|As we passed the committee boat, we had the sail up and flying. It took|
another minute or so before we realized the sheet was still in the guy hook.
It took almost the entire downwind leg to get the chute up and the Genoa in.
We got our wish; it was the fastest, funnest ride we ever had into the launching area. But we also learned that the particular racing situation in Budd Inlet means we won't be using the chute very often. It has to do with the length of the races.
We race every other Thursday night. The first race starts at 1830, and they try to finish the last race by 2030. We begin racing the first week in May and end the last week in August. We like to do three races a night and sometimes the winds are light--thus we have short courses. Most races last about 20 - 30 minutes -- so two maybe two and a half miles for each course--or lots less distance if the winds are really light. That means in a 24-minute race with two downwind legs you are only sailing downwind for about 8-10 minutes. Worse--it's divided into two 4 or 5-minute segments. Look at this picture.
Don't get me wrong. If we had long downwind legs to use the spinnaker, we could eat up the Lidos, Coronado 15's, and 420's in our fleet. But short downwind legs kill you! Here's what has to happen.
You round the weather mark, You have to set the spinnaker pole and topping lift. We generally ignore the down haul. You have to get the sheets on the spinnaker. The helmsman has to hoist the spinnaker while steering with his knees and in our case tending one or both of the spinnaker sheets. The crew has to work foot of the spinnaker around the forestay to the correct side. By now more than a minute has passed no matter how good you are (and we aren't that good yet). Then you need to drop the Genoa and secure it to the deck. Raise the centerboard, and now finally you can adjust the trim of the spinnaker. In a five-minute run you will be passing the committee boat about the time everything is dialed in.
Then it will be time to head upwind again. No way could you bring in the spinnaker and reset the Genoa quickly enough to briskly round the committee boat and start your beat to the weather mark. The benefit in minutes is nowhere worth the cost in minutes--plus by trying to do too much too quickly you will lose your Zen and you'll screw up all the fine steering and trimming needed for the upwind leg.
So--it's sad, but for us in our races the spinnaker is a great sail to have for long downwind sailing--like a day sail, but not so helpful for racing. Of course if it is a true drifter and nobody is moving and it looks like it could take 10 - 20 minutes to complete the downwind leg--then the cost benefit ratio changes dramatically. We'll see next year! Further note--the cost benefit analysis means that there is really no point in fabricating and installing a spinnaker launching tube in the fore deck. For our purposes a bucket is fine.