Racing Tips. Solid info on what to do and how to do it when the pressure mounts and the adrenalin flows, or "How not to shout at each other during a race..."
By Max Williamson
When Jeff Johnstone asked me to sail as bowman aboard the new J/92 "Zenda Express" for Yachting's Block Island Race Week, I thought he might be kidding. After all, what does a bowman do on a boat with a bowsprit and all the lines led aft? I envisioned lengthy naps below between chapters of the latest Clancy novel. However, I soon found that bow on the J/92 could be a thinking person's position and could be a lot of fun.
While the J/92 is far more simple to handle downwind than a conventional foredeck setup, its extendable „J/Sprit¾ and asymmetric spinnaker require a new approach to foredeck. After a lot of experimentation we came up with a fast, smooth, and effective downwind system that proved itself as we kept the 93-111 PHRF fleet at arms length throughout the week.
Setting up the Foredeck
Upwind, the J/92 foredeck is similar to other performance boats. For the regatta, we carried only two headsails: the Mylar/Kevlar 15396 genoa and a dacron 100% jib. All round-the-buoy headsail changes are done downwind, eliminating the need for an extra halyard and saving weight aloft. A spare centerline halyard can be fitted for long distance races.
Downwind, the J/92 is a new experience. The key to understanding the asymmetric spinnaker is to think of it as a genoa flown forward of a staysail (i.e. the real genoa). The chute jibes between its own luff tape and the forestay, as if it were being tacked upwind. Another unique aspect of the asymmetric chute is the control line setup. The A-Sail uses four control lines (tack line, two sheets, and a halyard) as opposed to the conventional chute¼s seven (sheet, guy, pole up, pole down, lazy sheet, lazy guy, & halyard). This results in simplified spinnaker handling and a cleaner deck layout.
We found that it worked best to set and dowse from the forward skylight hatch, though setting from a conventional bag and dowsing down the companionway worked also. Either way, prepare the chute by flaking out the luff tapes from the head down, J/24 style, keeping the tack tape forward and the clew tape aft. The chute is not reversible! Attach the tack line, fitted with a small Sparcraft shackle, to the tack so that it will feed out of the forepeak, along the deck, over the split bow pulpit, and out to the end of the extended bowsprit. The tail of the tack line is led aft to the cockpit and secured by leading it around the base of the primary wlnch and finally to a Harken cam cleat. Both sheets attach to the same clew with long bowlines to prevent snagging on the forestay during jibes. The sheet tails are led similar to conventional spinnaker systems. Bring the lazy sheet all the way around the forestay, but keep both sheets inboard and aft of the tackline.
Once the sheets and tack line are attached, close the hatch on all lines, but keep a small corner of the head sticking out to facilitate clipping on the halyard on your last port tack to the windward mark. Secure the halyard to the handrail for the bulk of the beat to keep it out of the way.
The set is four easy steps:
- Connect the halyard
- On your final approach to the mark, open the hatch and pre-feed the tack all the way to the end of the pole
- As the boat bears off, help the cloth feed out of the hatch in big armfuls at the same time as the halyard is being raised
- Roll up the jib. For a downwind leg, position yourself near the shrouds on the windward side to induce windward heel. We found that this helps the spinnaker rotate out from behind the mainsail.
Jibes are a piece of cake! The sail jibes well with just the trimmer and the helmsman, but for racing, the bowman can take an active role. The key to a good jibe with an asymmetrical chute is a controlled ease of the old sheet, until the clew of the chute is just forward of the headstay. At this point, the helmsman has begun his turn and the new sheet should be rapidly trimmed. It is very important that the old sheet is overhauled thoroughy, just like tacking a headsail! The bow person can help this process by pulling in the new sheet from the shrouds. When the clew clears the headstay, a slight pull down on the sheet will help the sail to complete it's turn and prevent twists. (This is particularly effective with jumbo chutes where twisting can be more likely). Once the sail fills, the crew returns to the windward rail.
The asymmetrical takedown presents the usual question... bear away set or jibe set at the next weather mark? The chute can be taken down to windward or leeward. The steps for the takedown are the same for both:
- Unfurl the jib and open the forward hatch.
- As the takedown is called, the J?Sprit is released from the cockpit and the spinnaker sheet is eased. At this point, the middle man pulls the tackline to retract the pole (which may be under load).
- The bowperson reaches around the forestay and pulls the tack onto the boat on the required side; at this point he calls for the tackline to be released and overhauled from in the cockpit.
- Bowman and mastman work along the foot, stuffing cloth down the hatch.
- When the foot is almost in, the middleman releases the halyard in a controlled fashion, as fast as the foredeck guy can pull it in.
