A Good Old-Fashioned Spinnaker Wrap

Jimmy Cornell is sailing from St Martin to the Strictly Sail Miami Boat Show aboard Kitty Cat, an Outremer 49 catamaran. Here is the second of several reports that he is sending along the way. In case you missed it, here is his first report: Delivering a Strictly Sailing Cat to Miami

Parasailor spinnaker  
Parasailor spinnaker   Tri-radial spinnaker

We have been sailing with the Parasailor, a revolutionary spinnaker that is becoming quite popular among cruising sailors. We had agreed to test it on this voyage for its efficiency on a catamaran of this size.

Last night the swell got up so skipper Jean Pierre decided to take down the Parasailor, as it was dancing about too much, and use a heavier spinnaker.

For a while everything went well and we were going very fast, averaging 11 to 12 knots. Then the true wind went up to 24 knots, and we started surfing at 14, 15…18 knots…

Suddenly a larger wave knocked Kitty Cat off course and the wind backed the spinnaker which wrapped itself tighter and tighter around the furled up genoa.

Whatever we did, it only got worse and worse, with the spi acquiring that dreaded figure of eight or eggtimer shape with a horrible knotted twist in the middle so colourfully described by the skipper as un vrai soutien gorge (a true brassiere). This reminded me of the comment made by one of the crew of Rothmans, which had blown out a record 27 spinnakers in one of the Whitbread Round the World Races: We put them up and God takes them down.

Lacking such divine intervention we had to make do with our own Saint Pierre whom we hoisted to the top of the mast, where he released the halyard. And that’s when the fun really started… with all four of us bouncing like yoyos on the trampoline, trying to tame that flapping, flailing beast in 22 to 24 knots of wind. It was a real struggle, but eventually we got it all down… and without any damage to the spinnaker, only perhaps to our skipper’s ego.

Kitty Cat in St Martin, ready to go
Kitty Cat in St Martin, ready to go

Earlier Jean Pierre had commented that he needed to lose some weight but never managed to do so on passage as life was too comfortable. So when it was all over, I quipped: “Jean Pierre, I am sure there are better ways to lose weight!” He laughed and replied that we probably had all lost some weight last night. Grown some more white hairs more likely! I thought to myself.

I was pretty sure that it would not have happened with the Parasailor, after all I had used one for over five years and some 10,000 miles and never had a wrap, but I might have been just lucky. But I said nothing as one rule, which I observe unfailingly when sailing on other boats, is that the skipper is always right. In the morning, with a smile on his face, Jean Pierre turned to me and said: “OK, Jimmy, let’s put up the Parasailor and you tell me why you are so in love with this sail.”

Jimmy Cornell

Next report: Testing Times on Kitty Cat

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