Topic : Retro Fitting Spinnaker Chute

As part of my ever lasting renovation of MR908 I want to fit a spinnaker chute as I know I really would not get on with retreaving a spinnaker to bags. I cant fit it in the usual location as on most boats for various structural reasons and therefore plan to fit it on the port side foredeck as close to the stem as practically possible. Is there any fixed dimension I need to follow or any nasties to look out for. Help/advise and pictures most appreciated.

Thanks in advance


Posted: 04/06/2009 11:23:28
By: Richard Battey
There is a picture of Once Bitten (I think) on her side in the famed Merlin Rocket book showing an offset chute, circa 1985. The only concern I would have is the starboard sheet going under the bow, but we struggle with that anyway!

It had crossed my mind that with the longer poles, it might be advantageous to do this on a new boat, as the longer poles pull the kite forward and around the forestay. Structurally it would be easier and lighter to mount the forestay direct to the top of the stem.

Posted: 04/06/2009 13:03:34
By: Andy Hay - Enchantment 3386
Having the sheets going under the bow is a royal pain in the b*m. The new Winder boats have elastic takeaways fitted to the pole downhauls so that when you're dropping the kite the sheets remain lifted above the deck. Although not 100% fool proof it is a vast improvement and one I'd recommend. Also having had a Mk12 redecked and chute moved to the bow I can confirm this involved a lot of time and effort, stick with the offset chute if you can.

Posted: 04/06/2009 13:17:04
By: Alex
Thanks guys. I'll stick to the side option.

Posted: 04/06/2009 13:26:43
By: Richard Battey
I spoke to Brett Dingwall recently about retro-fitting a chute to my 9b in the conventional way and he advised that it was not too big a job to undertake. You might like to give him a call. His work is of the highest standard and he has many years experience.

Posted: 04/06/2009 13:30:27
By: Dave

I did this on 1620 many years ago, and can send you pics if you post your e-mail address. I built it in sections of fibreglass parts using drainpipes as a mould, the flared and asymmetric entrance was modelled first in plaster, then fixed them together in the boat. Tube, around 120mm dia., runs down the stem and UNDER the large bow bag, along the hog on port side, tilting up slightly to end under the thwart in line with recovery line pulley on rear corner of the case. It works really well, and smoothly. V1 had a sharp turn immediately under the deck with the aim of runnong over the bow bag, but the spi tended to jam on the sharp turn whereas the bend from stem to keel on V2 is larger radius.

I have V1 sitting on the front of my desk as I write; I glued the cut off entry section to a wooden plate, like a large ear, with a notice, 'je vous écoute!'

Posted: 04/06/2009 16:24:33
By: Rod & Jo Sceptical
Thanks Rod.

Pics would be great. Email on link.



Posted: 04/06/2009 16:39:44
By: Richard Battey
Hi Richard, I had my old sugar plum modified with a bow chute just like they are now but I did take it to the builder to do the woodwork, it worked very well.

Posted: 05/06/2009 07:59:06
By: Rob
Surely a modified fireball shute would work? You may have to cut it down, but it should work-worth a go.

Posted: 05/06/2009 10:18:49
By: jon
Hi Richard, I did this work to my Mk xii last winter and must ask a couple of questions at this point. 1) What are the structural reasons preventing going ahead and 2) Are you prepared to alter the basic geometry if you could go ahead.

In doing this myself, I actually wanted to go to a modern standard rig - 2.8 jib (7 ins from stem etc) and simply removed what was in the way and fitted what was going to be needed. The first point is the most important. I have pics of everything to do with the second if I can help.

Posted: 05/06/2009 22:48:47
By: Ben 2529
Hi Ben,

Would be interested in seeing some pictures please. I will no doubt go down the side chute route as it is much easier and only because I am very worried about messing with the structural arrangements of the boat, Not broken..............

But pictures tell a thousands stories and could possibly give me the confidence to go down the modern route if it looks a fairly straight forward task. Having said all that, she's an old girl (1958) and will only ever be sailed or raced lightly. The main purpose of me inserting a chute is that I have only ever sailed merlins and having been used to the modern set up in the past would never get used to retreaving a spinnaker to a bag somewhere behind the mast.

Thanks again


Posted: 05/06/2009 23:15:32
By: Richard Battey
1728 had holes with deck underbags on either side of the mast BUT the constant rubbing led to delamination of the edges and meant that when I got her it was a re-deck job.

