape that resembles an airfoil, these sails have offered a known downwind advantage for years, but their popularity has been stifled by handicap rules that have outlawed their use. Now it's difficult to imagine an America's Cup without them. Asymmetrical spinnakers are considered mandatory sails aboard everything from long-distance single-handed racers, to multihulls, to cruising boats where fun is taken seriously. Whether you sail a high performance ride or are just looking for simpler sail handling, there's no better way to turbocharge your off-wind speed.

One of the most often asked questions when people are considering an asymmetrical spinnaker is whether to use a snuffer. These full-length nylon sleeves allow controlled setting and dousing completely solo. The best type has a fiberglass mouth at its base that smoothly and safely gobbles up even a massive spinnaker. Single-handed sailors swear by their snuffers, however, most racing teams have found that a proper spinnaker turtle is the quickest method for course racing. The additional step of operating the snuffer is eliminated, which allows the sail to be set quicker and flown longer before dousing at the leeward mark.

Before leaving the dock (or beach) install three or four sets of telltales along the luff of the sail, about a foot back. It's helpful to have one set down low where they're easily visible. These will play a significant role in your management of the apparent wind. Now let's have a look at how to fly these powerhouses.

Setting
Regardless of which sail-setting method you've chosen, it's time to get hooked up. Your first decision is whether to set up the sheet to jibe inside or outside. If your boat has a fixed "bowsprit" pole, it's safer and faster to jibe with the lazy sheet rigged inside. This means that the lazy sheet will pass between the headstay and the spinnaker luff (inside the spinnaker). On boats without fixed poles, the lazy sheet should be rigged outside the spinnaker (in front of the luff). There just isn't enough room between the headstay and the spinnaker when jibing.

To set up for inside, the tack line should be over the sheet when hooking up the sail. For safetyit's best to tie the two sheets to the clew separately. Don't attach them to a common snap shackle -- you're asking for trouble if the shackle ever opens accidentally, and it's dangerous to have a heavy piece of metal flailing around above the foredeck. Finally, attach the halyardand you're ready for action.

Here's the Golden Rule for setting asymmetrical spinnakers for racers and cruisers alike: Always set in the wind shadow of the mainsail. Even if your intended course is a beam reach, the skipper can make life much easier for the crew by steering downwind during the hoist.

Here's the proper order for a set out of a turtle bag: Raise the halyard and trim the tack line, then sheet in. If you're using a snuffer, raise the halyard, trim the tack line, haul up the snuffer, and sheet in. Be sure the halyard and tack line are both set and cleated before trimming the sheet.

Larger boats should be organized with the halyard and tack line controls close together. This allows the cruising sailor to operate both single-handedly. Racers will be more efficient with two people working together as a team.
If you're sailing a small, double-handed catamaran, the best hardware system incorporates a combination halyard/tack line, which eliminates one step when setting and dousing. Experience has shown that the crew should hoist the halyard/tack line with both hands, while the driver trims the sheet with one hand initially during the hoist.

In double-trapeze winds, catamarans and dinghies have the fastest sets with the driver on the trapeze throughout the set. Once the spinnaker is flying in these conditions, the crew trims the sheet while the driver plays the main.

Trimming
Now it's time to extract the performance potential of your asymmetrical spinnaker. Apparent wind plays a vital role in cranking up the boatspeed. Unlike conventional spinnakers that operate on sheer pulling power, asymmetrical spinnakers are shaped to turn the wind and produce lift. Technically, when used properly, an asymmetrical spinnaker can produce nearly 1.8 times the power of a similar-sized conventional spinnaker that is sailed dead downwind.


Here's a simple routine that I've used successfully on boats from the America's Cup to International 14s:

--Steer to keep the apparent wind at 90 degrees. (We'll optimize this angle later.) If you're not instrument-equipped, a masthead fly or shroudtelltales work well.
--Adjust the spinnaker sheet until the leeward telltales are flowing.
--Steer by the telltales, maintaining a constant apparent wind angle.
--Adjust the jib sheet for proper telltale flow (more on flying the jib later), but keep steering by the spinnaker telltales.
--Make sure your main is optimized for maximum power by overtrimming the sheet until it stalls, then easing out slowly until the leeward telltales just begin to flow.

