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|Foredeck on the J/92|
Foredeck on the New J/92
By Max Williamson
When Jeff Johnstone asked me to sail as bowman aboard the new J/92 "Zenda Express" for Yachting's Block Island Race Week, I thought he might be kidding. After all, what does a bowman do on a boat with a bowsprit and all the lines led aft? I envisioned lengthy naps below between chapters of the latest Clancy novel. However, I soon found that bow on the J/92 could be a thinking person's position and could be a lot of fun.
While the J/92 is far more simple to handle downwind than a conventional foredeck setup, its extendable J/Spritū and asymmetric spinnaker require a new approach to foredeck. After a lot of experimentation we came up with a fast, smooth, and effective downwind system that proved itself as we kept the 93-111 PHRF fleet at arms length throughout the week.
Setting up the Foredeck
Upwind, the J/92 foredeck is similar to other performance boats. For the regatta, we carried only two headsails: the Mylar/Kevlar 15396 genoa and a dacron 100% jib. All round-the-buoy headsail changes are done downwind, eliminating the need for an extra halyard and saving weight aloft. A spare centerline halyard can be fitted for long distance races.
Downwind, the J/92 is a new experience. The key to understanding the asymmetric spinnaker is to think of it as a genoa flown forward of a staysail (i.e. the real genoa). The chute jibes between its own luff tape and the forestay, as if it were being tacked upwind. Another unique aspect of the asymmetric chute is the control line setup. The A-Sail uses four control lines (tack line, two sheets, and a halyard) as opposed to the conventional chutežs seven (sheet, guy, pole up, pole down, lazy sheet, lazy guy, & halyard). This results in simplified spinnaker handling and a cleaner deck layout.
We found that it worked best to set and dowse from the forward skylight hatch, though setting from a conventional bag and dowsing down the companionway worked also. Either way, prepare the chute by flaking out the luff tapes from the head down, J/24 style, keeping the tack tape forward and the clew tape aft. The chute is not reversible! Attach the tack line, fitted with a small Sparcraft shackle, to the tack so that it will feed out of the forepeak, along the deck, over the split bow pulpit, and out to the end of the extended bowsprit. The tail of the tack line is led aft to the cockpit and secured by leading it around the base of the primary wlnch and finally to a Harken cam cleat. Both sheets attach to the same clew with long bowlines to prevent snagging on the forestay during jibes. The sheet tails are led similar to conventional spinnaker systems. Bring the lazy sheet all the way around the forestay, but keep both sheets inboard and aft of the tackline.
Once the sheets and tack line are attached, close the hatch on all lines, but keep a small corner of the head sticking out to facilitate clipping on the halyard on your last port tack to the windward mark. Secure the halyard to the handrail for the bulk of the beat to keep it out of the way.
The set is four easy steps:
Jibes are a piece of cake! The sail jibes well with just the trimmer and the helmsman, but for racing, the bowman can take an active role. The key to a good jibe with an asymmetrical chute is a controlled ease of the old sheet, until the clew of the chute is just forward of the headstay. At this point, the helmsman has begun his turn and the new sheet should be rapidly trimmed. It is very important that the old sheet is overhauled thoroughy, just like tacking a headsail! The bow person can help this process by pulling in the new sheet from the shrouds. When the clew clears the headstay, a slight pull down on the sheet will help the sail to complete it's turn and prevent twists. (This is particularly effective with jumbo chutes where twisting can be more likely). Once the sail fills, the crew returns to the windward rail.
The asymmetrical takedown presents the usual question... bear away set or jibe set at the next weather mark? The chute can be taken down to windward or leeward. The steps for the takedown are the same for both:
The halyard can be brought back when convenient. If another set is coming up, it only takes a few minutes to flake out the tapes. If the takedown was to windward, disconnect the tackline since the spinnaker did a 180degree turn while coming in. Sort out the tapes as normal and reconnect the tackline. Remember to leave a bit of the head sticking out.
With a little practice and experimentation, you will no doubt discover that the new J/92 foredeck makes sailing downwind not only easier, but faster, safer and more fun.
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By Jim Johnstone
Many people try to take their J/92 spinnaker down to leeward and have problems keeping it out of the water. Can you blame the chute for going in the water when before letting the halyard down it's touching the water? The answer to this common problem is the windward takedown.