- Once the chute is below, close the hatch on all lines and get to the rail!
The halyard can be brought back when convenient. If another set is coming up, it only takes a few minutes to flake out the tapes. If the takedown was to windward, disconnect the tackline since the spinnaker did a 180degree turn while coming in. Sort out the tapes as normal and reconnect the tackline. Remember to leave a bit of the head sticking out.
With a little practice and experimentation, you will no doubt discover that the new J/92 foredeck makes sailing downwind not only easier, but faster, safer and more fun.
By Jim Johnstone
Many people try to take their J/92 spinnaker down to leeward and have problems keeping it out of the water. Can you blame the chute for going in the water when before letting the halyard down it's touching the water? The answer to this common problem is the windward takedown.
The amount of breeze isn't your concern as much as the angle of the boat when your crew tries to pull the clew of the spinnaker to windward. In preparing for a windward takedown you must leave enough room at the leeward mark to bear off to relieve pressure in the spinnaker. In 20 knots of breeze, with or without waves, you should allow four boat lengths. The boat will slow down the minute the clew is pulled to windward and this is when you should properly position the boat for a good rounding.
There should be at least two people in the cockpit. One person can unfurl the jib while the other flies the spinnaker. At the moment the helmsman bears off to relieve pressure in the sail, the trimmer eases the sheet to the bowman who should be on the bow pulling the windward sheet. Once the clew gets to the forestay completely blow off the leeward spinnaker sheet and over haul it. You don't want the bowman to be pulling the clew back on the windward side with a tight leeward sheet, because it makes it very hard. After your sheet is clear the bowman should gather the sail material and the spinnaker halyard can be lowered to him. The first ten feet of halyard is released slowly, then is released quickly so the sail lands on the deck and pole. The tack line and pole should be released when the spinnaker is half way down.
Depending on the wind strength, the bow should have one or two people to pull the windward sheet in. In the beginning they are pulling hard but once they get the clew to and around the forestay it becomes much easier. One person should straddle the hatch and the other should be there to assist getting the sail down quickly. When the boat starts heading up the person straddling the hatch has the footing to stay and clean up, by closing the hatch and securing the halyard.
Note: If you have the 100% jib up all you have to do is leave the halyard attached and tie it to the base of the shrouds.
Another Note: When the bowman first goes forward to open the hatch he should throw the windward jib sheet to leeward and under the hatch. This will guarantee that the spinnaker will be outside of the jib sheets.
The windward takedown is useful for race courses where you have to set the spinnaker again. All that has to be done is the hatch has to be opened and the halyard untied or attached.
By Jim Johnstone
Asymmetrical spinnakers are relatively new for everyone. Most of us grew up sailing with symmetrical spinnakers. The art of jibing your asymmetrical spinnaker through the luff and headstay is easy. Winds up to 15 kts 3 people can efficiently handle a jibe. Winds over 15 knots it is safer to have two people handling the sheets and not have anyone on the bow.
In the lighter breeze, one key person is the bowman. He or she is responsible for standing on the windward rail, grabbing the new spinnaker sheet, pulling down and back during the jibe. Then releasing the sheet and going to the new windward rail. This snaps the leech over and helps fill the sail on the new jibe. This also makes it easier for the trimmer because he/she won't have to overtrim and then ease the sail out as much. There is less overtrimming after the jibe and the boat doesn't slow down as much having the bowman help this way. The best person for this job is an agile crew member between 120 and 170 pounds. In heavy air the bow position is less critical .
In the cockpit there should be two people playing the sheets. Their goal should be to have the clew patch already started on the other side of the forestay before the boom comes over. If the clew is let too far forward or if the clew was not let out far enough, then you will have a poor slow jibe and a 50% chance for a wrap. To avoid this have the person with the old sheet ease and watch the clew. Once he has eased the clew to the forestay then overhaul the sheet so it runs fast and free. The trimmer pulls on the new sheet the minute the old sheet is eased off. The goal is to have the spinnaker starting back on the new side before the boom comes over. If they oversheet the sail or have a bowman pull down on the leach the sail will fill after the boom comes over. If your sail is oversheeted coming out of the jibe, make sure you let it out to the estimated good position quickly because that oversheeted sail stalls the boat.
Driving the boat is all in the timing when jibing the J/92 and any other asymmetrical spinnaker boat. If you tell your spinnaker trimmers that you are jibing and start the jibe, what was their goal? To get the clew started on the new side before the boom comes over, right? If you tell them to jibe the chute you should turn the boat at their speed. Let them get the clew just started on the other side before you allow your main trimmer to throw the boom over. Don't just jibe and expect them to have a great jibe without watching the clew of the spinnaker yourself.