Now the driver can steer by the spinnaker luff telltales and the whole sailplan is tuned for the apparent wind angle (in this case 90 degrees). Simple, isn't it? Why 90 degrees? That's the tricky part. Every boat has a different optimum apparent wind angle for it's best VMG downwind. For the America's Cup catamaran, the apparent wind was best at 28 to 32 degrees while screeching downwind on one hull. F27 trimarans are optimized with the asymmetrical spinnaker and fixed pole at 90 degrees apparent. International 14s perform best at 90 to 100 degrees in planing conditions. Finding the elusive optimum apparent wind angle is similar to finding the optimum angle to sail upwind. Instrument packages that output VMG will get you close, but sparring with a similar boat will always answer this question best.

The technique of steering by the asymmetrical spinnaker telltales not only wins races but greatly reduces crew fatigue. While conventional spinnakers require the sheet to be trimmed nearly nonstop, asymmetrical spinnakers simply require an attentive driver.

Just remember that all your sails are trimmed in unison for a given apparent wind angle. If the leeward spinnaker telltale stalls it means that the jib and main are also stalled. When this happens your lift diminishes dramatically. The driver should head up quickly until the leeward spinnaker telltales regain flow. When you're looking for more power, a great technique is double-slotting. Whenever the apparent wind is less than about 100 degrees, (and this is usually the case when reaching in a multihull or fast planing dinghy) a jib can be quite effective when used with an asymmetrical spinnaker. If you have a fixed pole and it's over half the length of your foredeck, you're a candidate for double-slotting. The jib gives you a double advantage -- more sail area and increased the circulation around the mainsail. This provides attached flow on the leeward side of the main for increased efficiency. On non-rotating masts this is a very effective way to smooth out the turbulence caused by the mast section.

So much for creating maximum power. What about depowering? Here the answer is the same for both multihulls and monohulls. In heavy air, safety is found by choosing a larger apparent wind angle. In other words, trim for a more downwind course. When reaching in puffy conditions, always release the mainsheet first. This creates leeward helm, which automatically helps steer the boat downwind (even if your rudder is in the air or cavitated). Only release the spinnaker sheet as a last resort.

Fine-tuning of the asymmetrical spinnaker luff will help make it user-friendly. If your spinnaker collapses without warning, it probably has too flat an entry. An easy cure is to tighten the halyard, which will round out the entry. However, if your spinnaker has a perpetual curl in the luff, it's time to ease off the halyard a bit to flatten the entry.

Jibing
Here's where the simplicity of the asymmetrical spinnaker really shines. Setting up for a jibe is easy -- no one even has to leave the cockpit. Just make sure that the spinnaker sheets are clear. As in most maneuvers, communication is an important element in executing consistently smooth jibes. To initiate the jibe the driver should let the crew know when the jibe is started. This alerts the spinnaker trimmer to ease the sheet slowly to keep the sail filled as long as possible during the turn. The object is to let the spinnaker "float" forward and allow it to pass to the new side without catching on the headstay. It helps to steer a smooth, wide arc. We're talking slow turn.

When the spinnaker starts to droop in the mainsail's wind shadow, the trimmer fully releases the old sheet and trims in the new one. During this portion of the jibe, the driver can speed up the turn to help the spinnaker "snap" full on the new jibe.

Final trimming is a repeat of the apparent wind routine: Steer to the apparent wind, adjust the spinnaker sheet, then adjust the jib. At this point I use the mainsail as a report care. If the mainsail's leeward telltales are flowing properly, you've successfully duplicated your previous jib's apparent wind angle. If they're stalled, it's time to sheet in the spinnaker for a closer angle.

