We don’t own a spinnaker yet, and may not ever own one, but I have always wanted to know how to rig them and how to fly them, so we took a class through Club Nautique on symmetrical spinnakers. We went out on the bay on a 26′ Colgate with two instructors and 4 students total, for two days’ practice. The spinnaker and boat were small enough that we couldn’t get in too much trouble (!), and the wind was at most about 12 knots, so we weren’t over-powered.
We now know what a “foreguy” is, and an “afterguy” (or just “guy”), and a “twing” or “tweaker”. We know we’ll need a separate spinnaker halyard, and a topping lift for the pole. Actually, there is quite a bit of additional rigging we’ll need if we choose to fly a symmetrical spinnaker on Cool Change. We know how to pack the spinnaker in its bag, how to deploy it and how to take it down. We know a little about trimming it and jibing it and we have each handled the pole on the foredeck through a jibe.
However, to let us loose on a symmetrical spinnaker in the Bay without help would be a mistake! We would have to practice more. More likely, if we do get a spinnaker, it will be an asymmetrical spinnaker, which apparently is a lot easier to fly. It is more like a simple headsail where the luff is unattached except at the head and the tack. It doesn’t sail quite as far downwind as a symmetrical does, but it is easier to deploy and trim. I like that. But, it was good to learn the more challenging technique of the symmetrical so that the asymmetrical spinnaker will seem easy by comparison. Or, more likely, we’ll just pole out our headsail with our whisker pole, and sail wing-on-wing with our main when heading down wind.