And Why Do You Need One?
A spinnaker strut is a relatively short (usually aluminum) pole with one end fitting designed for mast attachment, and the other for running a line across a small internal pulley. Standard sizes range up to about seven feet in length and three or four inches in diameter. They look like this:
As its name implies, the strut is for use with a traditional symmetrical spinnaker. It will keep the afterguy (or the spin sheet you’re using as an afterguy) attached to the spinnaker pole away from lifelines, stanchions and other undesirable points on its way back to the stern.
The strut is usually attached to the mast via a padeye on the mast, and often held in position with a sail tie to a shroud
Sailors want a reaching strut because:
And, more important – when sailing fairly close to the wind with the spinnaker, the pole is well forward. In a good breeze the afterguy or sheet is very heavily loaded. If that lifeline or stanchion (or both) bends enough, or breaks, the pole will slam forward into the forestay. Bad things can happen. Very bad things.
A reaching strut is easy to rig, and easy to use. Because it’s fairly short, it’s also easy to stow. And not expensive , especially when you consider the cost of a forestay or mast.
One of the first times I ran outside the harbor on my own, the waves were small and relatively smooth. But when I returned a couple of hours later, the tide had changed against the wind, the chop had turned into waves, and the breeze had gone from eight to about fifteen knots. And, of course I was coming downwind with following sea. In a 14-foot centerboard boat. With all the vast experience and skill of a 12-year old.
Eased the centerboard up, surfed down the face of the wave, stuffed the bow and broached the boat. After what seemed like a dozen times almost righting the boat, a real sailor came up (in a power boat) and instructed me on getting the main in the boat, the boat upright and into the harbor, wet cold and alive. I’ve tried to repeat the experience in larger boats, but was unable to replicate the conditions, probably because there’s usually crew aboard who don’t want to get that wet, and I have many more years of experience driving boats. I’ve even tried to do the same thing with a power boat, almost succeeding due largely to inattention.
Three basic lessons learned for following seas:
The oft used cliche “Slower is smoother, and smoother is fast” sounds odd, but it applies. You’ll reach your destination both drier, and happier.