Once you find an optimum apparent wind angle for your boat downwind in an average wind strength, mark your sheets. Be sure you lay both sheets side by side to mark them evenly. Use the marks as references to work from at different wind velocities and sailing angles. This will greatly improve your downwind consistency.

Dousing
All good things must end. At dousing time, the Golden Rule applies again: Always douse in the wind shadow of the mainsail.
If you're using a snuffer the order goes like this: Release the tack line, pull the snuffer sleeve over the spinnaker, then release the halyard. The sleeve is gathered to leeward just forward of the boom, near the mast in the mainsail's wind shadow.
For crew using a conventional spinnaker bag, dousing consists of simply releasing the tack line, then easing the halyard as the sail is gathered (in the mainsail's shadow) into the bag. To guarantee that the halyard and tack lines can't get tangled, I make it a habit of throwing their tails overboard. Yes, it causes a bit of drag, but life is much worse when the halyard gets stuck halfway down at a crowded mark rounding. If you're anticipating another set, just leave the lines attached and you're ready to go again."

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3 hours ago, Max Rockatansky said:

God has spoken on this subject:

"To guarantee that the halyard and tack lines can't get tangled, I make it a habit of throwing their tails overboard. Yes, it causes a bit of drag, but life is much worse when the halyard gets stuck halfway down at a crowded mark rounding. If you're anticipating another set, just leave the lines attached and you're ready to go again."

This is absolutely brilliant!!!

52 minutes ago, johnstarks said:

I've used this on large cats, https://www.deckchute.com/ takes some practices but works well.  Works best with high speed electric winch especially for big sails on boats over 60ft.  Not as fool proof as a snuffer but you can use it for multiple kites.   

The Flying Phantom has one built into their prod:

image.thumb.png.4ac0654dbce7b0242f7a450c14a0e7ed.png

That's a much smaller scale, but lots of bigger monohulls are using a similar concept with a spinnaker retrieval lines attached to the middle of the sail and connected to high speed winches. 

 

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Similar sized rigs and sails on a 40', 6,000 pound tri and a 44', 16,000 pound, cat, mostly (old) mom and pop for crew. Both boats with 60' and 56' luff length asymmetric runners use ATN socks which, in our experience pretty much guarantee relatively civilized retrieval and deployment running low, behind the main with one of us on the sheet, the other on the snuffer up/down line and autopilot steering. We don't run those sails much over 15 knots, true and always with full mainsail 'cos that's the most efficient sail on board both boats and we are changing down to smaller screecher type sails on torque line furlers in more breeze, but still at 90 degree apparent wind angle with those big, beautiful mainsails flying well off the boat centerline.

  Last year I bought an FX4500 top down furler which worked well in light air on the big asymmetic, on the cat, after the torque line was oversized. We will be evaluating it in breeze but I suspect we will revert to the ATN on on those big, full, light asymmetrics.

We also have full, laminate, reachers - rather full for bottom furling - that work OK with the top down and may well justify the expense of that system but at 68 and 69 my wife and I will find out this season.

The cat and tri perform very differently under their similar sized rigs, one fixed, one rotating. The tri with almost masthead and fractional asymmetrics to choose from but, for me, dousing those big, stretchy chutes sooner rather than later saves a  lot of drama. 

Your shorthanded crew criteria should have you focus more on getting the best out of your mainsail - that's why it's called the MAIN-sail! Big, unruly off wind sails are best enjoyed racing with a good crew launched and retrieved out of a turtle.

And HEY multihull guys - when I start taking pointers from monohull racers (Quantum) with a rugby team of athletes aboard I am gonna swallow the anchor. Remember - what we are enjoying here mostly came out of low budget, amateur OSTAR.

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23 hours ago, Ganzi said:

So, to run the sock line through a block, on your sock, the pull-up line and the pull-down line must be distinct? On my, they are continuous. And it seemed to me to be the best/safest option. But I often end up in dangerous postures on the foredeck, so I like the idea of setting a block and pulling from a safe place. Any drawback to the 2 separate pull lines ?

