View Full Version : spinnakers or not

11-29-2022, 07:09 AM
Hi Folks,
I would like to hear about the experiences, relative to performance, of folks who have raced single-handed without spinnakers. For Me, the SHTP comes under the bucket list category. My goal is to finish in under 21 days. I would appreciate hearing the experiences of those who have done it, if any, and if they have made it in the 21 day time limit.
my boat is a steel Bruce Roberts 38 Spray derivative? Its heavy, and I expect a rating in excess of 200. I suspect line honors are out. In fact I would not be entering this race, in this boat, if the SHTP had a history of a significant amount of beating. The J measurement is 20 feet to the end of the six foot bowsprit, and the I measurement is about 51 feet. The gaff Rig mainsail is about 670 square feet . I have two large genoa's. A full size spinnaker would be huge. The plan is to pole out both genoa's, and experiment with the main and mizzen staysail on boat spped effect.
So, can I finish in time. The closest similarly styled boat boat that I recognize as a past entrant is the Westsail 32: Tey have finished in 16-18 days. I dont know if any of them sailed with spinnakers?

11-29-2022, 10:17 AM
A pair or large headsails poled out are nearly as fast as a spinnaker without the fuss. If you have extra budget for more sails I would get a nice set of "Twins" built over a full sized spinnaker.

11-29-2022, 06:54 PM
I got the same question for myself… I am hesitant to predict any SHTP finish based on PHRF as compared with the Westsail 32s because those Westsail 32s in the SHTP are really good sailors… Look up the history and you will find a Westsail 32 beating many "faster" boats when sailed really well (and beating them by a lot). I do have a spreadsheet for past SHTP results and I will post that when I get past 2012 (which is where the easy to scrape results stop). So far looks like it tops out at 20 days (excluding the FADs).

So I was also about to post a note about twin headsails… but maybe it belongs here. I got some questions on rigging. Everybody raves about their twin setup but nobody explains how theirs works. I have a Schaefer 2100 furler with a big aluminum lug welded to the bottom drum intended for a shackle (D or snap) and one headsail. I have two grooves on the foil. Here is what I am working on, shoot me down. I have two 130% high-cut Genoas. Call it 40 ft luff for arguments sake with a 20 ft foot, each. I hoist a double block attached to the top drum. I happen to find that a climbing double pulley works best so far, a GM CLIMBING 40kN Micro Double Pulley. It has snatch action though I dont normally need that, but its nice to be able to pull out the halyard from the pulley quickly in some kind of emergency. I hoist two 5/16 halyards on that double pulley. The halyards have a spliced eye at the bottom (yes, the bottom). The problem is what to do with all the excess line when you hoist either Genoa. So I cut it off and eye splice it at about 40 ft. of length. Bear with me and I will explain. At the bottom drum I use two climbing cams, one for each halyard, and so far the best is a Climbing Technology CT Rollnlock 2D625. The eye splice will go through this cam. When I want to hoist I join another 40 ft of 5/16, also terminated with a spliced eye, to the first length using a Dyneema shackle, and that too passes through the cam. So everything can go through the cam: two eyes and a soft shackle. (Thats why it is 5/16 line). Now I can hoist (and lower) from the foredeck without needing to faff with a prefeeder, its all there in my hands. The only tricky part so far is the attachment of everything on the bottom drum. I got a working system but it uses the drum plate right now, which is not meant to take vertical loads. I need a simple "rigging plate" to let the single lug on the bottom drum attach not only to two Genoa tacks but also the cams that lock the halyards. Not hard, just an aluminium plate.

Sounds complicated I agree, but it does work, and pretty well. So please shoot me down and maybe explain a better way? Maybe explain why hoisting one Genoa normally and then the other separately is better than trying to hoist two independently? Or why I should just stitch two headsails together. However, I can barely hoist one 130% Genoa and definitely have trouble flaking and packing it on deck (or anywhere), let alone a two-headed monster.

11-29-2022, 08:41 PM
Here is an Excel spreadsheet with SHTP results you can play with to get some idea of finish time. Credits are in the spreadsheet. So far only up to 2012 because beyond that I have to scrape each event individually. I will post the whole lot when I finish, but things wont change that much. Sheet 1 is raw. Sheet 2 you can sort by whatever you want.


