Ask SAIL: Types of Asymmetrical Spinnakers

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Q: I keep hearing about different kinds of headsails, like Code 0s, gennakers, A-sails, etc., and for the life of me can’t figure out how they differ from one another, either in terms of cut or the way they’re used. Could you help me out?

Robert Walters, Evanston, IL


I understand why you might be confused. A Code 0, for example, is a gennaker, but a Code 0 is a racing sail, while a gennaker is usually considered a cruising sail. Ultimately, there are four or five different types of asymmetrical spinnakers, with each sail designed for a specific wind angle range. A Code 0 is almost like a large genoa, but it is not set on the headstay. Typically set on its own furler, it is basically a flat spinnaker that can be carried fairly close to the wind, say around 45 degrees apparent. Many Code 0’s are made from nylon, but some are made from a light laminate.

Now imagine the wind coming aft. At this point you will want to start thinking about switching to a Code 1 that has slightly more shape, or curvature, as well as a little more sail area than the Code 0. As such it will also be similar to a reaching gennaker. Beyond that, a Code 3 is an even larger sail with more depth to it, making it similar to an all-purpose asymmetrical spinnaker. Finally, a Code 4 is a deep, powerful sail that is used with the wind aft of the beam, like a running spinnaker.

Most cruisers can get away with a single all-purpose sail, but there are some racers who want a very specific sail for a very narrow wind range and will therefore go with multi “Code” sails.

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