Squib Training with Adam Bowers 18 Jun 2013
Over the weekend of May 18 and 19 the Squibs had Adam Bowers visit Burnham for two full days of training. Starting in the classroom (the new Boatshed), moving to the pontoon, onto the water for the practical and then back to the classroom. The main emphasis was on spinnaker handling but we also learnt that green ropes and bobbles are unlucky!
Adam described the time line for a race, with the aim being to sail the shortest distance in the shortest time, relative to the other boats in the race. Every slow spinnaker manoeuvre is a loss of a time which gives other competitors an unnecessary advantage. So the aim is to work out a standard routine that can be used successfully in all winds.
In the classroom we discussed:
- The hoist, preferably from the leeward side as the spinnaker flies out more easily.
- The drop, preferably from the windward side as that is much easier and quicker as the crew doesn’t unbalance the boat and doesn’t have to manoeuvre and reach under the boom.
- The pole angle, approximately 90 degrees to the wind, but carefully trimmed to optimise to ensure the forces are pushing the boat forwards as much as possible, rather than sideways. If the spinnaker has creases in the head at the back end then the pole needs to be pulled back to let more wind in.
- The pole height, not worrying as much about level clews as ensuring the leading edge curls in the sector between halfway and one third from the top (head). As a rule of thumb, the lighter the wind the lower the pole.
- To gybe the spinnaker, the leeward tweeter is pulled on, the pole is pulled back, then released from the mast with the guy being released, the boat is gybed and the pole pushed out on the new windward side with the new guy clipped in, then the new leeward tweeter is released. It is preferable to do this on a dead run so that the spinnaker is pulled round to the new leeward side before the gybe commences as then it fills without the pole.
On the pontoon we had a boat tied alongside so that Adam could provide a practical demonstration as a crew, ably assisted by class captain Duncan as the nominal helm. We learnt:
- Tie the sheets to the spinnaker using a simple hitch in the end tied through another hitch. This is preferable to bowlines because then the sheets don’t foul the pole and enable them to be pulled up close to the pole end. Similarly with the halyard so that the full height can be obtained.
- For hoisting, the crew first pushes the pole out, clipping the guy through the end in the process (pole open end up). The helm then pulls up the halyard whilst at the same time the crew pulls on the guy so that the end of the spinnaker is tight up to the pole end with the pole approximately 90 degrees to the wind indicator. Only when those are secured in their correct positions does the sheet get pulled on. Usually the helm pulls the sheet in first and then passes it to the crew. The windward tweeter is pulled in whilst the leeward one is left free.
- The crew is in control for downwind legs (the helm is in control upwind) telling the helm when to head up and when to bear away in order to keep the spinnaker filling optimally. Trimming requires the full concentration of the crew, meaning he or she doesn’t take their eyes off the spinnaker for anything!
- For the drop, the crew releases the sheet, pulls the pole in whilst grabbing the forward end of the spinnaker pulling it in on the windward side, then the helm releases the halyard so that the crew can pull all of the spinnaker down into the bag with the clew end going in last.
- Adam demonstrated a windward hoist, as an alternative. As the pole is pushed out (forward) it is vital that the spinnaker halyard is to leeward (so is between the pole and the jib). As the helm pulls the halyard up the crew pulls the spinnaker round the forestay before securing the guy. Lastly the sheet is pulled in to fill the spinnaker.
- An alternative drop is instead of letting the sheet go first, to release the halyard, but ensuring both sheet and guy are kept in until the spinnaker has collapsed. Then the crew releases the guy whilst pulling the pole in enabling the spinnaker to be pulled down into the bag.
- Adam and Duncan then demonstrated the gybing process. Both tweeters are pulled in, the pole is pulled back as if the boat were on a dead run, then the pole comes off releasing the guy, the boat gybes and the pole is pushed out attaching the new guy. Then the leeward tweeter is released.
Out on the water where we had a light westerly wind and flooding tide (so perfect for this training) we had two exercises:
- Sailing a triangular course with two spinnaker legs, one a run and the second a reach. Most boats in addition to practising their hoists (both leeward and windward), gybes and drops (under both methods, but always to windward) also found the time to experiment with the pole height affects.
- Sailing back and forth across the river on reaching legs, gybing from reach to reach and also practising the drop method where the halyard is let go first.
Adam was in the RIB advising each boat and then getting into some boats to show a real ‘hands on’ approach.
Back in the classroom Each crew and helm discussed what they had learnt (Communication!) what they need to change and what they need to practise.
Conclusion All agreed a lot of valuable lessons had been learnt.