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The Anatomy of a Takedown: Part III – The Mexican Takedown

The Anatomy of a Takedown: Part III – The Mexican Takedown

Why they call this the Mexican Takedown, I don’t know, but it’s probably a good story. The Mexican is a great trick to have up your sleeve because you usually pick up a boat or two when you pull it off (or lose four when you mess it up). The Mexican is similar to a weather takedown, but you use it when you are coming into the leeward mark on starboard and will have to jibe to go around it. This will let you hold the inside position until the last possible moment and pass any boats you are overlapped with. Basically it goes jib up, pole down, jibe, chute down. Like the weather takedown, the sail and all the gear will come down on the port side of the boat and be ready for a bear away set at the next mark. The exact timing of all of these maneuvers will vary with windspeed, boatspeed, and competition, but the harder it is blowing, the sooner everything has to happen. This is a good one to talk through quickly once we know its happening.

1. The Setup

About three quarters of the way down the leg (or as soon as the back of the boat figures out that we are coming in on starboard jibe)

  • Bow and Mast – drag the jib around to the port side of the boat (it is probably already there) making sure to get the front of the sail on the correct side of the foreguy.
  • Bow – hook up the tack of the jib into the snap shackle on the bow. Make sure the luff of the sail is not twisted and feed the head into the pre-feeder and the track on the headstay. Hook up the jib halyard and feed the sail up a few feet. Make sure the sail is in the correct track and shackle for the halyard you are using.
  • Pit – man the jib halyard and raise it a few feet once the bowman has it hooked up.
  • Mast – toss the starboard jib sheet over the pole and hook up both jib sheets to the clew of the sail. Open the forward hatch.
  • Guy trimmer (or any free hand in the cockpit) – take some (but not all) of the slack out of the port jib sheet and load it on the primary winch (a couple turns will do, you probably won’t need a handle as we won’t be grinding it in on this side). Take the slack out of the starboard jib sheet and get it ready to go on the starboard primary (you can’t load it yet because the guy is there)
  • Tactician – if you are sailing a deep angle to the mark (i.e. it’s breezy and the pole is squared back a lot) call for the jib to be raised halfway. This will not disturb the flow over the spinnaker if you are sailing deep enough and will give the foredeck a head start. Note: you cannot do this when reaching into the mark.

2. Raise the Jib

About five boatlengths from the mark (more or less depending on the windspeed)

  • Mast – jump jib halyard at the mast always watching the sail to spot any problems
  • Pit – overhaul jib halyard. Once the mastman can’t jump it anymore, put four turns on the winch and put the halyard in the self tailer. Grind the sail up to the proper upwind tension (this should be marked on the halyard, but the bowman can call it if necessary). Make sure to watch the sail for any problems. Leave the jib halyard on the winch and in the self tailer to minimize any chance of slippage. Make sure spinnaker halyard is flaked, out of the bag and ready to run.
  • Bow – Watch the jib luff feeder for any problems and be ready to run forward and help feed if necessary. Try to keep your weight as far back as possible.
  • Floater/Pit – tighten outhaul to upwind setting (probably close to all the way). Cunningham can wait.
  • Main - tighten backstay about halfway to upwind setting.
  • Jib Trimmer – no need to trim the jib yet, its not driving the boat (you are probably still on the guy or the sheet anyway) but make sure it is not flogging.
  • Spin sheet trimmer – load the lazy spin sheet onto the winch, take the slack out of the lazy sheet and get ready to fly from both sheets.

3. Pole Down

About three boatlengths from the mark

  • Tactician – call for the trip, then call out time until the douse
  • Guy trimmer –pull back on the guy a few feet to compensate for the pole as it is tripped away. Get ready to bring in the jib sheet on the starboard side. Once the spin sheet trimmer has the slack out of the lazy sheet and is flying from both sheets, ease the guy and take it off the winch. Load the starboard jib sheet on the primary (three turns, handle in).
  • Mast – trip the pole and then lower the inboard end to the deck. Then grab the lazy guy (hanging down off the sail on the port side of the boat) and hand the end to the sewer man reaching out of the hatch. Make sure that it is outside the jib and then runs under the foot of the sail to the hatch.
  • Spin sheet trimmer – you are now free flying the chute from both sheets. Keep it full and get ready to rotate the sail through the jibe.
  • Pit – lower the outboard end of the pole to the deck
  • Bow – Make sure the hatch is open the hatch before the trip and then make sure the pole comes down smoothly. Guide it underneath the bow pulpit.
  • Floater – assume the position of “human pole,” holding the new sheet (and/or old guy) as far outboard as possible with one hand while holding the shrouds with the other
  • Sewer (Runners) – go below and forward, get ready to gather the sail through the hatch. Take the lazy sheet from the mastman and make sure everything is clear to come down.