This is one technique that works in any kind of breeze. Dan Dingeman talks about jibing foreward of the luff. This works but the sheets need to be long enough and there can't be a boat in front of you. You are better off perfecting the jibe inside instead. If you haven¼t tried having the bowman help with the new sheet then you are in for a treat. If they are having problems, they are probably too close to the shrouds and need to move forward. Practice makes perfect.
Running with a Conventional Spinnaker in a J/92
Miller Time J/92 #41
US43963, Milwaukee Yacht Club
When I ordered Hull 41 in January of 1993, I had just sold my J-35, which I had owned for a number of years and campaigned actively on a regional basis. It was not yet clear whether there would be a class association, and I knew that we would be racing PHRF at the Fort Worth Boat Club. Furthermore, I had seen the shift to windward-leeward courses at the NOOD, Key West Race Week, Block Island, and the Lake Michigan Races I had attended. So I ordered the optional conventional spinnaker gear from the factory, and had the topping lift mast exit raised to facilitate end-for end jibes. We ordered a 0.6 polyester running spinnaker (North Sails Chesapeake) along with the class sails and optional genoa.
Our learning curve that summer was a steep one. Coming from a masthead rig to a fractional one, and going the A-sail was an all new experience. The exhilaration of the A-sail¹s speed on a reach was very seductive, and we found that the conventional spinnaker and optional running back stays carried a six second penalty in PHRF--we were racing with "tall trees" all around us, and were clearly out of our league.
The first inkling of the conventional kite¹s capability came at the Galveston Bay NOOD in 1993. We were the only J-92 sailing and they put us in the level 100 class with a Tripp 26 several Ohlson 30s, a C&C 37 and a Baltic 38! The courses were all W/L in medium air. On the first day we sailed very well upwind, but fell behind on every running leg, despite our best efforts to jibe on the lifts. On the second day we broke out the conventional cute and pole, thinking we had little to lose! We then beat all except the well-sailed C&C. The improvement in downwind performance in 10-20 knots was obvious..but was it worth the penalty we were carrying in PHRF?
We stopped using the running backstays, because we could see no advantage worth any PHRF penalty--at least in our conditions. We ordered a new ³running² asymmetrical spinnaker from Shore and learned to heel the boat far to windward and our performance on runs improved considerably, so we did not use the conventional spinnaker with its three second penalty for several years.
In January of 1996 we went to Key West Race Week and declared only the A-sail. Of the other three J-92s, one was using only a conventional spinnaker, the others were, like us, using only A-sails. The winds started strong and fell all week so we got to compare ourselves to the other boats in a good variety of conditions. A couple of things became obvious: First, the J-29s (almost all masthead outboards) who started five minutes behind us often finished in or ahead of the J-92s, especially those with A-sails. Only the J-92 with the conventional spinnaker held her own, and even she probably would have lost most races to the J-29s if we had been in the same class. Only in very light air at week¹s end did our big A-sails prevail. This formed the basis of a successful appeal of our base handicap, which is now 111 in Lake Michigan PHRF. We still give time to the J-29s, but we have some reasonable chance of winning.
Our second observation was, in retrospect, common sense. On a W/L course where the true wind speed is over 8-10 knots, the conventional [?] than the A-sail. Is it worth a three second penalty? I believe it is, and am now sailing at 108, carrying both types of spinnaker. We use the A-sail on reaching legs and reaching portions of distance races, and on W/L whenever the wind is below 8 knots true. We use our heavy, flat reaching A-sail when it blows over 25 knots. On all running legs where the wind is between 8 and 25 knots I believe the addition of the conventional spinnaker is worth the three second penalty.
Our set-up is very easy. We have a conventional track on the mast, just like the J-29s. We rig the topping lift to exit to a cleat at the front of the sea hood, keeping the deck clear for the crew during tacks. A lance cleat on the mast is a worthwhile addition to a J-92; it allows the mast man to cleat the spinnaker halyard temporarily in emergencies. The foreguy (pole downhaul) is led from the cockpit to the mid-foredeck where a Wichard folding eye is placed. A removable snatch block or medium sized block with a shackle leads the foreguy to the pole bridle. The pole and gear can be removed entirely for cruising and fun racing with the A-sail only. When we race, the pole is clipped to a starboard shroud with the topping lift attached and running through the jaws. Prior to the hoist it is moved to the mast ring and the topping lift is freed.
