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  • Writer's pictureCaptain Dave

Cracking the code

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

My hope is that if I blog about spinnakers, if I put this thought out into the universe, I will actually end up purchasing one for my yacht: A Hunter 46-foot cutter-rigged sloop. When my friends want to buy a new washing machine, they call me for recommendations. In the market for a new refrigerator? My phone rings. I am no expert in household appliances, but I guess I might as well be considering the hours upon hours I spend on research. Friends and family know that if I have made a recent purchase, I have an extensive pros and cons list (including prices, carriers, and any sales that may or may not be going on) for every make and model of the item in question.

I know that I do not need to have that 4th sail (my vessel has two roller-furling headsails for those of you who might be questioning my math at this point). Perhaps this is why I have been dragging my feet a little bit? I do not have a racing boat, nor do I plan on taking part in Transpac or any other race for that matter. I just want one. Isn’t that reason enough? Not to mention, my partner-in-crime and Co-Captain, Marla, would get a kick out of the multi-colored kaleidoscope billowing in the breeze.

Unlike a washing machine, there are only two categories of chutes (a.k.a. spinnakers for all of you novice boaters who might be reading), so the way I see it, my research time is essentially cut in half—thank goodness. Assuming that I have now made the decision to buy this sail, do I go in the direction of symmetric or asymmetric? On the one hand, Tom Cruise said it best in Top Gun, “I feel the need for speed.” But on the other, I have a cruiser and I am not exactly twenty-two years old looking for the thrill of a lifetime when I step on board the ol’ sailboat. Although a spinnaker would add an interesting component to my boating adventures (let’s be honest, how exciting is it to count the number of times you can sail along the same route day in and day out with just a simple turn of the wheel?), I truly enjoy the ease and the relaxation of the sport. We cruising types are not necessarily jonesing to be the first ones to arrive at our destination; we enjoy the journey too much.

I do not know about you, but all of the spinnaker jargon is making my head spin: Gennaker, Screecher, Code 0, 1, 2, 3, etc., Flasher, MPS, APC, UPS (no, this last one does not stand for United Parcel Service, nor does it stand for Uninterruptible Power Supply which is what my techie mind is automatically programmed to think). What does all of this really mean? These sails have different shapes depending on the wind speeds and angles for which they are designed. Many experts say that nothing beats the symmetric chutes when it comes to downwind sailing, but I am looking to maximize my “all-wind” (Badum Tsss) sailing time and minimize the time spent on rigging. All you need to set up an A-sail is a halyard, a tack line, a pair of sheets, and a co-captain or helpful shipmate. So, as a result of some soul-searching and extensive research, it looks like the all-purpose cruising (or asymmetric) kite is indeed the front runner.

I would love to hear from some other sailors out there. What is your spinnaker of choice for your cruiser? And if it is just you and your co-captain the majority of the time, would you go with a snuffer or furling gear?


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