 

On my symmetrical the line is a single through a block at the top of the spinnaker to the sock. 'Top End' pulls the sock up, the other end pulls the sock down.

I have both tack and clew lines to both sides of the spinnaker so AWA change is easy. I'm comfortable flying it to 15 apparent and then I think about getting it down. That's normally in the 22-30 true. If you are just flying the chute then dousing requires a winch, manual, electric, don't matter, but you need that purchase.

Ease the tack and you bring down the snuffer, once you are a third of the way down that monster becomes a puddycat, even in a good chunk of wind.

On the next boat it will be an asymmetrical that is 350sq/m or 3700 sq/ft. Still using a snuffer, but using Etienne's (ATN) soft collar with a sleeve.

When sailing I keep the spinnaker with all lines connected on a turtle bag on the net. Frankly it's an awesome sail in moderate temperatures. Once you are 100% confident you can get that thing doused, you will use it all the time, even on a 40 minute run. Frankly that is why we sail, turn off the motors, sail off the wind and enjoy the are of moving your boat sans engines. The last 2 months I used that sail almost as much as my genoa.

When figuring out where to put the block to pull it down, do it a few times and figure out what is best. I have both a genoa and staysail on my boat so depending on where the spinnaker is, depends on where I'll put a snatch block for the sock. Surprisingly it's not a lot of force, but it's more force than a single person can handle, hence the winch.

I think all spinnaker dousing should consider a winch, especially on a cruising boat. 

This method can be done single handed too.

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20 hours ago, boardhead said:

Similar sized rigs and sails on a 40', 6,000 pound tri and a 44', 16,000 pound, cat, mostly (old) mom and pop for crew. Both boats with 60' and 56' luff length asymmetric runners use ATN socks which, in our experience pretty much guarantee relatively civilized retrieval and deployment running low, behind the main with one of us on the sheet, the other on the snuffer up/down line and autopilot steering. We don't run those sails much over 15 knots, true and always with full mainsail 'cos that's the most efficient sail on board both boats and we are changing down to smaller screecher type sails on torque line furlers in more breeze, but still at 90 degree apparent wind angle with those big, beautiful mainsails flying well off the boat centerline.

  Last year I bought an FX4500 top down furler which worked well in light air on the big asymmetic, on the cat, after the torque line was oversized. We will be evaluating it in breeze but I suspect we will revert to the ATN on on those big, full, light asymmetrics.

We also have full, laminate, reachers - rather full for bottom furling - that work OK with the top down and may well justify the expense of that system but at 68 and 69 my wife and I will find out this season.

The cat and tri perform very differently under their similar sized rigs, one fixed, one rotating. The tri with almost masthead and fractional asymmetrics to choose from but, for me, dousing those big, stretchy chutes sooner rather than later saves a  lot of drama. 

Your shorthanded crew criteria should have you focus more on getting the best out of your mainsail - that's why it's called the MAIN-sail! Big, unruly off wind sails are best enjoyed racing with a good crew launched and retrieved out of a turtle.

And HEY multihull guys - when I start taking pointers from monohull racers (Quantum) with a rugby team of athletes aboard I am gonna swallow the anchor. Remember - what we are enjoying here mostly came out of low budget, amateur OSTAR.

Know you and your boat (well the tri).  Respect.  And another vote for the sock.  Don't think I can use one with the screacher hoisted (and its staying hoisted) but I need to look at that more carefully. Too many of of you have good things to say about socks.

Have to disagree with you though re your last line about the monohull folks.  Been sailing (including blue water cruising) large multis for decades.  Took up racing later in my life and spent time racing dinghies, multihulls and monohulls and I for sure have learned tricks from all of them that we have applied to our cruising multis.

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WESS - I never leave the screecher up unless it's deployed - too much windage, dirty air, weight aloft and UV wear and tear plus it only takes a couple minutes to flake it into the turtle and velcro the flaps shut. On the tri that fat bundle sat in front of the jib is horrible and nixes a bunch of refinements we may as well not have bothered with - via a viz - carbon spar with bulky furled screecher leading the fray or good 'ol alloy stick and clean air - same performance.