Since the hull is easily driven, the sail used only for running, and the wind range moderate, we use the 0.6 polyester running spinnaker, with the maximum allowable girth. It holds its shape well wet or dry; but it does require careful taping of sharps to avoid tears. The tears are more easily fixed than nylon, my sailmaker says.
We have two pairs of sheets, one with ³doughnuts² to prevent the jaws of the pole from ³eating² the knot or shackle at the clew, but I¹m not sure that this is necessary. We usually just use the same sheets for both spinnakers. We hoist from a turtle, and douse through the foredeck hatch and repack. We have spreacher blocks so that we can rig both sets of sheets, but I snatch block would probably do as well. Our sheets are led back to a ratchet block at the base of the stanchion nearest the back of the deckhouse and then to the nearest secondary winch. The trimmer stands near the shrouds.
We have almost stopped using twings with the A-sail anymore. The newer designs don't seem to need them to get more projected area, so we rig them only to depower if we think that may be needed. With the conventional spinnaker it's another matter; we use them all the time. In addition to controlling sail shape the guy leads much fairer if it is led through the twing blocks. To keep the seahood clean we removed the old twing cleats and install Harken's new twing cleats to a stanchion base on eash rail, suspending them to the lower lifeline with bungee cord. They look small, but they've worked well. The twings themselves are twenty feet of color coded 5/16" Yale Light, with the larger removeable twing blocks from Layline.
We do standard end-for-end jibes; it took me awhile to remember how to drive the boat through an "old fashioned" jibe! Remember to keep your jib sheets in front of the topping lift. The A-sail is certainly simpler. Converting back and forth between spinnakers calls for considerable skill in the crew, especially the foredeck, and mastman. Using one set of sheets for both also simplifies life.
One more caveat. On distance races you will need to change spinnakers occasionally. Because the J-92 has only one halyard, the changes will be ³bare-headed². This is not a problem with a highly skilled and practiced crew, but can take FOREVER if people don¹t know the drill, so practice!
In summmary, we believe that adding a conventional spinnaker makes the J-92 a much more versatile and competitive boat in PHRF racing; but the additional expense is not trivial, and a skilled crew is required. If we did nothing but W/L racing we would use only the conventional spinnaker, not declare the A-sail and probably revert to the base handicap. Finally, the "as sailed" numbers suggest that we should give little, if any , time to a masthead, outboat J-29.
|Bob Johnton- on sailing the J/92 Singlehanded: I've made modifications to make the handling easier but I've also changed my approach to racing a bit. Our courses are long legs or point-to-point so I have more time to think things through and plan the maneuvers - it would be very difficult to race the boat singlehanded around short sausage courses. The other difference is I tend to trim carefully after a maneuver and then steer to the trim, not the other way around. The emphasis is not on sailing the boat as fast as you can, but on sailing fast for as long as you can.
Besides adding an autopilot ("AP"), here are a few modifications I made to the boat:
A few more lines have been led aft to the cockpit. I replaced the 2-sheave deck organizers on the cabin top with the stacked ones, giving me twice as many sheaves without drilling any new holes. I also used the existing bolts through the mast collar (at the deck) to mount tangs for additional mastbase turning blocks. I installed additional rope clutches alongside the old ones, giving me three on each side. On the port side are the main and jib halyards, first clew reef, and vang. On the starboard side are the spinny halyard, second jib halyard, second clew reef, tack line, and vang. The second jib halyard is really a pole lift for the whisker pole when sailing wing-and-wing or when flying twin headsails. I also use it to hoist a spinnaker net, which keeps the spinny from wrapping when I'm down below or can't see it well at night. (One of our guys went up the mast eight times during the last Singlehanded Transpac, all because of spinnaker wraps and related problems.)
It is very important that the vang be available in a broach - I split it and led it aft on both sides to standard cam cleats. The cunningham also comes back to a cam cleat but I reef so much that I tend to use the main halyard to adjust luff tension.
For foredeck safety and a clean look I rerouted the roller furling and sprit control lines. The former runs aft along the base of the stanchions and the latter runs under the deck like the newer 92's. I always sail with jacklines and a tether, and a clean deck helps avoid tangles/tripping.
I replaced the 6:1 mainsheet with a 4:1, and have a 4:1 fine tune on the aft end running to the cockpit sides. We get a lot of breeze here and it is fun to sail the boat upwind like a dinghy, with the tiller extension in one hand and the main fine tune in the other. It's also a lot easier coming around the leeward mark - there's not as much mainsheet to pull in with just 4:1 on the front end.
Headsails and reaching: Again we have ample breeze so I don't use a #1 - a 125% LP #2 is my biggest genoa and I have a 125% jibtop for the reaching legs. I have adjustable Harken genoa tracks, and also run the jib sheets in from the rail for reaching. I installed double footblocks which really help keep the sheets handy to the primaries and make cross-sheeting easier.
