Spinnaker Tips: How To Fly A Spinnaker

Caribbean crewed chartesContinuing from our introduction to spinnakers, we take a step-by-step look at how to prepare, raise and fly a spinnaker. These spinnaker tips should make your first time easier, but remember that ongoing practice is an important part of crew training for racing or cruising.


Spinnakers are designed for downwind sailing but may look daunting to use as they are hoisted whilst under sail. With our simple spinnaker tips you can brief the crew on their jobs and make sure you are clear in your planning when flying a “kite”.


Spinnaker Tips: Preparation


  • First, secure the turtle on the inside of the leeward guardrail with ties or clips.
  • Attach the spinnaker pole to the mast and clip the uphaul and the downhaul to the pole.
  • The guy goes through the block on the windward toerail and then through the free end of the pole (around the front of the forestay). Clip it to the tack of the spinnaker.
  • The sheet needs to go through the block on the leeward quarter and be clipped to the clew.
  • The halyard is clipped to the head of the spinnaker, leeward of the headsail and outside the forestay. Make sure that all of the lines run outside the sails and stanchions.


Spinnaker Tips: Raising & Trimming


The reason why you keep the headsail up whilst hoisting the spinnaker is to provide shelter from the wind. It needs to be raised completely before the headsail is dropped.

  • The skipper should steer the boat on a broad reach.
  • Using the uphaul, raise the pole to be at a right angle to the mast. Tighten the downhaul accordingly.
  • Adjust the guy line until the spinnaker tack reaches the end of the pole. The guy is also used to position the pole off the forestay.
  • This is the fast part! Hoist the spinnaker as quickly as possible. It should be fully raised before filling with wind. Ensure the guy and sheet are adequately secured. Exciting!
  • Trim the spinnaker using the sheet.


Spinnaker Tips: Dropping


  • The skipper turns the boat onto a broad reach and the crew reset the headsail.
  • Position the pole to the forestay using the guy… remember to trim the sheet as required.
  • Hold the sheet under the boom and release the guy while lowering the halyard. Pull the sheet in until you have the clew.
  • Keep dropping the spinnaker in a controlled manner whilst a crew member bundles it down the hatch.
  • Repack into the turtle down below.