Gone with the wind – sailing spinnaker on a Sailhorse 1

Some people consider it the highest art: Spinnaker-Sailing. Many have great respect for the big bubble, because enormous powers drive our Sailhorse. But everyone who gets involved with the spinnaker finds joy in it.

Segeln geht auch nur mit Spinnaker – Foto: Olaf Heiden

Sailing with spinnaker only at Freest – Foto: Olaf Heiden

We support you on the way there. When you start, stick to the following rules:

  1. Start with moderate wind! You can even practice without wind e. g. setting and striking or handling the spinnaker pole. My bow-woman took the pole home in winter to include it in her winter fitness training.
  2. Get familiar with the theory! Where is the top and the down end? What is a spinnaker guy? Maybe you have a colleague who will show you the ropes?
  3. Take your time! Too much traffic on the water? Lots of wind? Don’t push it. Because when conditions are good, it is a calm, harmonious sailing from the beginning. Even if it takes a season to become familiar with it, so what? Then it will be running better and better in the following season.

So, let’s start Part 1 with an easy manual and some basics you really need to know.

“The spinnaker is the diva among the sails: Extraordinary and impressive, but also moody and demanding full attention.”


Spinnaker am Steg setzen - Foto: D. Jahnke

Practicing setting up the spinnaker on the jetty, Foto: D. Jahnke

The spinnaker is a round cut sail that can be sailed in aft winds and (almost) half winds. It is sailed before the forestay.

Its special feature: it is driven with free leeches at two sheets. The functions of the leeches change while in action – and also the names of the parts involved!

It creates at least one knot more speed and can withstand up to four wind strengths – at least with nylon sails with 0.75 oz which are common for Sailhorse.

Experts sail it up to 6 Bft. and use a higher weight of sailcloth. It’s easy to keep the boat on course with spinnaker.

Changing functions, changing names

The spi is symmetrical, but


  • the sheet is called spinnaker guy (“windward sheet“)
  • the lower corner of the spi is “neck
  • and the leech is called “luff”.


  • the sheet is called „leeward sheet“ or „spinnaker sheet“
  • the lower corner of the spi is “clew” or “leeward clew”
  • and the leeward leech is called “lower leech“.

Sailhorse spinnaker sheets should each have a length of at least 12 meters.

By the time you internalize that part you‘ve almost won:

The names of the parts help us to do the right thing, just like we know it from the other sails. For example: we know if the boat heels too much, open the sail. The same with the spinnaker: release the leeward sheet.

Windward Sheet

The windward sheet is used to adjust the angle of the spinnaker pole to the wind. It becomes the lee sheet after a jibe.

Leeward Sheet

It is the main trimming instrument for the spi. After a jibe it becomes the windward sheet.

Barber Hauler

The Barber Haulers change the angle of the sheets. The Lee horn is pulled downwards, especially by pulling the Lee Barber Hauler, thus flattening the spinnaker.

Spinnaker Halyard

The spinnaker is hoisted with the spinnaker halyard. It runs above the forestay and passes over block in a sheave box fitted into the mast top. From here it goes down to the mast foot and is led into the cockpit via a leading block.

When winds are strong, a play of approx. 20 cm should remain below the spinnaker halyard-block. When wind is weak the spinnaker should be pulled up all the way.

On the forestay of the Sailhorse a weight connected to the spinnaker halyard is used to ensure that the spinnaker comes down properly.

Sailhorses with a jib-furler system use a spacer on the jib luff that prevents the jib luff from twisting with the spinnaker halyard.

Pole uphaul and downhaul

Pole uphaul and pole downhaul adjust the height of the spinnaker pole.

A proven starting point for the Sailhorse is to choose a 90° angle between forestay and spinnaker pole.

As a rule, the pole uphaul and downhaul are attached to fittings in the middle of the spinnaker pole. There are also variants (combined uphaul and downhaul, “shooting pole”), which we will not cover here.

A rubber rope retraction for the downhaul is recommended. The rubber rope secures the downhaul with a minimum tensile strength and keeps it free. With stronger winds, the rubber robe is not strong enough and the downhaul must be attached.

Spinnaker Pole

The pole stabilizes and calms the spinnaker, it is always used on the windward side. At both ends (spinnaker pole–yardarm) it has fittings for latching.


  • The spinnaker pole should form a right angle to the apparent wind.
  • The spinnaker pole should be in alignment with the mainsail boom. (This is not always the case. The forestay also limits the angle).
  • The spinnaker pole is set up “from the outside in” and taken down “from the inside out”.

Some people first hoist the spinnaker and then hook in the pole. This should only be done on downwind course, e. g. if the spinnaker is stored on the “wrong” side (windward).

As an overview:

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