By Andrew Kerr
While racing in the Round Block Island Race with a J122 team recently, we saw the value of an outside Jibe when it was blowing 25 to 33 knots plus with big waves. The wind built steadily and a required a jibe at the corner of the Island in a building following sea. We set up for an outside jibe ,the spinnaker sheets were long enough to go outside the sail and the lazy spinnaker sheet sat on the “Jibulator” soft baton that was sown into the sail just above the tack .
To change to the outside Jibe simply meant putting the tack line underneath the sheet when rigging the spinnaker, enabling the lazy sheet to be outside the sail.
With most of the crew in the back of the boat, the trimmers in position and the middle person ready on the vang to possibly release it once the jibe was completed in case the boat heeled excessively to leeward for one reason or another, we were ready.
We looked to jibe on the top of a wave to take the pressure off the sails, the mainsail was brought in 3/ 4 of the way to reduce the amount of distance the boat had to be steered (with the traveler centered and cleated on both sides). With the crew in position with everyone as aft as possible, we started the jibe as the stern lifted with buoyancy of the wave, as the boat was nearing a run the spinnaker sheet was released and the spinnaker flagged in front of the boat, the mainsail was jibed and then smoked out and having taken the slack out of the weather spinnaker sheet prior to the Jibe , the trimmer then sheeted in the sail with all the crew in position, the spinnaker filled and off we went with the boat close to 19 knots of boat speed.
So what is the value of the outside Jibe in heavy air?
- It takes the sense of urgency out of the jibe, the main is jibed, the spinnaker flagged and then once the boat is well balanced the spinnaker is sheeted in.
- It avoids a broach – the inside jibe requires the spinnaker to be temporarily over sheeted which puts an immediate urgency on flattening the boat, bearing away, smoking the sheet out and very often dumping the vang – the outside jibe for the most part does not require those elements.
- It enables the crew to all stay aft and in racing position to maximize the draft of the rudder to maximize steerage and helps prevent the bow from submarining as crew are not needed to be forward pulling the spinnaker around like on an inside Jibe.
- It also helps lower the team’s collective blood pressure as in challenging conditions the adrenaline and exhilaration levels are high!
So what are the tradeoffs of outside Jibes?
- 1) You need longer spinnaker sheets which adds to the spaghetti Junction in the cockpit.
- 2) There is a performance trade off as the spinnaker flags in front of the boat and can take longer to fill and get going.
- 3) If you do not have a” Jibulator” baton on the sail, and also very often a baton on the end of the bowsprit and also do not take in the slack of the weather sheet there is a risk of trapping the lazy (soon to be loaded sheet) under the bow.
In summary with all these factors taken into account the bottom line is it makes for a safer Jibe in heavy air and particularly off shore with big waves where it is important to maintain balance and control in the waves once the Jibe is completed.
I would encourage teams who do not currently do outside Jibe’s to look at this technique and see if they can incorporate it into their boat handling repertoire for their specific design of boat, particularly if sailing offshore.