ditch the pole

Big Pimpin’

esprit banner adAs a youth I cut my teeth in offshore racing in the early 80s off the West Australia coast.  These low lying shores had been littered through the centuries by sailing ships driven hard upon the reefs by the onshore prevailing winds.

A typical event would include a 100 mile bash to windward, followed by a white knuckle sleigh ride home under spinnaker. The thrill of the run was always tempered by the dread of having to go forward to jibe the spinnaker pole in huge seas.  I still have vivid memories of a dark stormy night off Cape Leewin, gateway to the Southern Ocean, when this maneuver went wrong and we dropped our mast.

Through the years I have learned to love the spinnaker and hate the pole.  My distain of the unwieldy device reached a fever pitch in the 2008 Pacific Cup during a double handed run to Hawaii. I forbid my buddy from going forward to deal with the beast as I couldn’t bear the thought of telling his wife that his head had been stove-in or he had been tossed overboard.

Over the past 25 years I have spent a lot of time doing single and shorthanded racing off the Californian coast. It became apparent during a trip to San Fransisco in 2013 to watch the Americas Cup boats beautifully built of high tech carbon fiber, that the spinnaker pole needed to be replaced and updated.  Thus began a two year odyssey of bow sprit design development.  This combined my engineering and sailing experience to develop a carbon fiber sprit that would banish my arch nemesis “the spinnaker pole” from my boat once and for all.  I sought input from local sailmakers such as Sam Heck, Harry Patterson, Oliver McCain, riggers, marine professionals, and Pacific Singlehanded Sailing Association members.  I thank them all for their considered opinions and input.

The result is an elegant carbon fiber bowsprit solution which is easy to install, simple to remove and stow, and projects the tack of an asymmetrical well forward of the bow.  I am so pleased with my sprit and especially when combined with my new Quantum asymmetrical spinnaker from Sam Heck. It is breathing new life into my 30 year 33 foot racer/cruiser and has revitalized my joy of sailing downwind for which my aging back is saying “thank you”.

The C Sprit is well received by the professional sailing community as they see the benefits in making sailing easier and safer for their clients.  A number of boats are adopting these sprits and the SoCal PHRF is viewing these modifications favorably when no increase in sail area is requested.  Personally I am getting a kick out of developing and marketing a product that will make sailing more accessible to racers and cruisers.

Rod Percival