Header image: Henri Lloyd in St Katharine Docks before the race start

RYA Sailing with Spinnakers

At work one day one of my colleagues asked if I was interested in an RYA Sailing with Spinnakers course over a weekend at his local yacht club on the Thames.

The first time I had ever sailed with a spinnaker was on my Level 2 course a few weeks earlier, and I think it’s fair to say I didn’t get a complete grasp of what was going on! There were so many aspects of it.

“Of course”, was the answer to my colleague. I was hoping it would help me to learn more about spinnakers and how they are used on the Clipper yachts.

The Clipper 68s used for the Level 2 training had been modified so that they could take an asymmetric spinnaker. They were built to have a symmetric spinnaker which could be poled out. For Level 2 training they had had a bowsprit retrofitted (a piece of metal sticking out about 6 feet from the bow of the boat to which the tack of the spinnaker is attached.

Erith Yacht Club

Erith Yacht Club

So for the last weekend in April I turned up to Erith Yacht Club for this course. It was the first dinghy sailing I’d done in about fifteen years.

On this course there was only one other trainee Jon, and the instructor Andi.

It was lucky that

  • the dinghy had asymmetric spinnaker, did not even know that a dinghy could have an asymmetric one.
  • the course was conducted in a keelboat, a Laser Stratos

as these were most similar to the spinnakers I will be using on the Clipper 70s.

There were differences though:

  • the bowsprit was moveable; it was pulled into place by the action of setting the sail;
  • the sail was pulled down by the use of a downhaul which attaches to the middle of the sail and gets stowed straightaway in a tube ready for the next time; on the Clipper yachts, we just used the lazy sheet to pull the entire sail between the boom and the mainsail before sending it below; to get it ready for next time we then had to go below and untwist it and tie it up with wool;
  • size, but this was a good thing. it was much easier to see what was actually going on in a smaller boat

Laser 4000

Laser 4000

Andi wanted us to at least see an example of a dinghy rather than a keelboat, so took advantage of a Laser 4000 that was being taken out on the Sunday.

All in all a good course and very useful to be able to see what was going on, on a smaller scale.