4. The Jibe

Whenever it is right—probably within two boatlengths, but try to give the crew enough time to get the spinnaker down afterwards.

  • Tactician – call for the jibe and go release the port jib sheet.
  • Helmsman – turn the boat smoothly through the jibe. There is no pole to worry about, but you have to help the spin trimmer keep the sail full.
  • Spin sheet trimmer – this is the one time you don’t want to overrotate the sail through the turn. Ease off on the old sheet and pull in on the new sheet to keep the sail in front of the boat. We want to try to keep the spinnaker nearly completely on the new windward (port) side to make the takedown easier, but rotate it enough to keep it full.
  • Guy/jib trimmer – bring the jib in on the starboard side. Don’t trim too hard, but be ready to bring it in as the boat turns around the mark (i.e. keep it in high gear).
  • Main – Set the traveler way up to the new windward side. Trim like crazy as the boom comes across the boat. This is your chance to get most of the sheet in before you go upwind. Once the boom is across, ease to trim for a close reach and get set up to grind the rest of the way in.
  • Bow and Mast – help the jib across if it needs it, then get set up for the douse by grabbing the lazy guy on the port side. From here on, this looks like a normal weather takedown.

4. Time to Douse

One-ish boatlengths from the mark or very soon after the jibe (can vary on any number of factors including windspeed, boatspeed, overlaps, starboard tackers, confidence, etc.)

  • Tactician – call for the douse
  • Helmsman – If reaching into the mark, turn down briefly to help collapse the chute if possible (it might not be, don’t sacrifice position – they’ll get it down)
  • Mast – Grab the lazy guy and pull it down and back to collapse the sail and get it around the forestay. Then reach up and grab the luff tape and pull it down. Stuff the sail down the hatch.
  • Bow - stand just forward of the mastman and help pull the lazy guy down if necessary. Grab the foot of the sail and pull back to get the sail around the forestay. Then reach up help pull the sail down. Stuff the sail down the hatch.
  • Pit – Initially dump a lot (15 to 20 feet) of the halyard to help collapse the sail. Then, while watching the sail and the people gathering it, lower it in a controlled manner. The key is to prevent the sail from getting in the water and under the bow, so make sure the sail is around to weather and under control before lowering the majority of it. Note: you should have at least one turn around the winch before you open the clutch to avoid shredding your hands, but if the jib halyard is on the winch you need, it is fine to take a turn on top of the jib halyard.
  • Spin trimmer – ease the new (starboard) spinnaker sheet forward so the sail can be pulled around the forestay. Ease the old one as necessary.
  • Sewer – 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 to the Bow or Mast. Start packing the sail.
  • Guy/Jib trimmer – Tend to the jib sheet.

5.Rounding the Mark

  • Helmsman – set up wide so you can make a gradual turn and round the mark tight so you are sailing upwind with no room between the windward side of the boat and the mark
  • Main – You should already have the sail most of the way in so trim to match the boat’s turn.
  • Tactician – help the main trimmer grind if needed.
  • Jib trimmer – trim the sail to match the boat’s turn. It is important not to overtrim the jib during the turn, if anything err on the side of undertrim, but make sure you get it all the way in once the boat is close hauled.
  • Everyone else – be very conscious of weight placement. If hiking is necessary, then every available person should be on the rail hiking as hard as possible. In light air, keep weigh to leeward to heel the boat and help it turn around the mark.
  • Bow – Hike with the rest of the crew. Cleanup can wait until the boat is up to speed and clear of any traffic – preferably in smooth water or a lull.
Source: J/44