Home . Articles . How-to . Boat Doctor . What sort of A-sail sheets do I need?

What sort of A-sail sheets do I need?

2009 October 1
What sort of A-sail sheets do I need?

Dear Boat Doctor,
I just received a new asymmetrical spinnaker for my Catalina 36 and I am trying to figure out the best way to set up the sheets. My racer neighbor tells me that I want stripped Spectra, but I don't even really know what that means. Can I just use the same rope I use for jib sheets? Do I just tie the sheets on or should I use snap shackles? How about the tack line?
Alan Konop
Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Alan,
You can use just about anything you want for sheets, but some materials will work better than others. If you are very budget conscious a Dacron double braid like New England Ropes Sta-Set (www.neropes.com, 800-333-6679) will work, but you'll see better performance from some other materials.

Unlike a jib, the weight of the sheets will have an influence on the performance of the sail, at least in light conditions. In light air, the weight of the sheets can cause the sail to collapse. The weight comes on in two forms, the weight of the rope itself and the weight of any water it absorbs. You want a material that is light and ideally one that won't absorb water.

Your neighbor is talking about Spectra cored rope that has had its cover removed. I think this is probably overkill for your purpose. I would use a covered Spectra line, ideally covered with polypropylene-an example of this is New England Ropes Flight Line. I think the ideal size for you would be 3/8ths inch (10mm). Flight Line will not absorb water and it's quite a bit lighter than Sta-Set to start with.

The next topic to consider is attaching the sheets to the sail. I would not recommend using any sort of hardware, a spinnaker tends to fly around a lot and heavy hardware on the clew can be hazardous to your crew. And, of course, the weight of the hardware is a negative in light air. Also, shackles can get hung up on the headstay during a jibe.

I like to make a little strop of bare Spectra; maybe three feet long for your boat. I put a six-inch eye splice on each end. I also put a small eye splice on each sheet. I use one end of the strop to hitch the sheets together. I attach the other end to the clew of the sail with a Tylaska Spool Shackle (www.tylaska.com, 860-572-8440). You will end with an optimally light solution that is also very smooth; there's little to snag up when jibing.

I would not go to extremes with the tack pendant. I would just use New England Sta-Set and tie it on with a bowline or use a shackle if quick release is important. The weight will hurt you a little bit, but not nearly as much as on the clew.

Good luck with your new sail!