Posted: 06/06/2009 13:21:57
By: Garry R
Neil Wilson at Holy Loch has a bag arrangement - I think IKEA¬bags and he sails very competitively in his vintage boat - see the link.  I may go the same way on Gannet if I get the time to organise it.

Posted: 06/06/2009 13:24:53
By: Garry R
I put a chute (hole) in 1357 many years ago, simply cut a hole in the deck and fitted mahogany frame to round the opening. Chimp is now I believe redecked without the chute.
Issues: it took away some of the originality, it made it even more difficult to bail out faster than water came in after capsize and when filled with water, the front bag floating against foredeck stopped hoisting/lowering. I also regretted not fitting a bit of Al tube to take the wear off the wood.

I now crew fireballs, which mostly have bags, they are really not difficult and would be far less intrusive on the structure of an old boat, although on a DIY job the cost of bags, pump uphaul take-up system etc would probably be more than a simple chute.

Also I could imagine bags and twin poles allowing some novel tangles and rigging errors.

Posted: 06/06/2009 13:55:16
By: Ex Merlin sailor
Ex Merlin Sailor,

Very valid point re chute, filling up,etc,etc....

Next question then, does anyone have any old spinnaker bags they want to part with?



Posted: 06/06/2009 18:52:33
By: Richard
vintage boats should be kept in vintage condition otherwise they are not vintage boats anymore. I would not add achute.Keep it original.
Well that's my opinion. I'm probably in a minority but I would go as far as to say some boats sailing in the vintage series should no longer be eligible due to being modernised, otherwise what is the point of a vintage wing?

Posted: 08/06/2009 19:03:06
By: chris B
Is it not a case of just keeping them sailing? 

Given the hardship of finding decent sails and having to use out of date equipment. Of the 3100 "vintage" boats only about 250 at most are used as vintage boats, the rest are working club boats and of those unfortunately a large number are probably dying slowly in dinghy parks. From the point of view of the class i'd much rather have boats modernised and used than left alone, abandoned because they are no longer competeive and then eventually disposed of on November 5th.

I agree there are a few boats that are "sacred cows" such as Kate, but even then it's surely better to have it on the water than non existant in whatever form it's sailing takes. Most of us sail because we like sailing and want to do as well as we can. If I was sailing on the thames i'd buy the best boat I could to acheive it which may mean modernising a MkXII - big deal there are at least 300 more where that came from!

Not knocking the vintage racing at all, but there is more to old boats than just keeping everything origional.

Posted: 08/06/2009 19:35:35
By: Chris M
PS Richard my way around the chute would be to fitb a false deck to hold the bow bag down and keep it clear of the kite. This needs to be strong and will need bracing underneath, but shouldn't be too hard to do.

Posted: 08/06/2009 19:37:53
By: Chris M
Being a development class, even if that development seems currently static, it would seem logical to update a boat as and when. Making the hill stronger, fitting bulheads or whatever. Especially as sails foils and rig are at least as important if not more than hull shape.
Though it has to be accepted that there are some who prefer the genuine antique and good luck to them too.

Posted: 08/06/2009 22:19:59
By: .
Fitting a false deck over the bow bag was my first attempt on 1620, but I found it worked a lot more smoothly by taking a big tube down the stem and UNDER the bag. I know, I was worried about lifting the centre of bouyancy, but in practice it doesn't seem to make much difference and 1620 is much easier to recover from a capsize than 2988, not least because I have 3 bags each side under the rolled side decks. Actually I still do have a false deck fitted to the bottom side of the deck beams, partly to keep the bag down, but also because I have a horizontally mounted lever system for mast ram.

Posted: 09/06/2009 07:35:47
By: Rod & Jo Sceptical
Fitting a false deck over the bow bag was my first attempt on 1620, but I found it worked a lot more smoothly by taking a big tube down the stem and UNDER the bag. I know, I was worried about lifting the centre of bouyancy, but in practice it doesn't seem to make much difference and 1620 is much easier to recover from a capsize than 2988, not least because I have 3 bags each side under the rolled side decks. Actually I still do have a false deck fitted to the bottom side of the deck beams, partly to keep the bag down, but also because I have a horizontally mounted lever system for mast ram.

Posted: 09/06/2009 07:36:03
By: Rod & Jo Sceptical
I flew the spinnaker on Gannet last Sunday and wondered how long it had been since that happened - probably 25 years if not longer in her 58 years!!  Used a bucket launch and it seemed to work well with an old wooden pole.  The one difference I noticed was how stable the boat became on a run.  Sure, a shute would be easier but then it wouldn't be Gannet any longer and being a ribbed boat she'd be ruined.  I'm not sailing to win anything although the Lasers have been given a surprise this year on my vintage handicap but just thoroughly enjoy sailing a boat kept pretty original and proving that the boat is "kept sailing" without having to alter much.

