When you're cruising you're unlikely to
want to put up the spinnaker unless you have a skilful crew aboard so sailing goose-winged will be the only way to go if your course takes you downwind.
It is possible to sail downwind goose-winged without a pole holding the headsail out to catch the wind, but it's not nearly as effective as spending a few minutes and rigging your spinnaker pole to do the job for you.
A step-by-step guide to how you do it
Get the cockpit crew to release the topping lift so the foredeckie can unclip it and attach it to the spinnaker pole. If you do this first, i.e. before releasing the spinnaker pole from its position, stowed on the deck, you won't lose the pole overboard. Attach the downhaul / kicker.
Next fit the inboard end of the pole to the mast fitting. Then open the jaws of the pole and insert the windward sheet. Lift the pole as the cockpit crew pull on the topping lift and downhaul and cleat them off so that the pole is held firmly.
Most people do the next thing - setting the basic trim of the sail - incorrectly. The pole should dip down slightly, thereby pulling the clew down towards the sea and preventing air from escaping from the narrow head of the sail.
Now you're ready to release the headsail and pull it across with the windward sheet until the sail fills. When this happens you may feel a sudden increase in speed, as the full sail is exposed to catch the wind.
Easier to steer
One of the uses of goose-wing sailing that is not known to less-experienced sailors is that it will handle very heavy following winds when it would be impractical to carry a spinnaker. I'm talking of winds of 40-50 knots.
The point is that it is easier for the helmsman to steer accurately than with a spinnaker in similar winds, and it is less strain on both the helmsman and the yacht.
The only marginal difference might be that in flat sea conditions some people prefer not to have a pole. With a lot of wind, a pole isn't necessary.
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