11-29-2022, 09:38 PM
Everybody raves about their twin setup but nobody explains how theirs works.
I don't rave about my setup, but it's adequate. I have a 125% high-clewed jib that I hoist in the Tuff Luff and pole out with the whisker pole. And I have a 107% staysail with a wire luff that I free-fly on the other jib halyard. I can use the outgrabber -- a block hanging from the main boom -- to hold its sheet out. So it's sort of a funky setup, but I used it two nights in a row in the 2010 SHTP and hit my highest speeds of the race. And I could stay below most of the time, which I wouldn't do with a spinnaker up.

Some people like to name their sails. I thought I'd call my mismatched twins Arnold and Danny, but the names didn't stick.

As for the question "spinnakers or not", if I'm not mistaken Philippe won the '18 race without ever flying one. And I think someone else was first to finish a previous race without flying a spinnaker on a fairly heavy boat.


11-29-2022, 10:12 PM
Max: Thanks! Thats actually a very do-able and simple setup. I like simple. What I would not have known was how well it worked. I do have a very old wire plus hanks reacher sort of sail with 40 ft luff and 20 ft foot that was with the boat before the furler was installed, but it is light, around 0.75 oz. I could fly that either free or on Dyneema line, but couldn't reef it. I think I would have problems getting that sail down at 3am. Do you set both sails from the same point or is more like a cutter? The more I read about this issue, the more I like the idea of having a rig with multiple stays and just using sails on different stays for downwind. Single-handers seem to be moving away from using spinnakers so much.


11-30-2022, 12:32 PM
Do you set both sails from the same point or is more like a cutter?
Same point. I'm set up to peel from one jib to another -- two grooves in the Tuff Luff, two tack hooks, two halyards at the top of the headstay -- so I just use the free tack hook and halyard.

I'm still set on using the spinnaker unless the wind gets up beyond some (ill-defined) level.

12-03-2022, 09:35 AM
This came up in Dave Hodges seminar… spinnaker thong. I got a couple old spinnakers: one from Schurr and one given to me that I may mess about with including the "thong mod"… it makes sense to me.

I found this reference just before David's seminar on sail trimming and posted it during the seminar but it wasn't easy to find so also attaching here: https://www.sfbaysss.org/archive-shtp-websites/transpac2008/seminar_handouts/paul_kamen_spinnaker_thong.pdf

… and more recently I found this reference, which has a bunch of great advice on sails and switching between spinnaker and twin jibs: when, why and how: https://www.practical-sailor.com/marine-electronics/singlehanded-sailors-notebook.

… and this is worth a read, including the point where, I think, Paul Kamen invents the thong: https://groups.google.com/g/rec.boats.cruising/c/aKth5QCgmow


12-03-2022, 11:42 AM
Back to the OP - If you're considering Racing. Downwind. to Hawaii, consider the boredom factor. In 2006 the wind was light for much of the race. Dr. Lou was racing his Swan 51 and hadn't intended to fly a spinnaker. One day we were within VHF range and he called over to talk about it. He had already polished all the sterling and crystal, been tempted by the petit fours, scrubbed the jacuzzi and re-tuned the baby grand. He was bored. So we talked through how to fly his enormous masthead asymmetric and up it went. As I recall he had some issues but it gave him something to do.

12-03-2022, 01:06 PM
Jim: I think that Google Groups thread "Spinnaker for singlehanding" will help you answer your question and you might find this useful, I did: https://www.sailworldcruising.com/news/202071/Spinnaker-vs-Twins

One problem with twin Genoas is that both of mine are very heavy, and I can barely wrestle with one on the deck by myself. I don't know how anyone gets a full-size, say 130% cruising Genoa, back into a sailbag by themselves on deck. Maybe there's some trick I don't know about. I bought a big, long but very lightweight sausage bag made by Ullman from Blue Pelican. Its about 16 ft long a 14" x 14" and that contains the mess on the deck until I can figure it out later. How heavy are your headsails?

I'm leaning towards using twin headsails but taking a spinnaker or maybe two with me in case twin headsails is just unmanageable. With a compression sack a spinnaker is smaller than a sleeping bag. I dont think I have time or budget to make lightweight twins.

