Pole Up, Ge'nny Out - Sail Magazine

Pole Up, Ge'nny Out

Spinnakers and asymmetricals are great for ticking off miles when sailing downwind, but they can be a chore to handle shorthanded. They require constant trimming, and there’s always the possibility of a crash gybe or a knockdown. For a fully crewed raceboat this isn’t a concern, but for cruisers it can be daunting enough that many simply roll out their headsail instead and call
Author:
Publish date:
downwind_sailing



Spinnakers and asymmetricals are great for ticking off miles when sailing downwind, but they can be a chore to handle shorthanded. They require constant trimming, and there’s always the possibility of a crash gybe or a knockdown. For a fully crewed raceboat this isn’t a concern, but for cruisers it can be daunting enough that many simply roll out their headsail instead and call it good. If you fall into this category, you should be setting your headsail off a whisker or spinnaker pole to achieve better performance.

Why use a pole?

Most headsails (jibs and genoas) will set nicely by themselves from hard-on-the-wind to about 120 degrees apparent in light-to-medium breezes. But if you sail any deeper, the sail has a tendency to collapse, especially in light air, as it falls into the mainsail’s wind shadow. A 135-percent genoa (or smaller) with a high-cut clew tends to work best when sailing off the wind because less area is lost in the main’s shadow, and the upper leech sections tend to be cut fuller. Headsails with a lower-cut foot and clew tend to suffer in these conditions, though this can be overcome by sailing wing-and-wing, provided you are sailing a deep enough angle (say, 175 degrees apparent).

Compared to spinnakers, jibs and genoas also have a tendency to collapse in light-to-medium airs off the wind because of the weight of the sailcloth (Dacron is much heavier than nylon) and the overall cut of the sail (flat-cut triangular shapes don’t capture light air as effectively as a big, broad-shouldered masthead spinnaker). Also, in lighter winds the genoa’s clew has a tendency to drift with the boat’s motion, spilling its air. In heavier wind, when spilling air and heavy cloth are far less detrimental, the genoa will pull nicely. In light-and-medium breezes, though, poling out the headsail can make a huge difference.

Poles for cruising boats

Three types of pole are suitable for cruising boats: traditional spinnaker poles, whisker poles, and telescoping whisker poles. A typical spinnaker pole is built tougher than a standard whisker pole, as kites generate far greater loads than a poled-out genoa. Thus, most spinnaker poles have a wider-diameter section and thicker tube walls, while whisker poles tend to be lighter and are easier to set and handle, especially if you sail solo or with a small crew. On a smaller boat you can usually get away without using a topping lift or downhaul on a whisker pole in light air, but on bigger boats or in heavier weather you’ll want to use this gear.

Making a pole

You’ll need a length of aluminum tubing or bamboo that’s a bit longer than the base of the foretriangle (consult your rigger to make sure your pole section is sturdy enough), an adjustable double-sided bail (or bridle) for the topping lift and the downhaul/foreguy, and two aftermarket end fittings—one that fits on your mast fitting (either a jaw or a male/female attachment) and an outboard-end jaw that can accept headsail sheets. These fittings are riveted or screwed on.

This kind of pole works well, but its fixed length means that you have no athwartships control over the sail’s clew. This can also make it hard to properly project bigger (135 to 150 percent) headsails outboard. An alternative is to buy an adjustable-length whisker pole, such as those made by Forespar and Seldn. Note, though, that a telescoping pole isn’t as strong as a fixed-length pole, so in bigger breezes and seas you’ll need to roll up your headsail preemptively and “reef” your pole by reducing its length.

Related

ElanGT5-a

Boat Review: Elan GT5

Aboard many modern yachts, it can be hard to remember exactly what boat you’re on until your eye happens to light upon a logo. However, this is most definitely not the case with the Elan GT5, a performance cruiser with a look all its own and style to burn.Design & ...read more

01-Lead-P1060210

Handheld VHF Radios

For many sailors, cell phones have become their primary means of both ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication. Even the Coast Guard will often ask for a cell number after it receives a distress call. None of this, however, makes a VHF radio any less important—and this goes ...read more

Seascape24

Boat Review: Seascape 24

Since its inception in 2008, Slovenian builder Seascape, founded by a pair of Mini Transat sailors, has focused solely on creating boats that are both simple and loads of fun to sail. With their 18-footer and then a 27-footer they succeeded in putting out a pair of trailerable ...read more

01-Trash-Tiki_in-partnership-with-Subtch-Sports_starting

The Adventurers Aboard Trash-Tiki

If you were in Gotland, a popular island vacation destination off the coast of Sweden, on the morning of July 3, your holiday might have been interrupted by a startling sight: a tiny island of trash approaching shore with people aboard. It was, in fact, a sailboat made from ...read more

atlantic-cup-trailer

2018 Atlantic Cup Video Mini-Series

Atlantic Cup 2018: TrailerThis past spring, SAIL magazine was on-hand to document the 2018 Atlantic Cup, a two-week-long Class 40 regatta spanning the U.S. East Coast and one of the toughest events in all of North America. The preview above will give you a taste of the four-video ...read more

hardangerfjord

Cruising: Holland to Norway

In 2015, we cruised to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on our Nordic 40, Juanona, which we’d sailed transatlantic from Maine to England. Our 2016 plan was to cruise through the Netherlands to the Kiel Canal, sail into the Baltic as far as Stockholm, then cruise the western coast of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comThe Watch-keeper’s Nightmare The commercial watchkeeper’s most awkward decisions come with a vessel converging from abaft the starboard beam showing a red light. If he’s more than 2 points, or around 22 ...read more

cosair760R

Boat Review: Corsair 760R

We’d only been out on Miami’s Biscayne Bay aboard the Corsair 760R a few minutes when Corsair Marine marketing manager Shane Grover and I began bemoaning the fact neither of us had a GPS with us to determine our boatspeed. Moments later, though, we both came to the same ...read more