Do I Want A Spinnaker?


Spinnakers can be a lot of fun, add a ton of downwind performance, and are pretty and colorful, but they can be a little intimidating if you haven't flown one before. Spinnakers come in 2 basic styles, the symmetrical (or racing) spinnaker and the asymmetrical (or cruising) spinnaker, here is an overview of the differences.

Symmetrical spinnakers, called such because both vertical edges of the sail are the same length, are by far the more complex to use, because they require a spinnaker pole on the foredeck. This pole needs to be supported to the mast with a topping lift, held down to the deck with a foreguy, and needs to be disconnected from the spinnaker and moved from one side of the boat to the other side every time you Jibe. If it sounds complex, you're right, it is! Almost no one uses a symmetrical spinnaker on a Mac unless they are really serious about racing.

Asymmetrical spinnakers, called such because the vertical edges are not the same length, do not require a spinnaker pole at all because they attach to the bow of the boat in much the same way a non roller furling Genoa does. When you Jibe an asymmetrical spinnaker you simply ease one sheet, let the sail blow out around the front of the boat and pull it in on the other side. There are many marketing names used by various sailmakers for their asymmetrical spinnakers, including Gennaker, Spanker, DRS and others, they are all similar in concept. The term cruising spinnaker used to be almost universally used to describe the asymmetrical sail, but in modern times many race boats, up to the Americas Cup use them, so it is becoming somewhat less common.

Before you decide if you do or don't want a spinnaker on your boat, lets go over the challenges involved, and the advantages that these sails offer.

All of these spinnakers must be hoisted up to launch and then lowered to douse them when you are through with them. This process requires some skill and practice to do smoothly if you don't have 2 people to handle the sail (plus the driver). With some practice you can easily get it down to where you need only one person to handle the sail in reasonable wind. If you want to make setting and dousing the sail really easy, consider adding a dousing sock (sometimes called a snuffer) to it. With a sock, you hoist the entire sail up while it is still inside the sock and then pull a line to slide the sock up the sail so it can fly. When you want to douse the sail, you just pull the sock back down to completely contain the sail so you can easily lower it down into the bow hatch.

Jibing a cruising spinnaker is not at all technical, It's just like a BIG Genoa (OK, there is a little more timing required), but it is some work due to the length of the sheets that you have to pull around the boat each time.

Asymmetrical Spinnakers can be used at any sailing angle from about 70 degrees apparent wind down to about 150 degrees apparent wind, depending on wind speed. The lighter the wind is, the closer to the wind you can sail it, stronger wind will let you go farther downwind while still maintaining good speed.

We offer two main options for asymmetrical spinnakers:

The MacGregor factory size spinnaker: Sized to fit the 26X and 26M with no modifications, but also works well on the 26 Classic and 25 if you add a halyard about 2 feet above the headstay to allow for the extra hoist this sail has. The new BWY exclusive version of this sail is a Tri-Radial design made with premium Nylite 90 cloth for great performance and durability. The standard color pattern is a Red, White, and Blue star pattern.

BWY Custom Spinnaker: Available in the standard factory size, a somewhat larger size designed for the 26M with the halyard moved up 2 feet and our compact bow sprit, and in custom sizes for other boats. Made with Premium Nylite 9 cloth for great performance and durability. These spinnakers are a Tri-Radial design for improved strength and shape, available in your choice of colors. Standard pricing is for any combination of up to 3 colors of your choice. Custom graphics are available, call for pricing.