Most of us, through our different sailing journeys, learnt to gybe a symmetrical spinnaker with a pole; if the boat is steering accurately close to dead downwind while the pole is changed across a gybe, it’s a pretty straightforward process.
With the introduction of faster boats, asymmetrical spinnakers started to spread like wildfire on every racecourse and class. This new type of sail presents us with some new challenges. Who among us hasn’t tried to gybe the Asso and ended up with the spinnaker around the forestay for example? If we stick to a few key principles, the asymmetrical spinnaker can be extremely fun, fast and enjoyable to use.
Just like the symmetrical, we need to make sure we keep the first few inches of the luff curling, to make sure the sail is not stalling; the worst scenario for the Asso is to over trim it, because it stalls the airflow.
Asymmetricals are a fantastic tool in light winds, the closer to the wind you will be able to sail, regardless of the design. Angles as close as 60 degrees apparent are not uncommon in less than 9-10 knots of breeze. In today’s fast-paced modern world, with so many other activities keeping us busy, we often struggle to find crew. The asso is a great sail for short-handed crews! A few weeks ago I was assisting a new member and boat owner of our Club with the delivery of his new boat from Blairgowrie to RBYC. I was able to easily set the boat’s asso with a snuffer all by myself as the skipper steered away. The inclusion of a snuffer or sail sock for the cruising asymmetrical is a very handy addition, making the sail essentially as easy to use as a furling genoa. After using the sail in a cruising situation, personally I would only carry this style on a cruising boat.
Gybing becomes a very simple process when you take the spinnaker pole out of the equation: basically, as you let the one sheet off you pull the other one on, like in tacking. The key to getting is right is all in the timing. As the skipper calls for a gybe and slowly bears away, the crew is trimming the spinnaker, easing the sail as the boat rotates down. When approaching dead downwind, the crew strips the old sheet and pulls on the new sheet fast, helping the old sheet around and making sure it doesn’t get snagged. Flaking the sheet out pre-gybe always helps greatly. If enough space is given, I find that gybing the sail inside is best practice, as the sheets can run smoothly around the forestay.
Here is an awesome instructional video attached for all to learn a little more about the Asso gybe process. Also remember, if you have any other questions on this topic or others, you can engage the services of the RBYC Club Coach at very competitive fees. Just click on the button below for more info! 😎