The amount of breeze isn't your concern as much as the angle of the boat when your crew tries to pull the clew of the spinnaker to windward. In preparing for a windward takedown you must leave enough room at the leeward mark to bear off to relieve pressure in the spinnaker. In 20 knots of breeze, with or without waves, you should allow four boat lengths. The boat will slow down the minute the clew is pulled to windward and this is when you should properly position the boat for a good rounding.
There should be at least two people in the cockpit. One person can unfurl the jib while the other flies the spinnaker. At the moment the helmsman bears off to relieve pressure in the sail, the trimmer eases the sheet to the bowman who should be on the bow pulling the windward sheet. Once the clew gets to the forestay completely blow off the leeward spinnaker sheet and over haul it. You don't want the bowman to be pulling the clew back on the windward side with a tight leeward sheet, because it makes it very hard. After your sheet is clear the bowman should gather the sail material and the spinnaker halyard can be lowered to him. The first ten feet of halyard is released slowly, then is released quickly so the sail lands on the deck and pole. The tack line and pole should be released when the spinnaker is half way down.
Depending on the wind strength, the bow should have one or two people to pull the windward sheet in. In the beginning they are pulling hard but once they get the clew to and around the forestay it becomes much easier. One person should straddle the hatch and the other should be there to assist getting the sail down quickly. When the boat starts heading up the person straddling the hatch has the footing to stay and clean up, by closing the hatch and securing the halyard.
Note: If you have the 100% jib up all you have to do is leave the halyard attached and tie it to the base of the shrouds.
Another Note: When the bowman first goes forward to open the hatch he should throw the windward jib sheet to leeward and under the hatch. This will guarantee that the spinnaker will be outside of the jib sheets.
The windward takedown is useful for race courses where you have to set the spinnaker again. All that has to be done is the hatch has to be opened and the halyard untied or attached.
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By Jim Johnstone
Asymmetrical spinnakers are relatively new for everyone. Most of us grew up sailing with symmetrical spinnakers. The art of jibing your asymmetrical spinnaker through the luff and headstay is easy. Winds up to 15 kts 3 people can efficiently handle a jibe. Winds over 15 knots it is safer to have two people handling the sheets and not have anyone on the bow.
In the lighter breeze, one key person is the bowman. He or she is responsible for standing on the windward rail, grabbing the new spinnaker sheet, pulling down and back during the jibe. Then releasing the sheet and going to the new windward rail. This snaps the leech over and helps fill the sail on the new jibe. This also makes it easier for the trimmer because he/she won't have to overtrim and then ease the sail out as much. There is less overtrimming after the jibe and the boat doesn't slow down as much having the bowman help this way. The best person for this job is an agile crew member between 120 and 170 pounds. In heavy air the bow position is less critical .
In the cockpit there should be two people playing the sheets. Their goal should be to have the clew patch already started on the other side of the forestay before the boom comes over. If the clew is let too far forward or if the clew was not let out far enough, then you will have a poor slow jibe and a 50% chance for a wrap. To avoid this have the person with the old sheet ease and watch the clew. Once he has eased the clew to the forestay then overhaul the sheet so it runs fast and free. The trimmer pulls on the new sheet the minute the old sheet is eased off. The goal is to have the spinnaker starting back on the new side before the boom comes over. If they oversheet the sail or have a bowman pull down on the leach the sail will fill after the boom comes over. If your sail is oversheeted coming out of the jibe, make sure you let it out to the estimated good position quickly because that oversheeted sail stalls the boat.
Driving the boat is all in the timing when jibing the J/92 and any other asymmetrical spinnaker boat. If you tell your spinnaker trimmers that you are jibing and start the jibe, what was their goal? To get the clew started on the new side before the boom comes over, right? If you tell them to jibe the chute you should turn the boat at their speed. Let them get the clew just started on the other side before you allow your main trimmer to throw the boom over. Don't just jibe and expect them to have a great jibe without watching the clew of the spinnaker yourself.
This is one technique that works in any kind of breeze. Dan Dingeman talks about jibing foreward of the luff. This works but the sheets need to be long enough and there can't be a boat in front of you. You are better off perfecting the jibe inside instead. If you havenžt tried having the bowman help with the new sheet then you are in for a treat. If they are having problems, they are probably too close to the shrouds and need to move forward. Practice makes perfect.
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