Posted: 09/06/2009 23:25:38
By: Garry R
And that's brilliant don't get me wrong. But knocking the efforts of those who have kept their old boats sailing by modernisation is not on. There's room for both and plenty of old boats to go around!

Posted: 10/06/2009 07:12:26
By: Chris M
When does a Merlin become of historic interest and deserve restoration rather than repair? My saved from scrap Smokers 2914 is now orange all over including decks and has scrapyard twin poles and a spaceframe. I have not sailed it much being too buisy with a single handed project but my son and daughter sailed it recently and it went very well only being beaten (in light winds) by a new Phantom. More modifications are in the pipeline which will further effect its originality, but it was that or the bonfire!

Posted: 10/06/2009 09:42:31
By: John Saunders
I not actually crusading to prevent modernisation at all, don't get me wrong, I'm definately all for preserving older boats in any way that gives them a real life as that's certainly the best way of preserving them. Perhaps what I am thinking is that the vintage wing needs to be clarified. The 2009 Year book still defines it as ribbed and riveted and Classics upto a certain width (the word 'authenticity' also appears in that paragraph) I would have thought the whole point of the vintage wing was to cater for boats that loose out because of the developmental nature of the class. If a boat is retro-developed then it doesn't make sense to run a vintage wing. (especially a handicap system). 

It may also mean that some very interesting 'one-off' experimental designs are not worth saving but they should be (does 'Shaft' still exist for example? And it must also be just as worth while to restore not renovate old boats.
However I do find that to sail a vintage boat in vintage condition in the vintage wing is becoming rather pointless and that doesn't seem right.

Posted: 10/06/2009 12:38:37
By: chris B
I think the committee's main aim with the vintage wing was always getting more boats and people onto the water. I had better leave it to Mervyn and Alex to give a more official view, but that is a fundamental point of the main class association really.

Chris Barlow has worked very hard to bring several Merlins back to their former glory. This is fantastic, and of course there are many owners who like the idea of preserving the original layout/rig etc.

Of equal value are the older boats that might otherwise have rotted or been burnt. To have these still seaworthy is also fantastic. Both groups are equally valid, and enjoy their sailing.

Then of course we have those disgusting modern plastic things (joke!).

So somehow we need to find a way to keep all 3 groups sailing....sailing together if possible....and without anyone feeling too hard done by. It's a tough call. The vintage handicap adjustments implemented last year (I hope) went some way towards rewarding the authentic boats.

Is this system working? Has anyone got any other good ideas? Should we look at vintage event turnouts to gauge who forms the bulk of the group we have to please?

Posted: 10/06/2009 13:31:05
By: Mags
Following on from Chris' points please do bear in mind that "Vintage boat in vintage condition" doesn't mean clapped out as many beautiful examples of authentic and sympathetic restorations abound in the Merlin class.    To me there would be little or  no joy in sailing a boat with delaminating decks, for example, when a refurbishment can put that right with no change to the original specifiation.  I think that Chris has hit the nail (or rivet) on the head when he uses the phrase "retro-developed" - often making a radical departure from the original eg carbon spars replacing alloy as the most obvious example.  I have always held that this in effect results in a "new" boat and have no problem with it being done and the boat raced (often successfully) against boats which were developed through the normal restricted class design evolution.  The leap of faith I find difficult is to see these as vintage boats and competing as such just because they have their original hull shape, pitted against those who choose to retain their boats in an original state for reasons of nostalgia.  But of course nostalgia isn't what it used to be either.

Posted: 10/06/2009 13:36:29
By: Garry R
Jeepers! I'll stick to bags!!..........possibly ;-),though don't you just love this forum for driving such informed debate. keep it coming!

Posted: 10/06/2009 13:47:33
By: Richard Battey
We've a vintage boat in basically original configuration which has a spinnaker chute and the same bow bag arrangement described by Richard. To get the kite over the bow bag we've fitted a wooden "tube" about a foot square in section under the deck and this both holds the bow bag down and controls the kite. It was a quick "temporary" fix in ply which has been well varnished and has already lasted four years!

As for the vintage wing I think carbon and kevlar should be more heavily penalised to even things up!

Posted: 10/06/2009 13:53:47
By: Pat2121


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