James Knight’s J Boat Asymmetric Handling Tips
Since joining North Sails in 1999 James knight has been involved in North’s J boat development program. His attention to detail and passion for one design racing make him the perfectly suited to the J boat fleet.
In this article he looks at ironing out common issues with the J boat asymmetric handling.
One of the benefits of sailing any J boat with a bow sprit is the ease of gybing, the lack of spinnaker pole and single sheets leave the bow and cockpit simple and un-cluttered.
If you follow this guide your kite will spend more time winning you races and less time wrapped around your forestay or in the sea!
The majority of hoists in the J/105 and J/109 class racing will be bear away sets. Getting this simple manoeuvre right will give you boat lengths on the opposition.
- As you approach the mark the headsail trimming is the only crew member off the rail, he can ease jib and load the leeward coach roof winch with the port spinnaker sheet.
- As per class rules the pole can only be extended after the bow passes the windward mark. As soon as the bow is past the windward mark the pole is extended with the tack line clutch open.
- Top tip: use a marker pen on the pole outhaul so you know when it is fully extended. While the pole is being extended the hatch can be opened by the bowman.
- As soon as the pole is set the tack line can be pulled to the end of the pole (assisted by the bowman). NB: It is important for the bowman to hold the foot of the spinnaker inside the boat as in strong breeze there is a danger of it dropping into the water.
- Depending on the angle of the spreader leg and wind speed the helm should call the hoist, it is the responsibility of the helm to inform the mast man when he will be hoisting, e.g. “on the spreader leg”, “at the mark” or “2 boat lengths after the mark”. This means that the mast man can keep his/her weight on the rail for as long as possible only approaching the mast when the kite is about to be hoisted.
- At the point where the helm is about to call for the hoist the bowman should have one hand on the foot of the spinnaker (to keep it out of the water) and one hand on the middle of the foot of the headsail to give the kite an easy journey from the hatch to the top of the mast.
- During the hoist the mast man should adopt a hand over hand style hoist feeding a rapid but smooth halyard to the pit. In the pit there should only be one turn on the winch.
- As soon as the spinnaker reached the top of the rig the mast man calls "made" and the trimmer can sheet on.
- The upwind headsail trimmer can now furl the jib with the assistance of the bowman.
The Inside Gybe
The inside gybe is all you need for the J/109 J/105 J/92 etc and is as easy as it looks.
- Helm calls “Set to Gybe!”
- Bow team (bowman and mast man) move from the rail to the foredeck, they take the slack out of the lazy kite sheet and call back “Set”.
- In the cockpit the slack in taken up on the new sheet.
- The helm can now call “Gybing”.
- Now the crew start hauling the new sheet around the forestay and back aft in the boat. NB do not turn the boat down into the gybe until the bow team has the clew of the spinnaker to the forestay. Once the clew is at the forestay the helm can steer down. This should be a continuous turn from broad reach to broad reach do not stop the turn when the boat is dead down wind. The longer the boat spends on a dead run the more likely you are to get a wrap.
- The mainsheet trimmer should gybe the main at the same time as the kite is pulled round, the only reason to gybe the main after the kite fills would be in sub 6knots, reverse flow off the main will help fill the kite.
- The kite is then over sheeted until it fills; the sheet is then "smoked" (without collapsing the kite) allowing the boat to accelerate out of the gybe.
- As you approach the leeward mark the bowman should open the fore-hatch, Top Tip: always make sure the jib sheets are behind the hatch at this stage, grab the tack retrieval line (7metres of 8mm line attached to the tack line shackle of the asymmetric) and pass it down to the squirrel who should be in place in the forepeak.
- The jib should now be unfurled on the leeward side.
- The helm can now bear-away to dead down wind and call for “Drop”.
- First the sheet should be smoked then the tack line, the bow team can now retrieve the kite using the tack retrieval line.
- When the tack is under control the pit person should be looking forward with the kite halyard in hand paying out as much as the bow team can gather. Once the kite is down below, the bow man can close the hatch and call clear to tack.
As with the Leeward drop, on your approach the bow team will should have the hatch open and the windward sheet passed down to the squirrel who is in position down below.
The sequence for drop is:
- Jib unfurled on the leeward side
- Helm turns the boat dead down wind
- Bow Team take up on the lazy spin sheet. Tack line is then smoked, the bow team should then muscle the kite around the forestay.
- Halyard is now eased and crew gather into the hatch (ideally from the middle of the foot).
Also know as a Mexican or a Kiwi, this drop is very slick if the helms man turns the boat at the correct rate.
- Before the boat is gybed the jib is pulled out on the WINDWARD side, and the kite is over sheeted.
- The helm turns down and the main is pulled across, it is important for the helm not to head up at this point.
- The bowman gathers the kite in from the middle of the foot.
- Always make sure the boat is almost dead down wind when you initiate the Drop.
- Make sure the Jib sheets are behind the hatch when dropping the kite.
- When gibing keep the kite full and flying, if it collapses before the clew reaches the forestay abort the gybe and head up to fill the kite again, then try again.
- In breezy conditions wool the tack before the first hoist so you can sneak it out early with less risk of catching the tack in the water. (See image right);
Good sailing, see you on the water!
James Knight email@example.com