Spinnaker Tips

The following tips assume that you have a sleeve installed on either a cruising or poled spinnaker.


  • Make life easier – store the spinnaker in a decent turtle bag that allows you quick set up, easy packing and convenient storage. You will use your sail more!! Please see our section on our Turtleroo product for further information.
  • A good turtle bag provides the following feature:
  • A large stiff open mouth
  • Separate ties for each clew and the sail head
  • The bag should be secured to the boat (lifelines or deck) (sail hanks or ties)
  • Preferably the bag should have pockets for any lines kept with the sail (3 pockets for cruising sails and one pocket for poled spinnakers)

Ordinary sail bags (like duffel bags) are not good for spinnakers because:

  • They can’t be secured to the boat
  • They don’t hold the clews where you can find them
  • They don’t stay open or organized
  • They are usually made of soft (less sturdy) materials


1. Tie each clew to its correct tie point

2. Put the bottom of the sleeve (ring end) in the bag

3. Put any loose sail that extends below the bottom of the sleeve in the bag


5. Fake the sleeve in the turtle (DO NOT coil the sleeve in the bag as this may cause twists)

6. Tie the sail head (top of sleeve) to its tie point in the bag

7. Coil each sail line and store in separate pockets if available or tuck the coiled line down the side of the bag next to the clew tie point

8. Never pack a wet sail in the bag – hang it up to dry or spread it out inside your boat


NOTE: For cruising and non-racing boats equipped with jib roller furler systems. The process of rolling the jib up or unrolling it MAY allow the jib or the furler mechanism to pick up the spinnaker sleeve or the lines that work the sleeve and roll them up in the furler. To completely avoid this problem roll the jib up before the spinnaker is hoisted and then drop the spinnaker before deploying the jib.

Placement of turtle bag on deck:

9. If your course is going to be down wind or a broad reach put the turtle on the lee side of the boat near the bow.

10. If your course is going to be more of a beam to close reach put the turtle further aft on the lee side of the boat.

11. If the sleeve tends to “twist” when hoisted try securing the turtle to a shroud behind the main sail. You can hoist from this position and keep one hand on the sleeve to control its swinging.

Sail set up for foredeck hoist:

12. Secure the control halyard (downhaul line) of the sleeve to the deck (bow cleat etc.) Put a pre-measured mark (tape) on the control halyard so you know what the correct amount of line is. MAKE SURE the control halyard in on the boat side of the sail. (You want the sleeve lines to be on the boat side or windward side of the sail – not on the outside or leeward side of the sail.)

13. Run the sheet(s) to the cockpit and rig the tack pendent or after guy (Poled Spinnaker). Double sheets on cruising sails are nice but you need very long sheets. The tack pendant should run back to the cockpit so you can adjust luff tension.

14. Attach the spinnaker halyard to the sleeve top (sail head).

15. If you are using a poled spinnaker now is the time to raise the pole.

Sail set up for cockpit hoist:

16. Place the turtle bag as described in 9 above.

17. Two snatch blocks are needed. Place one snatch block near the bow and the other near the base of the mast. Alternatively place both snatch blocks near the bow.

18. Secure the control halyard to a cockpit cleat. A pre-measured mark as in 12 above is convenient.

19. Run sheets and connect spinnaker halyard as in 13 and 14 above.


20. Get boat on desired course and vang main if desired.

21. Take the slack out of the sheet and tack pendant lines.

22. Hoist spinnaker and sleeve.

23. Check sheets and tack pendant to be sure they are properly rigged. Make sure the sleeve lines on the boat side of the sail. If any problems are found now is the time to fix them.


24. Undo control halyard from its secured position and raise the sleeve part way.

25. Trim the tack pendant (cruising sail) or after guy (poled spinnaker) and the sheet.

26. If all lines are correct (step 25) raise the sleeve to the top of the sail.

27. We suggest you cleat the sleeve lines to the mast (foredeck operation) in order to keep them away from the forestay. Should the spinnaker wrap on the forestay the sleeve lines will be clear of the wrap and may be used to pull the sleeve down over the top part of a wrap. For cockpit operation secure both up and control halyards to a cockpit cleat.

28. Trim sail.


29. Without using the sleeve, do a normal jibe and pull the lazy sheet of the spinnaker to the new side of the boat. If you only use one sheet then you must walk the sheet to the new side of the boat. If you are using a spinnaker halyard that is in front of the forestay it is a good idea to walk the sleeve lines around the forestay (so they won’t chafe on the stay) and recleat them on the mast. If you use a jib halyard as your spinnaker halyard you do not need to do this.

30. With a sleeve. This is the safest and easiest way to jibe. Pull the sleeve down all the way and cleat the downhaul to the deck. (You may need to luff the sail -see the “Take Down” section of this paper). Now jibe the main and get set on your new course. Take up slack on the lazy sheet or walk the sheet to the new side of the boat. Raise the sleeve back up and trim the sheet.