You asked about short handed handling of big, offwind sails on a multi - there is nothing to be learned, for me, from circuit racing a big buck sponsored nuts tech monohull crewed by a dozen guys and multiple rugby teams (15 a piece for Union) on a big one. Did you see the interior of that thing!

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22 minutes ago, boardhead said:

WESS - I never leave the screecher up unless it's deployed - too much windage, dirty air, weight aloft and UV wear and tear plus it only takes a couple minutes to flake it into the turtle and velcro the flaps shut. On the tri that fat bundle sat in front of the jib is horrible and nixes a bunch of refinements we may as well not have bothered with - via a viz - carbon spar with bulky furled screecher leading the fray or good 'ol alloy stick and clean air - same performance.

You asked about short handed handling of big, offwind sails on a multi - there is nothing to be learned, for me, from circuit racing a big buck sponsored nuts tech monohull crewed by a dozen guys and multiple rugby teams (15 a piece for Union) on a big one. Did you see the interior of that thing!

I hear you and agree on all your points re the screacher.  But yet it does and will still stay up.  We also have a good 'ol alloy stick and you could not pay me to take a carbon one (OK you could pay me but I ain't paying for it... ask me about our lighting strike).  We are cruisers and not racing.  Ease of use matters a lot to us and raising the lowering the screacher is a PITA. Did that too many years when racing. Thanks NO!  Our focus is 1.) safety and robustness, 2.) ease of use (without sacrificing significant weight gains), 3.) simple (and light) systems, 4.) fast is fun, 5.) comfort (stove, fridge/freezer, hot water, shower) is nice, 6.) everything else.

We have some easy changes we can make.  We got out of the habit of taking the tack line to a winch and keeping that clutch open.  Even if we never need that safety valve given our planned wind range uses as we proved to ourselves sh*t happens and sometimes you find yourself in 25-30 with a full main and chute. 

Second thing I want to play with and try is to NOT turn down before our next douse (this would simulate the apparent wind direction we had when overpowered and turned down (ie chute still drawing and unable to be collapsed behind main) and just blow the tack and see how the chute behaves. I suspect the chute will sit nicely behind the main for an easy gather.  Also want to play with using the screacher to first blanket and collapse the chute and do same (recover chute without turn down).  A few here and off line PMs have suggested this and its another reason to leave the screacher up frankly.

I do greatly appreciate all the feedback on this thread.  Not sure that it changed anything but certainly confirmed a few things we were thinking.  We had never planned to be in the spot we found ourselves in and am glad the worse that came out of it is that I get to admit here that I screwed up and put myself (wife and boat) into a situation we both thought we were smart enough to not get into!!  But at least we were smart enough (and the boat's design and set-up) string enough that we came out the other end with zero damage.  Not even a tear in the chute.  Hell I didn't even go shrimping.  JINX!!!

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Regarding takedowns without bearing away, the main issue I've had is when blowing the tack the spin will not get sucked behind the main and end up as a "flag" from the clew with the tack flying far away to leeward). I've had start wrapping around the shroud in the process too and that wasn't pretty...

When using the screecher, it's actually helpful to overtrim the screecher so it is stalled as that's what really makes the spin stick to it. If it's trimmed properly the airflow along the back will tend to spit the spin out the back where it (or at least parts of it) could come free and start flying away from you. The over sheeted screecher also limits the flow on the back of the main further containing the spin as you gather the foot.

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Yes some risks to it which is why I want to play a bit in moderate conditions where it’s easy to solve any problems. The one thing we had going for us when we got into this mess was a ton of boat time and experience doing all kinds of variations on our protocols like what I am planning above. So there was never any panic. Concern and a realization that expediency was absolutely needed but as concerned as we both were neither did anything that made matters worse. It was game on, including for the beat up the narrow entrance channel and river and then it was bottoms up drinking once the anchor was down. Then clean up then debrief LOL. 

