J120 front copy

J/120 Takedowns & Changes
by Frank Kern

One of the most challenging things a crew can experience is the take down of the asymmetric spinnaker. By practicing the three types of takedowns, the J/120 racer can become more competitive on mark roundings. With some experimentation we have added a fourth way to do a takedown when trying to change spinnakers. Since writing this article we have gone to two primary take downs...Mexican and weather takedowns (pulling in the tack)

Leeward Take Down

Situation: approaching leeward mark above lay line in wind over 7 knots.

Set-up: All spare hands on foredeck, one crewman at halyard and at the tack line lock, and one crew below to pull sail through forward hatch. The tack line should be wrapped around the genoa winch to prevent the losing of that crewman's skin on his hands and the crewman below should have a hold of the takedown sheet.

J120 sailing 013

1. Unfurl or raise the jib.

2. Let the spinnaker sheet go – release it completely. The foredeck person should pull on the spinnaker lazy sheet to the bow under the headsail with assistance of another person.  The helmsman should bear off a little to blanket the kite with the main and headsail. Grab the middle of the foot to keep it out of the water and haul the sail into the boat through the forward hatch. The person on the halyard should only release it as fast as the foredeck crew can keep the foot out of the water.

3. Lay the tack head and clew outside the hatch cover and close hatch or repack as needed.


Weather Take Down (pulling in clew)

Situation: approaching the leeward mark in light air or below lay line.

Set-up: Two crew on foredeck, cockpit crew on sheet, spinnaker halyard, tackline, and one crew below to pull sail through forward hatch.

 

1. Unfurl or raise jib. Grab the spinnaker lazy sheet

2. Steer boat almost dead down wind

3. After boat has started to bear away the foredeck team starts pulling hard on the sheet line to bring the kite around the head stay. The chute must collapse as the boat turns down. If it doesn’t, you won’t be able to pull it around. If the chute won’t collapse release the tack completely. Don’t ease it part way as this will make the sail deeper release it all the way and the sail will collapse. An alternate method is to pull the lazy sheet instead of the pull in tack line around the headfoil as shown in the picture.

4. Keep the jib sheeted in hard so that the spinnaker cant go anywhere except on the deck.

5. After the kite collapses and the clew is pulled around the forestay, begin to ease the spinnaker halyard. When most of the sail is pulled to the weather side, release the halyard completely and the kite will fall down the jib and into forward hatch. The bow must remain down in this maneuver otherwise you can lose control as it’s coming down.


Weather Take Down (pulling in tack)

Situation: approaching the leeward mark in heavy air or below lay line.

Set-up: Two crew on foredeck, cockpit crew on sheet, spinnaker halyard, tackline, and one crew below to pull sail through forward hatch.

1. Unfurl or raise jib. Grab the spinnaker takedown line

2. Steer boat almost dead down wind

3. After boat has started to bear away the foredeck team starts pulling hard on the tack line sheet to bring the kite around the head stay. The chute must collapse as the boat turns down. Completely release the tack line. If it doesn’t you won’t be able to pull it. If the chute won’t collapse release the sheet completely. Don’t ease it part way as this will make the sail deeper release it all the way and the sail will collapse.

4. Keep the jib sheeted in hard so that the spinnaker cant go anywhere except on the deck.

5.After the kite collapses and the tack is pulled around the forestay, begin to ease the spinnaker halyard. When most of the sail is pulled to the weather side, release the halyard completely and the kite will fall down the jib and into forward hatch. The bow must remain down in this maneuver otherwise you can lose control as it’s coming down.

 

Mexican Take Down

Situation: Coming to the leeward mark where you have to gibe to round it. This type of takedown is the quickest method and can be used in heavier air.

Set up: As for the weather drop but the foredeck crew is on leeward side.
1. Unfurl or raise jib on the opposite board as the spinnaker.

2. Foredeck crew grabs the lazy sheet on leeward side.

3. As the boat gibes four things must happen.

  a. The foredeck crew pulls on the lazy sheet and then grabs the foot of the kite as it comes across.

  b. The cockpit crew gibes the spinnaker. A cockpit crewmember pulls the spinnaker leech to keep the sail from blowing behind the mast.

  c. The cockpit crew begins to ease the kite halyard just as the boat begins to turn.

  d. By the time the boat is in mid gibe the halyard is well down, the spinnaker sheet is being eased, and the kite should be ready to collapse into the fore triangle on the weather side to funnel the kite down to the deck. The helmsman needs to watch the drop and turn the boat fast enough to keep the spinnaker on the new weather side. If he turns too slowly it will drop into the water as the gibe is completed.

4.  With a good rate of turn the chute will drop onto the foredeck, but it is important not to ease the tack line until the sail is fully under control. If the sail ends up in the water you won’t lose control of it if the tack is still nailed but if the sail is in the water with the tack eased then you’ll end up with the sail damaged.

Spinnaker Gibe Change

Situation: when wanting to change spinnakers without losing any speed. We try not to do this maneuver in over 10 knots of air.  Usually this move works better when wanting to switch to a down wind spinnaker.

Set Up: You can use one person in the hot box but works better with two.

1. We prepare for this by having the new chute ready on the opposite board.  We usually have a spare changing sheet attached to the sail as well as having the second tack line already connected and set up to go.

2.  The gibe is started. When the spinnaker starts to lose energy we raise up the new spinnaker and immediately lower the old spinnaker. The old spinnaker will be on the inside of the new one and should easily fall to the deck. At the same time fill the new spinnaker. This sounds complicated but with very little practice it is one more arrow to add to your quiver. It really works!


Spinnaker Change on Same Board

Situation: when wanting to change spinnakers without losing any speed.  Usually this move works better when wanting to switch to a down wind spinnaker.

Set Up: You Need to have at least 2 people on the foredeck. A spare changing sheet and second tack line setup is required.

Instead of explaining it I embedded a YOUTUBE video to show how it is done.