Table of Contents

Wanderer Spinnaker System Without a Chute

Article submitted by Gavin Barr, W1282 “Thistle” (2001)

The Wanderers spinnaker at 107 sq.ft. (9.94 sq.m.) is bigger than that for most 14 ft dinghies, and effectively doubles the sail area. There is no chute, so a cockpit launch is necessary. It therefore takes considerable skill to hoist and drop it successfully. In racing terms, the Wanderer is definitely a spinnaker boat. Without the spinnaker it will not sail to its handicap.
For successful spinnaker work you need:

  • A well worked out and consistent drill for hoisting, gybing and lowering
  • A well thought out spinnaker system.
  • Good co-ordination between helm and crew.

Spinnaker Diagrams

N.B. The sheet/guy should be continuous, not two separate lines. Total length is approx. 13.5 to 14 metres. Mark both ends of the guy/sheet at the point where the guy passes through the reaching hook/twinning line when the pole is just off the forestay at normal height.

Spinnaker drill:

Drill sequences used for hoisting, gybing and dropping the spinnaker in “Thistle” are shown below.  Those described in publications:  “Dinghy crewing” and “Crewing to win” in the Fernhurst series are also good.

Playing the spinnaker Rules of thumb

  • Trim the sheet continuously, i.e. at least every 5 seconds. Do not cleat it, as this can lead to a capsize. Trim in until the sail is setting, then ease until the edge of the luff just starts to curl in. As soon as this is seen, trim in again, and immediately ease again as before, so that the luff is constantly on the point of curling. Too far in and it will stall, too far out and it will collapse.
  • Trim the guy so that the pole is approximately at right angles to the apparent wind i.e. at right angles to the burgee or wind arrow.
  • Set the pole height so that when the sheet is eased the sail starts to curl at mid-height. If it curls first near the top, the pole is probably too low, and vice versa. Another indication of correct pole height is when the two bottom corners of the sail are at the same height.
  • In light airs you will find that the sail sets better with the pole fairly low.
  • On a tight reach try raising the pole to open the luff and get as close to the wind as possible.
  • The crew should call the pressure on the sheet, warning the helm as gusts come in and ease off.

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Hoisting from Leeward Bag


Preparation before hoist in racing before reaching the windward mark.

  • Ensure that halyard, sheet and guy are free to run.
  • Pull windward twinning line fully on and cleat. N.B. this will pull the corner of the spinnaker out of the leeward bag.
  • Check leeward twinning line is off and fully overhauled (pulled out).
  • Cleat guy so that when the sail is hoisted the pole will be just off the forestay. N.B. guy must be marked at the correct point.
  • Push the pole out, engage the ramp in the uphaul/downhaul and clip the outer end onto the guy. Do not twist the pole or the ramp will disengage.
    Ease the jib but only slightly as the spinnaker can foul the foot of the jib during the hoist.
  • Check that the pole height is approximately right for the conditions.
  • Trim centreboard for reach. Tell the helm “Ready”.

Helm: hoisting

  • Bear away onto a broad reach, or even a run especially in a medium to strong breeze.
  • Stand up in the boat, with spinnaker halyard in hand. Inform crew “Hoisting”.
  • Hoist spinnaker smartly, hand over hand while steering with the tiller between the knees. (Practice this skill!). Make sure the sail is fully up. (Have halyard marked).
  • Grab spinnaker sheet and be ready to pass it to the crew.

Crew: hoisting

  • As the sail is hoisted, push the pole fully out and forward, and clip it onto the mast. Dont force it. Do not twist the pole as you push it out, or the ramp may disengage.
  • Trim the guy to the correct angle (approximately at right angles to the wind) and cleat it.
  • Adjust the pole height if necessary. Check leeward twinner is off and sheet free.
  • Trim the jib, grab the spinnaker sheet or take it from the helm, and play it.


When the sail is up and under control, harden up and GO, GO, GO!

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“Chuck Hoist” from Windward Bag.

As above with the following modifications.

Crew: Preparation

  • Free sheet and halyard as above.
  • Check windward twinning line is off and the guy pulled out.
  • Check leeward twinning line off and free. Trim centreboard.
  • Take the spinnaker out of the windward bag and bundle it into a ball.
  • Stand right forward with the spinnaker, balled up, in both hands. Call “Ready”.


  • Bear away onto a run, grab spinnaker halyard and check that the crew is ready.
  • Call “1,2,3, Hoist” or similar, and hoist the spinnaker as fast as possible.