12-03-2022, 03:22 PM
Hey, kids! Have you considered using the advanced search here on the forum? There are pertinent threads if you just type "spinnaker" into the key word box. Might save you some time, and focus on the singlehander participating in a race, not a cruiser dilly dallying across a lake. Just a suggestion.

12-03-2022, 04:56 PM
Hi Jackie! I made a list of what I found, maybe its useful IDK. My own searching had a very similar motivation to Jim's original question. I too am more interested in getting there than being first, but I realize some are more interested in racing than others.

I tried SSS before I went the Internet route. I did start with keyword "spinnaker" and got 372 threads. I read every one of the 50 on the first two pages of results and just two were "sort of" relevant:

If you search deeper and looks for twins, there is this (short) thread
and this one

There is a detailed post from BobJ on twins here:
but that wasn't really the question …

and since I'm sort of compiling the links I found, here's one from Synthia on nets that prompted me to get one from her:

Thats about it… I *think*... If you know of any other relevant threads or know an even better way to find stuff here LMK. Thanks!

The Google Groups thread includes some pretty hard-core sailors including single-handers, sail-makers, SHTP and SSS folks all chiming in on "spinnakers or not". I learned a lot from it.

Some other "Internet" threads on my list, just for reference…

12-04-2022, 10:22 AM
As a newb to spinnaker handling prior to the 2018 SHTP I found Andrew Evans book helpful.
Focused toward racing and lighter boats there is a wealth of information.

Practice extensively with whatever sail combinations you intend to use.
I raced as many singlehanded events as I could and set a kite as often as possible. Made lots of mistakes too!

Lighter boats surf and accelerate bringing the apparent wind forward and necessitating constant trim, or a funky trim compromise.
Driving was fun, even for many hours.

The most trouble I had was during hoist.
Twice the boat took a quartering sea, the autopilot reacted too slowly and we came up into the wind mid-hoist, the kite filled and took the halyard out of my hand, dumping the kite in the water.
One time as the spinnaker filled with water behind the boat like a giant drogue, I couldn't release the slip knot at the end of the sheet. As I reached for my knife the knot peeled off the end of the sheet releasing the load.
That was a close one!

Things can and will happen out there, but having a boat and skills you can trust will pay dividends.

12-07-2022, 02:27 PM
In 2018 I did have plenty of spinnakers but didn't use them. My setup was fairly simple. I had a twin foil, which allowed me to carry the #3 to leeward and the poled-out #2 to windward. The manufacturer had recommended against carrying two sails in their foil but I guess I must have forgotten about that.

More recently I have found that having 3 lines to control the pole (foreguy, topping lift, afterguy) allows me to first set the pole, pull the foot of the windward headsail through, then hoist it. Same works for takedown.

tiger beetle
12-07-2022, 10:40 PM
With a roller furling headsail foil setup it is nice to retain the roller furler/reefing functionality when flying twin headsails downwind - fly the entirety of both sails in light air, and progressively roll up the headsails when the wind builds beyond where you're comfortable. To make that work you will need the ability to either take down the normal upwind headsail and hoist two separate sails, or retain the normal upwind headsail and hoist a second sail adjacent to it. Normally a furler with two luff tape grooves won't work for hoisting a second sail in the second luff groove on its own halyard while retaining the furling/reefing function. Sounds like you've come up with a solution for that. Verify that the upper/lower blocks/plates won't damage the furler foils when the sail is rolled up.

One issue to consider is the weight of the headsails - you don't need (or want) a heavy sail when running deep in light air as the sail's weight is likely to collapse the sail. Try running deep with the sail you have and see how well it works as the wind gets lighter; when the sail just flops down from its own weight then you've found the minimum apparent wind speed that sail works well in. Decide if that's OK for your purposes.

What I did was have a pair of purpose-built extra full and deeply rounded luff 155% headsails built out of 1.5 oz nylon and stitched to a common luff tape. The resulting sail was far lighter than my normal upwind headsail, and I was informed that it looks as though Beetle is flying a brassiere when running DDW. To use the twins (I call the sail a "butterfly" as I liken it to having butterfly wings) I have to drop the existing headsail, stuff that sail down below (where it gets folded and bagged later), and then hoist the butterfly. Hoisting a giant sail with two halves is not easy, paraticularly if you point the boat DDW as each half wants to blow over the bow pulpit and wrap around the headstay. The easiest solution I found is to reach up slightly and hoist the sail with the wings overlapped to leeward, that keeps the sail under control and definitely on one side of the boat, making access to the luff tape (for feeding purposes if it jams going into the groove) relatively easy.