31. Pull the sleeve down to completely cover the spinnaker. Cleat the downhaul as far forward as you can. Ideally cleat it to someplace on the pulpit , bowsprit etc. This completely frees the foretriangle so you can easily move the pole to the new side of the boat.

32. Jibe the main and preventer or vang if you are using one.

33. Jibe the pole (end for end or dip pole) and make new connections for the after guy. Raise the pole to its operating position.

34. Trim guy and sheet and raise the sleeve back to the top of the sail. Bring the sleeve lines back to the mast and secure. NOTICE that this operation always leaves the sleeve lines on the correct side of the pole so that is easy to take the sail down when the time comes.


When the wind picks up it is always best to drop the spinnaker especially if you are sailing shorthanded. Of course, what constitutes “strong wind” depends on your skill and the boat you are on. One technique we have found useful is to “reef” the spinnaker. This can be done very effectively in gusty winds where the gusts are stronger than you are comfortable with or if the wind is just slightly stronger than you like.

35. To reef the spinnaker you need a snatch block near the bow on the lee side of the boat. Lead the sleeve control halyard through the block.

36. Pull the sleeve down about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way and cleat the control halyard of the sleeve to a bow cleat to keep the wind from forcing the sleeve back up. Remember you MUST luff the sail if you expect to pull the sleeve down. SEE the “Take Down” section of this paper.

37. It also helps to move the sheet lead forward . If you are using a poled spinnaker move the pole forward and lower it as well.


38. If a storm overtakes you, luff the spinnaker by letting the sheet go. Pull the sleeve down and cleat it to the deck. Now you are free to reef the main or start the engine or what ever else needs doing. When things are under control drop the sleeve to the deck and stow.

39. If someone falls overboard forget the spinnaker and do the standard man overboard drill.


Getting the spinnaker back down safely is the most challenging part of sailing shorthanded with this sail. Many times we put the sail up in light winds and the wind gradually builds until it is more than we want.


Many people think that the amount of effort needed in pulling a sleeve down is caused by the friction between the sail and the sleeve. In reality the friction between the sleeve and the sail is a very minor part of the forces involved. Have you ever tried to lower a genoa sail when the wind is blowing 20 knots or walked past a flag in that kind of wind? If you have you know the power the wind is delivering to the sail or flag. A flogging sail is no fun to get hold of, and the snapping of the flag should give you an idea of the force and power of the wind. The wind is blowing against a large area (your sail) and depending on your trim will either keep the sail full or will cause the sail to luff like a flag. It is always trying to blow the sail AWAY from the boat. You, on the other hand, are trying to pull the sail back onto the boat and at the same time to compress the sail into a sleeve. Therefore the force you have to overcome is the force of the wind trying to drive the sail away from the boat and not the friction of the sleeve and sail. Anything you can do to reduce the effect of the wind on the sail will make sleeve operation much easier.

40. In light winds (less than 10 knots) it is usually possible to pull a sleeve over a full sail.

41. It is always easier to pull the sleeve down if the sail is luffed first. There are several ways to do this. If you have the space, turn the boat more downwind and luff the spinnaker behind the main sail. You can always ease the spinnaker sheet to luff the sail. Less desirable, but effective, is to turn the boat into the wind or to raise/set the jib to blanket the sail. Additionally, the tack pendant or afterguy can be released to luff the sail. USE ANY ONE, OR A COMBINATION OF THE ABOVE TECHNIQUES TO DEPOWER THE SAIL.

42a. Generally, to pull the sleeve down it is best to stand near the bow under the sail so you can pull more or less in the same plane or direction the sail hangs. Then have some one in the cockpit luff the sail as in step 41.

42b. An alternate way you might try with a cruising sail is to stand at or near the mast behind the main sail, turn the boat downwind, ease (release) the tack pendant, and pull the sleeve down, then ease the sheet.

43. If the wind is strong enough to make pulling down difficult put a snatch block near the bow and lead the sleeve control halyard through it. Now you can stand back on the foredeck and with better footing and purchase pull the sleeve over the sail. On large boats, and if the sleeve is strong enough, the control halyard can be lead to a mast winch if needed.

44. Once you get the sleeve down cleat it off on a deck cleat so the wind can’t force the sleeve up.

45. Try to do steps 43 and 44 with the boat going at maximum speed. (this way the relative difference between the wind speed and the boat speed in minimum). Do this just as a puff is ending .

46. To drop the sleeve it is best to turn the boat downwind. When the spinnaker halyard is eased the sail will tend to drop right on the foredeck. If the wind is on the beam, the wind tries to blow the sleeve off the boat and you will need to collect it to keep it out of the water.


The above paper was prepared by Gary Shaw, if you have any questions please call the V. F. Shaw Co., Inc. at 1-800-367-9046 for more information. We are always glad to talk with you.

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