Crew Gybing Advice!!
As a newbie to crewing a merlin rocket I struggle when we are gybing with the spinnaker up in strong winds. I am fine in the lighter winds - but find it difficult in the stronger winds where you can't make any mistakes! Out sailing today in winds 14mph gusting to 35mph - when gybing my routine is: sheet out and cleat on the one I am holding, pole down off, pole off, pull the spinnaker sheet round on the side just taken pole off, then as boat comes round, new pole on - and this is where I get stuck! The pole gets pulled up at the far end and then i really struggle to get it forward far enough to be able to clip it on to the mast. I get so stuck we have ended up having to take the spinnaker down and then we rehoist which is not ideal. I have had discussions with helm (husband) and when we really slow the gybe down it is easier but we are loosing a lot of speed and ground. Do i need to take the pole downhaul off or can it stay on - will this help?? We have been sailing a merlin for 6 months and I am really enjoying it and we are improving all the time and getting our routine and communication sorted but any help gratefully appreciated !!
I have performed various antics in front of the cameras at Salcombe over the years - none of us struggle to gybe the thing in light winds, when it's blowy and particularly when gusty and swirly only one small error will tip you in as I have found. What you don't want to be doing is faffing around by the mast trying to get the pole on. Several things make the crew's life easier (I have been to the training at Rutland). A nice easy bear away so you are gybing run to run rather than a tight turn, keeping the boat as flat as possible and making sure there is loads of slack on the downhaul/tweaker. I've found that Vectran shrinks a bit over time and you don't find out that the downhaul is too short till you are trying to get the pole on with the mast raked back and the helm sat on the transom. I reinstated the 2nd lower ring on the mast in Heaven Sent last year - you lose very little effective pole length and having a ring only 6" lower makes it much easier to push the pole out, you have much less strength above shoulder height. HTH.
Stuart Bates MR3615
P.S. It may not be the quickest way to gybe the spinny by dropping it and rehoisting but it is a LOT quicker than capsizing with it up and a drop, get sorted and rehoist if in a muddle is a good get out of jail card! Re knots/marks on sheets, I have knots on mine so just letting the old sheet/new guy run out to the knot will keep the kite behind the main and the sheet slack to assist getting the new pole on. If you have a choice about when to gybe then on the tail end of a gust when the boat is still moving fast is ideal. As the helm, a gentle turn and then a tug on all the purchases of the main to get it across - if you haven't borne away enough it won't come over and you are better off settling, getting upright and in control with the pole off than rushing to get the main over.