No such thing as a heavy weather gybe drop... - Viper 640 International Class Association

Or so believes Peter Beardsley. But you know, having been there and having tried to do that, he’s right. Click HERE and read his whole story in the Viper Forum. Thanks, Peter.

Peter wrote:

Have been meaning to write this since after the February Sarasota event, but it seems like we need some content and as weather improves and people open up, maybe now is a good time to think about your boathandling and visualize some maneuvers.

Generally there are four types of spinnaker douses in Vipers:

  1. Left hand turn (i.e., port rounding), coming in on port gybe = windward douse
  2. Left hand turn, coming in on starboard gybe = gybe drop, aka “a Mexican” or a “Kiwi” (not sure on the origin of the Kiwi phrase – Mexican allegedly goes back to the 1992 America’s Cup when you did this takedown when the boat was pointed toward Mexico off Point Loma, and I sincerely hope for no other reason)
  3. Right hand turn (i.e., starboard rounding, when there are leeward gate marks), coming in on starboard = leeward douse
  4. Right hand turn, coming in on port = “Canadian” douse (i.e., a reverse Mexican.  Duly noted that this is an Amero-centric version of the universe, maybe the Aussies could call it a Singapore douse?) – i.e., a weather douse with a gybe mid-weather douse.

You’d think that based on which gate you’re rounding and the gybe you’re coming in on would dictate the type of douse you’re going to do.  We typically talk about this once we’re approaching 20 lengths or so from the mark what we’re likely to do, bearing in mind that a last minute adjustment may be required, which is easy to do in a Viper thanks to the kite retrieval system allowing for maximum flexibility.

However, we’ve learned in windy conditions, that when you’re planning to make a left hand turn and you’re coming in on starboard, a Gybe Douse just doesn’t work.  Yes, you need to douse.  Yes, you need to gybe.  But the douse of choice cannot be a gybe douse – it must be a leeward douse.  We’ve learned this the hard way too many times and it took 10 years of Viper sailing to finally acknowledge this point on my end.  Why a leeward douse?  Think about your goals when rounding a leeward mark:

  1. Get the kite down prior to turning upwind without putting the kite in the water; and
  2. Round the mark tightly so that you can exit on a high lane to be able to have clear air post rounding and to prevent anyone behind you from being able to live in a higher lane than you and prevent you from tacking.

Douses take time, and that time varies by experience level, strength of middle crew and how smooth your retrieval system runs. But from the time you start a douse (i.e., pre gybe on starboard) to when the kite is fully in the boat and all crew are ready to hike and trim in sails (i.e., when you are on port and you want your bow to be turning around the mark), maybe this takes 5 seconds from start to finish with an experienced team.  I’m sure there is some joker out there who insists they’ve done it faster, and do that person, I would like to pull out a stopwatch and see.  Just call it 5 seconds though, and we’ve all seen douses that have taken longer due to a snarl in the halyard or some other snafu. If you don’t believe me, go check out some videos on YouTube from 2019 Worlds of douse excerpts and watch how many seconds elapse on the YouTube clock timer – I stand by 5 seconds, esp. in breeze.

Anyhow, while the time for a douse may not vary much, the distance a boat travels varies by boatspeed, and in 15+ kts (my definition of heavy air in a Viper, at least in WLIS – I’m sure the SoCal and Perth Viperers are rolling their eyes), you’re eating up the distance.  At 12 knots of boat speed, which is about what you’ll be doing in 15+ knots of wind if you’ve called a reasonable layline, you’re traveling roughly 21 feet per second.  If 10 knots of boatspeed, 17 feet per second, and if hauling the mail at 13.5 knots coming in hot, 23 feet per second – so if it will take you 5 seconds to do a douse and a gybe and be in a position to be going upwind, you’re starting that douse 5 boatlengths away from the mark.  And at 5 boatlengths away, you’re simply not in a position to gybe yet – the gybe happens in the middle of the douse typically.  So it’s a leeward douse in those conditions since you’re starting the douse well in advance of gybing.

When do you the math, it makes sense, but it’s helpful to make the mental switch and get over the fact that it simply won’t be a gybe douse – it will be a leeward douse, then a gybe which will allow you to get the kite down in the time period you’re expecting to be able to then complete a good gybe and be able to be in position to trim sails and round the leeward mark tightly.    Doing it any other way will almost certainly result you rounding the mark wide or worse, having the kite blow around the headstay mid gybe as you realize everything is happening faster than planned.

So in summary, in heavy air in a Viper, there is no such thing as a gybe drop.  It’s a leeward drop, then a gybe.

Flame away.