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One suggestion that I have read, but never put into practice, was to fit a ratchet block with snap shackle to the endless snuffing line. Sometimes the loads get pretty big and I hooked it around a nearby cleat while snuffing until a gust passed.

If you had a ratchet block secured to the deck, you could sit down and pull and it would hold some of the load

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Sorry WESS but you missed my point - I did not suggest for a moment that you get a carbon stick, rather in regard to the furled screecher left aloft my view is that the loss in windward performance it causes would negate the gain found in the carbon versus alloy investment - or other hard won improvements.

I included comments on both our craft, their primary use being family cruising like yours -  our current racing activities are on the cruising cat and we do better than OK!

I also would suggest that putting up additional sail area - particularly a closer winded sail best used at  higher angles - to blanket an overpowered chute is hazardous. If you can't carry the chute higher than 140 true off the wind - lose it - that 40 degree bear away is your safety margin.

Many trimarans have inadequate offwind mainsheet control - presenting a well shaped mainsail well off centerline provides a bigger, safer blanket for that unruly chute and in any case allows you to run deeper without chafe and gyrations.

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3 hours ago, boardhead said:

You asked about short handed handling of big, offwind sails on a multi - there is nothing to be learned, for me, from circuit racing a big buck sponsored nuts tech monohull crewed by a dozen guys and multiple rugby teams (15 a piece for Union) on a big one. Did you see the interior of that thing!

Many of us use the lazy sheet as the "takedown line", but I personally find the "belly button takedown line" in the middle of the chute quite interesting, regardless of whether you pull it into a hatch or down onto a net.

2 hours ago, Wess said:

Second thing I want to play with and try is to NOT turn down before our next douse (this would simulate the apparent wind direction we had when overpowered and turned down (ie chute still drawing and unable to be collapsed behind main) and just blow the tack and see how the chute behaves. I suspect the chute will sit nicely behind the main for an easy gather.  Also want to play with using the screacher to first blanket and collapse the chute and do same (recover chute without turn down).  A few here and off line PMs have suggested this and its another reason to leave the screacher up frankly.

 

1 hour ago, Airwick said:

Regarding takedowns without bearing away, the main issue I've had is when blowing the tack the spin will not get sucked behind the main and end up as a "flag" from the clew with the tack flying far away to leeward). I've had start wrapping around the shroud in the process too and that wasn't pretty...

We typically race double-handed (not husband and wife but a couple of goons) and often carry our kite to about 60' AWA, which is about 150' TWA in a moderate breeze. Bearing away to douse often isn't a good option, either due to tactics or obstructions, so we do a lot of douses with the apparent wind forward of the beam, and like @Airwick says you wind up with a giant flag off the stern quarter. Our tack line is long enough that we can pull the whole mess aboard aft of the shroud, but our kite is also quite a bit smaller than @Wess's. 

 

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1 hour ago, Zonker said:

One suggestion that I have read, but never put into practice, was to fit a ratchet block with snap shackle to the endless snuffing line. Sometimes the loads get pretty big and I hooked it around a nearby cleat while snuffing until a gust passed.

If you had a ratchet block secured to the deck, you could sit down and pull and it would hold some of the load

Thanks Zonker. Great idea if I go down the sock path. 

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Wess

 

40 foot dazcat - asymetric kites -- normally furler A 3 -- one in a snuffer A 2 and a little A3 whihc we use bareheaded and letter box if necessary 

 

Hope all good?

 

Kind regards

Bruce

 

 

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4 hours ago, Bruce Sutherland said:

Wess

 

40 foot dazcat - asymetric kites -- normally furler A 3 -- one in a snuffer A 2 and a little A3 whihc we use bareheaded and letter box if necessary 

 

Hope all good?

 

Kind regards

Bruce

 

 

Thanks. And yes all good. Chute came back out of the bag this weekend. Kept looking at it expecting to find damage... but nothing!

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