  • On hearing “1,2,3, Hoist”, throw the spinnaker up and forwards past the jib.
  • When the sail us up, set the pole, (push out, engaging the ramp, clip onto guy, clip onto mast). REMEMBER, WITH A “CHUCK HOIST” THE POLE IS NOT SET UNTIL THE SPINNAKER IS UP.
  • Pull on windward twinner, set the guy and trim the jib.
  • Check leeward twinner is off, grab the spinnaker sheet and play it.

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Gybing the Spinnaker


Preparation before the Gybe

  • Move into the middle of the boat.


  • Bear away onto run.


  • Check that the helm has finished with the jib. (as far ahead of the gybe as possible.
  • Uncleat the jib and cleat loosely on the new leeward side (clew of the jib to the mast).
  • As the boat turns downwind, pull the guy as far aft as possible, at the same time letting out the sheet, so that as the boat turns into the gybe, the sail is swung onto the new leeward side.
  • If possible release the “old” twinning line and control the guy from amidships during this phase.
  • If possible keep the sail full through the gybe.
  • Help the mainsail over by pulling the kicker across at the point of gybe. (You need three hands to do all this!).


  • Try to carve a smooth curve to give the crew time to swing the spinnaker round.
  • Call out “gybing” and gybe the boat.
  • Immediately reverse the helm to maintain control before heading up for the new course. You should aim to carve a “W”, and try to “keep the boat under the spinnaker”.
  • Do not head up onto the new course until the crew has set the pole on the new side.


    As soon as the main has gybed, get up to windward.
  • Pull on the new twinning line.
  • Ease new guy fully out to the mark. IF YOU DO NOT DO THIS YOU WILL FIND IT DIFFICULT TO SET THE POLE.
  • Unclip the pole from the mast, clip that end of the pole onto the new guy, and push the pole out and forward. DO NOT TWIST THE POLE OR THE RAMP WILL DISENGAGE.
  • Unclip the other end of the pole from the “old” guy (new sheet), and clip it onto the mast.
  • Trim the guy to the right angle for the new course.
  • Make sure the “old” (now leeward) twinning line is fully off and “new” sheet free.
  • Grab the “new” sheet and play it.
  • Adjust the jib. (or helm can do this).
  • Adjust the uphaul if necessary (e.g. higher if the reach is tight. N.B. as you raise the pole with the uphaul you will have to adjust the guy slightly to maintain the same horizontal pole angle.


  • Harden up onto new course.

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Dropping the Spinnaker

N.B. Start the drop in good time. You will lose much more ground by hanging on too long and rounding up onto the windward leg in a tangle than by dropping a few yards early. It is normal to drop the spinnaker to windward (although a leeward drop is feasible).


  • Stand up in the boat.
  • Give the order “Down Spinnaker”
  • Grab the spinnaker halyard, uncleat and keep in hand.
  • Take the spinnaker sheet from the crew. (This prevents the sheet running free and going over the bows).


  • Stand up in the boat.
  • Hand the spinnaker sheet to the helm. If you leave it loose it may go over the bow and under the boat during the drop, especially on a run.
  • Unclip the pole from the mast and pull it in, giving a quarter turn to disengage the ramp and allow the pole to be recovered.
  • Unclip the pole from the guy and slide the pole back to its stowage position along the boom. N.B. If it is blowing and you have difficulty stowing the pole, forget the pole until the sail is down. Call “Ready”.


  • When you see the crew is ready, start easing the halyard and sheet, controlling them as the crew lowers the sail.


  • Pull the sail down (you will reach it via the guy), and stuff it into the bag. Make sure the sail does not get twisted while lowering. One method is to pull down along the windward edge of the sail, stuffing that side of the sail first, then the other edge, then the foot.
  • N.B. For a leeward drop (normal in yachts) the sail must be pulled in under the jib, and stowed in the leeward bag. It is reached via the sheet. The crew must go down to leeward, which may not be possible in a blow.
  • Finish stowing the pole if necessary.
  • Tidy up halyard sheet and guy.
  • If necessary adjust the pole height so that the pole lies parallel to the boom. If the pole is angled up, the aft end can foul the helms lifejacket in the tack.


  • Get into windward mode and concentrate on sailing the boat and rounding the mark. Ignore the bits of string!

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Wanderer Systems with Chute

Please see the attached documents for the drill with the Chutes