We are often asked: is it too windy to fly my spinnaker?
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The answer, of course, depends on several factors. For this discussion we will use a 2015 Beneteau Oceanis 35 with a full sized .75 oz asymmetrical spinnaker by Neil Pryde as our example.
12,000 lbs Displacement
7.5 knots theoretical hull speed
Questions to ask to determine if you should fly a spinnaker:
1- Will the boat be faster with the spinnaker? If you are sailing at 7.5 knots under main & jib what is the point? As the boat reaches hull speed the loads will increase making the boat harder to handle.
2- What will be the apparent wind direction & angle? The apparent wind angle moves forward as the boat speeds up. The apparent wind speed increases when the apparent wind is forward of the beam and decreases when the apparent wind is aft of beam.
Sail handling & shock loads, not constant wind speed is the likely cause of a spinnaker tear. Most spinnakers break not because of material strength but because of shock loads.
Example: If you are running in 25 knots of true wind with 9 knots of boat speed the apparent wind speed will be 16 knots. If you round up and stop moving the apparent wind speed will be the same as the true wind speed and the sail will likely tear while shock loaded.
Conclusion: unless racing with an experienced crew, fly the spinnaker in under 15 knots of apparent wind speed when the boatspeed is 90% or less than hull speed without the spinnaker.
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