The Anatomy of a
Takedown: Part IV – The Letterbox Drop
This is the
takedown for when things are way out of control, like when there is so much
wind that we don’t even want to put a jib up, we just need to get the chute down—fast.
The letterbox drop works a lot like the leeward takedown, but without a jib up,
we need to hide the spinnaker behind the main, so we run the lazy guy over the
boom and down the companionway. The advantage is it keeps people off the
foredeck and collapses the sail as it comes down. This works on either jibe, and the mark is probably irrelevant at this
point, but we’ll assume that we are going downwind on port jibe and will not be
putting up a jib (yet). The exact timing of all of these maneuvers will be
soon—very soon—but only as soon as everyone is ready.
1. The Setup –
Once we realize things are out of control:
- Bow –
Grab the lazy guy (hanging off the starboard side of the sail) and run it
aft, over the boom, under the foot of the main and down the companionway.
- Pit –
Make sure spinnaker halyard is flaked, out of the bag and ready to run.
(If you are worried about it, throw it overboard and let it stream out
behind the boat. That should get any kinks or twists out.)
(and another free hand) – Grab the lazy guy from down below as it comes
through the companionway.
2. Ready for the
Douse – Pretty soon after the setup:
– Call out time until the douse.
trimmer – Ease the pole forward to the forestay. Stay on the guy, don’t
let it run because it might get caught or hurt someone.
sheet trimmer – Overtrim the sheet to stretch
the foot out and get the clew close to the boom.
least two other people – Get on the lazy guy and get ready to pull it in.
4. Time to Douse
– As soon as everyone is ready:
– call for the douse
– Keep driving straight
- Pit –
Blow the halyard big time. We’re talking 40-50 feet or more. The idea is
to collapse the sail from the top. It’s important to blow enough that the
sail won’t fill away from the boat. The head of the sail will stream out
away from the boat and will not land in the water. After the initial blow,
while watching the sail and the people gathering it, lower it in a
controlled manner. Note: you should have at least one turn around the
winch before you open the clutch to avoid shredding your hands, but if a halyard
is on the winch you need, it is fine to take a turn on top of the halyard.
on the lazy guy – start hauling it in over the boom, once you get to the
sail start stuffing it down the companionway.
trimmer – ease the guy in a controlled manner as the sail is being pulled
down. Don’t fight the people gathering it, but don’t let it run.
sheet trimmer – ease the sheet as the sail is being pulled in. Keep it on
the winch and be ready in case it gets blown back out.
– Pull like crazy on the lazy guy until you can reach some part of the
sail. Pull the entire sail below. Disconnect the gear and hand it back up.
Start packing the sail.
Get the boat under control. Clean up the pole and spinnaker gear. Figure out
what headsail you are going to put up. Go fast again.