C22 Spinnaker Fundamentals

This article discusses the fundamentals of the rigging and crew management for the C-22 spinnaker, or "chute" as it is often called. The discussion topics include the C-22 spinnaker sail, rigging the boat, raising/lowering the sail, jibing, and the use of “crew cards” to define crew responsibilities.


The Spinnaker Sail

The spinnaker sail is controlled by three lines, a halyard and two sheets, that are attached to thethree corners of the sail. Figure 1 shows a diagram of the C-22 spinnaker. The bottom edge of the sail is the foot and the sides (leech and luff) are of equal length making it a “symmetric” spinnaker. The bottom corners of the sail are interchangeable, and are called the tack (corner attached to the “guy” that is led through the end of the spinnaker pole) and the clew (free end that is attached to the sheet). The top corner is the head and is attached to the spinnaker halyard that raises and lowers the sail. The halyard has a swivel to allow the sail to untwist. The C-22 class rules limit the size of a spinnaker to 25ft.-10in. maximum length of the leech and luff and 14ft.-5in. maximum width or “girth”. The sail is made of lightweight nylon material. The chute is packed and stored in a basket in the cabin companion-way or a bag, called a turtle, that is attached to the bow pulpit. The basket is the most popular approach. When packing the chute into the basket or bag, make sure the corners of the sail are on top for easy attachment of the halyard and sheets. Also, make sure that the leech and luff edges do not get twisted.

Rigging the Boat

The rigging of the boat for the spinnaker is shown in Figure 2. A spinnaker pole is used to set the windward corner or tack of the sail. C-22 class rules limit the pole to a maximum length of 8 ft. It has interchangeable ends with jaws that attach to the guy at the outboard end and a ring on the mast at the inboard end. The pole height is controlled with two lines called the topping lift and downhaul or foreguy. The pole is trimmed fore-and-aft using the guy to position the pole perpendicular to the wind. The halyard raises and lowers the sail and is led through a block at the masthead and is cleated to the mast in a convenient location for the foredeck crew. The two sheets are attached to the clews of the sail and led aft to two ratchet blocks on the stern and then forward and trimmed by the cockpit crew.

Raising, Lowering, & Trimming the Chute

Learning to raise and lower the chute should be practiced in mild wind (5-10 knots) and waveconditions. Steps in raising and trimming the chute are as follows:

  1. Pack the sail in the bag or basket with the three corners on top and attached to the halyard and two sheets that all run outside of the forestay and shrouds.
  2. Attach the inboard end of the pole to the mast ring and attach the outboard end to the sheet that now becomes the guy.
  3. Set the pole parallel to the deck by adjusting the topping lift and downhaul. The wind is usually coming over the starboard side of the boat, if that is the case then the pole is set on the starboard side.
  4. “Presheet” the guy before hoisting to pull the tack of the sail up to the outboard end of the pole.
  5. On command “hoist”, the halyard is pulled in as rapidly as possible to raise the sail so the head is all the way up to the masthead.
  6. After the spinnaker is raised, the headsail is lowered to keep clear airflow to the spinnaker.
  7. The guy is trimmed in to set the pole perpendicular to the wind.
  8. To trim the spinnaker, the sheet attached to the clew is pulled in or let out to align the luff of the sail with the wind. When trimmed properly, the luff will be partially collapsed or on the verge of collapse.
  9. The pole height should be adjusted to keep the clews even.
  10. Tweaker lines can be used to move the leads forward on the guy and sheet in stronger winds and choke down the spinnaker.
  11. Lowering the sail is the reverse of raising it. The headsail is raised to help blanket the spinnaker. On command, the cockpit crew pulls the sail down and into the cabin by grabbing the sheet and clew and then pulling in the rest of the sail. Simultaneously, the foredeck crew will lower the sail by letting out the halyard. If a cabin basket is used to store the spinnaker, the sail is packed and ready to be raised again. If the bag is used, the crew will have to pack the sail and take it forward and attach it to the bow pulpit. That is one of the reasons that the cabin basket is preferred over the bag.


The spinnaker is jibed when the boat changes course so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other. Jibing the chute involves jibing the mainsail as well and the boom changes from one side to the other. The spinnaker pole also changes sides and will be on the opposite side of the boat. The jibe begins when the skipper commands “Jibe-ho” and the boat begins to turn. The foredeck crew then releases the inboard end of the pole from mast ring, He then hooks the jaw on the other spinnaker sheet (now guy) at the clew (now tack) of the sail. As the boat turns, the main comes across and the outboard end of the pole is released from the old guy (new sheet) and hooked to the mast ring. While the boat is turning and the pole is coming across, the cockpit crew is easing out the new guy and pulling in the new sheet to maintain sail trim until on the new course. For best performance, the relative wind angles when looking at the masthead fly are around +/- 30 degrees from the dead downwind but that can vary some with wind conditions.

Crew Cards

The C-22 spinnaker is handled best with a crew of three, a helmsman (usually the skipper) and a cockpit crew and a foredeck crew. I have found it useful to make 3 inch x 5 inch crew cards for the cockpit and foredeck crew to define their jobs. The instructions on the crew cards are listed below and can be copied and folded in half and laminated so that they can put them in their pocket and then can be quickly pulled out when needed for reference. Crew Cards for the Cockpit and Foredeck Crew are as follows:


Raise spinnaker:

  1. Presheet Starboard guy after the pole is raised by the foredeck crew.
  2. On command “raise spinnaker”, hoist spinnaker & control guy (Starboard.) and sheet (Port) lines as foredeck crew hoists spinnaker halyard.

Trim Spinnaker:

  1. Trim guy - pole perpendicular to wind
  2. Pole height- clews level with topping lift & downhaul.
  3. Trim sheet- spinnaker luff on verge of curling.


  1. Command “prepare to jibe” then “jibing”.
  2. Keep spinnaker perpendicular to wind as boat turns (old guy in, new guy out).

Lower spinnaker:

  1. Raise jib on command.
  2. After foredeck crew stows pole, drop spinnaker on command by collecting foot & coordinate with Foredeck to drop halyard.
  3. Stuff spinnaker in basket.


Raise Spinnaker:

  1. Set pole on Starboard side (preset downhaul & raise topping lift) make sure guy (Starboard) is in outboard jaw. Help prefeed guy.
  2. On command “raise spinnaker”, hoist spinnaker halyard-fast! (stow halyard so it runs free when spinnaker is dropped)
  3. On command “drop jib”, cockpit crew releases halyard & sheet, then help pull jib down & stow jib.


  1. Command “Prepare to Jibe” then “Jibing”. On “Jibing”, release pole at mast and old guy (may need to twist pole to release guy).
  2. Grab new guy & put in outboard jaw, then shove inboard jaw into mast ring. Push pole fwd. to clew of spinnaker.

Lower Spinnaker:

  1. Cockpit crew raise jib, then unhook pole & stow behind jib — release topping lift (may need help from cockpit crew).
  2. Release spinnaker halyard on command “drop”. Then help cockpit crew stow spinnaker.
  3. Sit on windward side.

Written by : Gene Ferguson