Spinnakers: Before installing the dodger I set and doused with a companionway bag. I often did windward douses to keep the sail over the boat. Now with the dodger I'll go back to using ATN sleeves through the forward hatch. I have the standard J-Boats cockpit-run spinnaker sock setup. Also there is a big "Clam" cleat on the mast just below the spinnaker halyard exit, so when I hoist the spinny in its sock I can help it out of the forward hatch and cleat the halyard at the mast. I then go back to the cockpit to tail the halyard through the clutch before I "unsock" the spinnaker. The Clam cleat is in line with the halyard so it pops out at the mast when I pull it through the clutch.
Okay, a few maneuvers step by step:
Tacking - If I've been hand steering I put the boat on AP and check my winches and jib sheets, then touch the buttons to tack. The AP control is on the lower hatchboard so everything is right there and I'm facing forward where the action is. The AP turns the boat pretty fast so I have to run the sheets smartly (another benefit of smaller jibs). If I'm on my game I don't have to skirt the genoa because it's already inside the lifelines when it fills. As the boat gathers speed I touch the AP again to head up a bit and off we go. I trim the genoa carefully and cleat it - I can't work it like the jib trimmer on a crewed boat. Then I move back to the tiller and take the mainsheet again.
Spinnaker sets (pre-dodger from companionway) - Just like with crew but the boat is on AP, and I roll the jib first instead of last. Singlehanded sets are slower and when it's windy I sometimes have to winch the halyard up the last few feet. I have to be neat and organized - I let the spinny luff a bit until I get the halyard and tackline cleaned up - I probably won't have a chance once the sail is full and I'm blasting along. Again it is exhausting to constantly trim the spinnaker when it's windy - I get the trim right and then steer to the trim as much as possible.
Spinnaker gybes - Rule one: Keep both sheets clear to run! Rule two: Gybe early with plenty of sea room. The boat's on AP and I'm in the "motorcycle" position with a spinny sheet in each hand. I touch the AP to bear away until the spinny starts to get soft behind the main. If it's really windy I wait until I'm surfing so the sail isn't as loaded up. If the spinny collapses I head back up a bit to fill it - never start a gybe until the sail is full and stable.
Blow the loaded sheet and watch to make sure it runs out well. Haul the sail around by the lazy sheet until the clew passes the headstay, then touch the AP to bear away another 20-30 degrees, watch for the main boom and keep hauling the spinny sheet. After the main comes across, touch the AP to head up 20-30 degrees and trim the kite. The main gybes "all standing" - there's no other way. Once you start the gybe, don't hesitate or a wrap is likely.
If you gybe into a broach (all too common in our conditions) you already have the sheet in hand so ease it a bunch and then ease the vang, which you thoughtfully led aft so it's right there! If you get a wrap, gybe back immediately to clear it, get the spinny full and then start again. As with all assymetric gybes, the key is to not complete the gybe (by gybing the main) until the clew of the spinnaker has come around the headstay and aft. It's common to find myself sailing wing-and-wing briefly before the boom flies across and I head up that last 20-30 degrees.
Douses (leeward, pre-dodger) - Pretty standard - you just have to be FAST. Make sure both sheets, tackline and halyard are free to run. Put the tackline on the cabintop winch with one wrap. Bear away (on AP) until the spinny softens behind the main. Up under the boom, grab the loaded spinny sheet and pull it with you back over to the tack line/halyard winch. Open the tackline clutch and gather the foot as fast as you can, shoving it into the companionway bag. When you can't gather any more, reach over and take the tack line off the winch and put the spinny halyard on it, again with one wrap. Then open the spinny halyard clutch and pull the sail down into the bag. If you were sailing deep enough when you started the douse, the sail should have collapsed behind the main.
In lighter conditions or for tactical reasons I will douse on the windward side. Also, I'm told the "letterbox" drop works well shorthanded in windy conditions but I've not tried it yet.
Reefing - To keep the boat flat and fast upwind, you reef a lot more singlehanded. I can reef quickly, as follows: Mainsheet and vang are eased, then the halyard is eased to a mark on the line (one stripe for reef #1, a double stripe for reef #2). I step to the mast to hook the tack reef ring and organize the folds a bit, then step back to the cabintop winch to trim the luff and close the clutch. I put the clew reef on the winch and trim it, and then trim the vang and mainsheet. On a longer leg I'll tie an "earing" around the clew to keep it down to the boom.
|Main Sheet Trimmer|