Learning the singlehanded gybe

Published on November 17th, 2020

by Adam Loory, General Manager, UK Sailmakers International
Thanks to COVID-19’s requirement to sail socially distanced, I discovered the fun of doublehanding and singlehanding my boat. With a tall factional rig held up by running backstays, she is a handful for a crew of 11 at times. But by slowing down the maneuvers and planning out all steps, most everything can be done shorthanded.

This video shows me learning how to gybe my huge asymmetrical spinnaker singlehanded.

Recently I was out daysailing and my wife and friends were too content to rig the spinnaker, but they were perfectly fine letting me do all the work. I welcomed the chance to practice, knowing that I had some back up help if I got into a mess. Getting the chute up and drawing was not an issue in 6-7 knots of wind. Jibing was another story.

I learned quickly that the gybe function on the autopilot turned the boat way too quickly. Next I learned that one person can’t move the 180 sq/m asymmetrical around fast enough to pull off an inside jibe. Luckily, when I abandoned the jibe and turned back to my original course the spinnaker untangled. Then I re-led the sheet for an outside jibe.

Next, I re-learned that in an outside jibe you need to let the clew of the spinnaker blow out in front of the luff before pulling in on the new sheet or you risk getting the new sheet stuck under the tack patch of the sail.

On my fourth try, everything went smoothly. I got the old sheet ready to run, the new sheet on its winch, and then I tightened the new running back stay, which pulled the main in closer to center line without having to trim the mainsheet. With the main in, it is easier for the wind to blow the clew forward enough.

Next, in steps, I eased the spinnaker sheet and turned the course control nob on the auto pilot to turn down. It took three different adjustments of the auto pilot to turn into the jibe, which gave the sail a chance to get blown in front of the boat and then over to the new leeward side. Lastly, I let go the old running back stay, which let the main out and then I finished off the spinnaker trim.

What a great sense of achievement once the jibe was completed and the boat got moving again. Practice, practice, practice.

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