The downside to a purpose-built light air downwind sail is I have to swap back to an upwind sail for going upwind, as the butterfly is too full to point in light air and too lightly-built to handle the loads sailing upwind in moderate air. Beam reaching in 10 knots of wind it will do, when both wings are sheeted to leeward.

I swap out to the butterfly after crossing the ridge, and it remains up until the finish. When I want to fly the kite (which I do fairly often) I roll up the butterfly and set the kite. If there's a squall or more wind than I want for a kite, down comes the kite onto the deck, I stuff it down below for repacking, and unroll the butterfly. As long as the boat doesn't need to go upwind the butterfly really works well.

Philippe's point about setting the weather sail to the pole (and positioning the pole with its own independent lift/foreguy/afterguy) is spot on, as is Max's point of using the outgrabber and boom to act as the leeward pole. Beetle does carry two poles but only one is used, the second pole is on board as backup in case I break the first one.

- rob/beetle

12-10-2022, 02:27 PM
Hi all,
I appreciate every response to my "Spinnakers or Not" inquiry thread. The opinions and relating of past experiences was very informative. Therefore I have ordered a sail kit from Sailrite consisting of two sails, generally shaped like a big genoa, made of 1.5 oz. fabric, and sewed together with a joint luff tape to be sewed for the roller furler. Part of my decision was influenced by an experience in the 1984 Ostar on a custom made J_35, for the race.i had a 4 foot longer penalty pole and a sail that took every inch of extra area that was legal for the pole. When the wind piped up and I became nervous about controling the boat, the snuffler did not work and the sail damn near drug me overboard. Amongst other lessons learned, might be to not try out brilliant new ideas in the middle of a 3000 mile ocean race. Or maybe That Rod Johnstone knew a Lot more about yacht design then I ever did, or will.

12-17-2022, 08:06 PM
>> Therefore I have ordered a sail kit from Sailrite consisting of two sails, generally shaped like a big genoa, made of 1.5 oz. fabric, and sewed together with a joint luff tape to be sewed for the roller furler.

Jim: that plan of yours is really interesting to me. I'm in the same camp as you. Please let me know how this all comes out as you progress.

I guess you are following in the steps of this thread: https://www.sfbaysss.org/forum/showthread.php?26-Twin-Headsails

I looked at Sailrite kits https://www.sailrite.com/sailmaking but do they have a kit for twin headsails?

02-01-2023, 07:02 PM
This thread sort of morphed from spinnakers to twins, which is fine as thats what jimb522 asked and wanted to know I think. Me too.

I said >> One problem with twin Genoas is that both of mine are very heavy, and I can barely wrestle with one on the deck by myself.

Tiger Beetle said >> What I did was have a pair of purpose-built extra full and deeply rounded luff 155% headsails built out of 1.5 oz nylon

jimb522 said >> I have ordered a sail kit from Sailrite consisting of two sails, generally shaped like a big genoa, made of 1.5 oz. fabric

Here's where I am. I have two 130% genoas both almost exactly the same shape. One is Neil Pryde, one Precision Sails. Neither are what I would call s jib top but they are not deck sweepers. They are heavy through. About 45 lb.

So talking to my sailmaker, we are currently working on duplicating the existing genoa shape in 3.8 oz. nylon, with no Sunbrella protection, which should come out at about 15 lb. or less. The 3.8 oz. is a compromise choice and I dont know if its the right choice. The idea is that I can hoist the light headwind sail as a twin independently of the heavy genoa which always stays on the furler. I can stuff the light genoa into a bag and forget about flaking, which I believe is impossible anyway no matter how hard I try. I can also fly the light and heavy sails together as a sandwich.

Any comments? on anything? Thanks!!

02-02-2023, 08:03 AM
I didn't fly a spinnaker in 2018 and made it in 16 days. I flew a spinnaker in PacCup in 2022 and (would have) made it in 18 days, but we ran on engine power for a few hours toward the end so was DSQ'd. We had light wind pretty much the whole time. But my boat is an odd duck Freedom 38. It can sail very well on main alone when downwind.