New Moves

Joanne Rideout of Astoria, Oregon, asks:

"I’m a new crewmember racing on an Olson 30 and one of the jobs I’ve been assigned is going on the foredeck to skirt the genoa when we tack. I’ve nearly fallen overboard a couple of times trying to get the sail inside the lifeline after it gets caught outside. What’s the best way to skirt a genoa when it gets stuck? Also, how do I keep from falling in—the boat has no toerail, so slipping over the side is a real possibility, even with good deck shoes. My crewmates haven’t been able to give me much help, but I’m doing the best I can."

Win Fowler replies:

I’ve got three suggestions. First, tell the helmsman and genoa trimmer that if they would just do their jobs properly you wouldn’t have to skirt the genoa. That means the helmsman should stop turning through the tack as soon as the clew gets past the new leeward shrouds and then wait until the trimmer has pulled enough slack out of the sheet so the foot stays inside the lifelines. The trimmer, in turn, needs to tail the sheet quickly, so the helmsman won’t lose patience and continue turning before the sail is in. I’m sure neither of your teammates is going to be thrilled to hear this, but it’s true. And remember, if the helmsman does turn the boat too far too fast, it is going to be just as hard for the trimmer to crank in that last bit of sheet as it is for you to get the genoa skirt over the lifeline!

Sometimes this kind of tack isn’t possible: a quick tack and duck after the start, for example, or an unexpected starboard tacker coming at you. But your team still needs to practice tacking until this no-skirt routine becomes the norm.

I’d also ask the owner to install jib rollers on the lifelines next to the offending stanchions. Forespar ( makes some nice rollers, and once they are installed the sail often skirts itself when the sheet is trimmed, even if the trimmer does make a slow tack.

Finally, have your sailmaker put a small reinforcing patch and grommet or webbing loop in the foot of the genoa near the point where it meets the lifeline stanchion and tie a long sail tie, or a piece of light webbing, to that point. Secure the other end of the tie to a point on the boat’s centerline where you can reach it from the windward side. If the sail needs to be skirted, you can grab the tie and pull on it without going to leeward. Make sure the tie is long enough so it won’t put a lot of strain on the sail when the sheet is eased, but not so long that it drags in the water or gets caught up in the spinnaker gear.

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